Pitzer College senior Dominic Arzadon ’23 is the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship, a prestigious, highly competitive award that funds up to three years of graduate study in any discipline at any British university.
Arzadon is among 41 Marshall Scholars in this year’s group of recipients and the first Pitzer student to ever receive the award. He plans to study at Oxford University.
Arzadon was notified of his selection during an emotional phone call with one of the members of a panel that interviewed him.
“When she told me that I’d been selected, I just burst into tears,” he said. “I was so shocked. I still am. I still can’t fathom it. Ever since receiving the news, I’ve been having these little moments of joy and excitement and disbelief.”
For Arzadon, his selection has personal significance.
“It has more meaning for me not just as a First Gen student but also as an immigrant myself considering that the award is only for U.S. citizens,” he explained. “This adds an additional layer to it. It’s another reason why this is so special to me.”
Arzadon, who moved with his family from the Philippines to Hawaii when he was six, is majoring at Pitzer in environmental analysis and critical global studies with a minor in Asian American studies. He also studied abroad on exchange at Ewha Womans University in South Korea in fall 2021.
Environmental issues and the challenges of climate change are foremost in his mind. He plans to pursue an MPhil in environmental change and management at Oxford University for his two-year program.
Arzadon has done much already in terms of environmental work, including receiving a Doris Duke Conservation fellowship from the University of Washington. He said his passions for conservation and environmentalism stem from his childhood growing up on the island of Luzon.
“My people have an inherent connection to land and place, specifically to coastal life,” he said, “and I know how important the environment is to them. Their existence depends on the kind of environmental work that I want to do.”
The Marshall Scholarship program describes recipients as “talented, independent, and diverse,” and their engagement with the United Kingdom by studying at the country’s best academic programs is designed to enhance their intellectual and personal growth.
Each scholarship includes tuition fees, personal expenses, and grants for class materials and travel to and from the United States. Ever since its creation, the Marshall Scholars program has sought to strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments, and their institutions.
Some past Marshall recipients include Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Neil Gorsuch, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum.
When Arzadon first received the news of his selection, he immediately FaceTimed with his mother, who is in Oahu. When his face appeared on the screen and she saw that he’d been crying, he said she worried that something bad had happened.
But he quickly told her not to worry.
“I told her they were tears of joy,” he said.
Arzadon’s attendance at Pitzer is a special point of pride for his family. The child of immigrants and an immigrant himself, he is the first in his family to attend college. Now the prospect of going to Oxford makes that even more special.
Arzadon said he’s also proud to share this achievement as a member of several other important communities.
“It’s a win not only for me but also for the other communities I’m part of—the Filipinx and queer communities,” he said. “It is a win for all of the communities that I represent and all of the people who have helped me to this point.”
He said he is grateful to the many people who have supported him through this entire journey, particularly University of Washington Professor Martha Groom, Pitzer Professor of Political Studies Nigel Boyle, former Director of Office of Fellowships & Scholarships Sandy Hamilton, Professors Juan Felipe Moreno and Lako Tongun, and others.
“In my case, it truly takes a village,” he said.
A Chance for Self-Reflection
Arzadon said that applying for a Marshall Scholarship was intimidating, but he persevered and decided to do it regardless of the outcome. He said the experience of applying was important to him.
That’s something that he wants other Pitzer students to consider for this and other highly competitive scholarships: Don’t think about what will happen, apply no matter what.
“You have no idea what you will gain from just applying,” he said, “you have no idea how this will teach you about yourself and what you’re capable of.”
In his case, what Arzadon gained from applying and writing the essays was that he had a chance to reflect on his life and career. We’re so busy in our day-to-day lives that such reflection seems almost impossible, but writing the application forced him to hit the pause button and think deeply about what he wanted for his life.
“It was such an important exercise for me. It was so invaluable,” he said. “That’s what I think so many other students can gain from this.”
When asked how he feels about entering the history books as Pitzer’s first Marshall recipient, Arzadon says he is grateful. But his answer is also a humble acknowledgement of the excellent caliber of students who attend Pitzer.
“Yes, I’m the first, and I’m very proud of that,” he said, “but I’m definitely not going to be the last.”