8/17/2015

Alumni Profile: Tom DeMaio '10

History Major, 2010; Winner of the John Andrew III Award and the William Toth Memorial Prize, 2009, and the Frederick C. Shaeffer Prize in History, 2010
Director of College Placement and Alumni, South Bronx United

I graduated unsure of the career path that I wanted to pursue. Nevertheless, I knew that my history coursework laid a foundation that would facilitate success in a variety of professional spheres. Steeped in classes that demanded attentive critical reading, in-depth analysis of numerous forms of data, and an intense focus on writing, the history major equipped me with a valuable skill set.  More broadly, my history degree cultivated within me a sense of capability—a method to contextualize an increasingly shrinking world that remains complex due to the diverse narratives shaping peoples’ consciousness. These two ideas, taken in concert, explain why I have been able to transition to a career that on the surface has little to do with history itself, but everything to do with my experiences as a history major at F&M.

Once I finally settled on a career, I set out for Nigeria to spearhead the launch of an international development program. The initiative aimed to obtain scholarships at American tertiary institutions for underprivileged youth. Although I never took a class on African history at Franklin & Marshall, I confronted the challenges I encountered in rural and urban West Africa as I would a question posed by a professor. In order to find the appropriate answer, or in this case meet a stated deliverable, I sifted through novel information presented to me in oral and written formats—an admittedly challenging experience when one lacks access to potable water, stable electricity, and other necessities of modern life, such as Internet. Still, I feel that I would have been wholly unprepared had I lacked problem-solving skills and the ability to articulate a coherent solution, which I learned through the study of history.

I have since traded in my 13-hour commute for a shorter trip to the office of South Bronx United (SBU), a stone’s throw from Yankee Stadium. As the Director of College Placement & Alumni for a community-based organization that uses soccer as a tool for social change, I wear several hats. Some days I feel like a sports agent, but instead of negotiating signing bonuses or multi-year options, I broker scholarship offers. On other occasions, I explain the dynamics of the American tax system to families recently arrived in the U.S. from countries like Ghana, Senegal, Ecuador, or Honduras.  The keyword evoked in SBU office discussions on how to effectively bring about change in the lives of program participants—who require a holistic approach that often entails academic, social, and immigration support—is adaptability. I ascribe my sense of adaptability to my history degree.

I am so thankful that I chose to major in history at F&M. It has enabled me to perceive the world around me clearly and contextualize a pathway to make an impact. While I may encounter new information and methods each day, my process to understand unfamiliar topics remains unchanged. In the end, burying my nose in four years' worth of history books has paid off.

"My history degree cultivated within me a sense of capability—a method to contextualize an increasingly shrinking world."
Tom DeMaio '10
  • Tom DeMaio '10, right, with Gnim Bazin, one of the top student athletes from South Bronx United. Tom DeMaio '10, right, with Gnim Bazin, one of the top student athletes from South Bronx United.
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