George Mason University

News at Mason

Truman Scholar works to overcome a polarized world

April 11, 2019   /   by Damian Cristodero

Junior Patrick Grady says he tries to get "a diversity of experiences to inform my own opinions and my understanding of how things work." Photo by Lathan Goumas.

Patrick Grady does not play favorites when it comes to gathering experiences and knowledge.

That is why, after his Capitol Hill internship last year in the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Grady interned with Maine’s Democratic Party.

“I try to get a diversity of experiences to inform my own opinions and my understanding of how things work,” said the George Mason University junior from Kennebunkport, Maine. “That’s really valuable today when so many people seem to be so polarized about certain issues.”

Grady’s eclectic academic pursuits—he is a government and international politics major with minors in criminology, law and society, and legal studies—as well as his vision for the future were rewarded with a Truman Scholarship.

The prestigious award pays $30,000 for graduate school to students who plan a career in public service.

Grady, one of just 62 awardees out of 840 applicants this year, and a member of Mason’s Honors College, said he plans to attend law school and earn a public health master’s degree.

He is Mason’s second Truman Scholarship winner in the past three years.

“He’s interested in solving real-world problems, and that drives him to do well in class,” said Robert J. McGrath, an associate professor and director of undergraduate programs in Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government. “He’s very smart, engaged and asks a lot of questions. If I had the power to give a Truman Scholarship, he’d be in the top 1 percent on my list.”

The path to a Truman Scholarship is arduous and requires faculty recommendations, an application with 14 essay questions, an academic transcript and a policy proposal.

Grady credited LaNitra Berger, director of fellowships in the Honors College, and Lindley Estes Thomas, the college’s personal statement specialist, with helping him navigate and revise his essays.

Grady’s policy proposal sets up what he called a “safe consumption service” in his home state, where people can use drugs in a safe space with available medical personnel. The idea is to reduce overdose deaths and offer drug users counseling and treatment to help them overcome addictions.

Such facilities are common in other countries, Grady said. His interest began several years ago after his second cousin died of a drug overdose.

“It woke me up to the [drug] problem,” Grady said. “It made it from something I saw on the news to something that was real for me.”

Grady, who said he wants to one day run for political office, wants to change drug laws to emphasize treatment rather than criminalization, to “give drug users more humanity and recognize the disease aspect of it, not as a social deficiency.”

Grady said that realization connects directly with the personal growth he has experienced at Mason.

“It takes getting to know someone and talking to them personally about their lives to really understand what they are grappling with and what their experience is,” he said. “Coming to Mason really gave me that and enriched my life. It gave me a rounded view of the world and the country.”

Patrick Grady talks with Mason President Ángel Cabrera. Photo by Lathan Goumas.