Young Alum on Road to Leadership Recounts Campus Experiences
Born in New York and raised in Arizona, Marisa Kanof ’06 (political science) had promised herself to return East for college. “I chose UMass Amherst—even though I’m an avid Yankees fan—because of the variety of majors available. You can even design your own with BDIC (bachelor’s degree with individual concentration).
Entering undeclared, Kanof sampled many introductory courses. “When I took American Politics with Professor Sedgwick, I knew I’d found my major,” she says. “He was so passionate about the material and made it so relevant. I became intrigued with the global struggle for resources and power as well as how governments work to improve (or destroy) the lives of their citizens.”
Most professors are totally enthralled by their field, Kanof says, but the best ones are storytellers instead of lecturers. “Moscardelli and Sedgwick of political science, Shipley of history were tops,” she notes. And speaking of stories, comparative literature reintroduced Kanof to reading for pleasure. “A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius made me a huge Dave Eggers fan.”
“I really learned a great deal, but would be remiss if I didn’t point to the lack of resources that so many departments are experiencing. It’s frustrating to the faculty, who get worn out. Some leave. And it’s frustrating to the students. The more interesting upper-level classes aren’t as abundant as they could be. By my last year, when I was registering for classes, I’d already taken a huge chunk of what was available in my major.”
Despite this frustration—which is being actively addressed by the administration—Kanof has no regrets. “College is what you make of it. If you don’t apply yourself, the experience—no matter where you are—won’t mean much. Many professors love establishing rapport with students and are more than willing to help with academic endeavors. I was never afraid to stop by office hours for help with a paper or just to say ‘hi.’ UMass Amherst really does have a lot to offer. Sometimes you have to do a little digging through the sprawling bureaucracy, but it’s always worth the hunt.”
Kanof’s undergraduate experience included the extracurricular world as well. “My biggest activity was at the radio station, WMUA,” she says. “Most of what I did over five semesters revolved around news. I anchored and engineered newscasts, wrote and produced a campus police beat, and was part of producing a brand new weekly news talk show. The show, called UMass 1800 covers events and happenings at UMass Amherst, the Five Colleges, and the Pioneer Valley. Shows from the first season included everything from Amherst College’s decision to divest in the Sudan to International Women’s Day in the Pioneer Valley to an interview with UMass’s chief of police about its force.”
Kanof’s efforts were recognized last spring with an AP award. She also received the Scott J. Bacherman Fellowship. Created in memory of Scott Bacherman ’76, who served as program director of WMUA from 1973 through 1975, the award honors a love of broadcasting, drive to seek out new opportunities and potential for future achievement in the field.
“The Bacherman is especially rewarding because of the direct connection to WMUA,” says Kanof. “Looking back, I can see how I grew from knowing nothing about radio broadcasting to actually producing a new show. The experience was awesome—a lot of work, a lot of fun, and a great diversion from my major. Maybe the show will be around for decades!”
Not one to concentrate only on a single area, Kanof also focused on leadership in the residence Halls. She was a community leader for the Northeast Area for three semesters and treasurer of the Northeast Area Government senior year. “We officers worked hard to establish some good programming,” she says. “We faltered some in the fall semester, but learned from our mistakes and in the spring put on a great event that really improved NEAG’s reputation.”
Kanof also was involved with NRHH (National Residence Hall Honorary), an honor society for student leaders in residence halls, wrote occasional columns for the Daily Collegian, and participated in intramural softball. “I met a lot of people and developed a variety of social networks,” Kanof says. “I did a lot, and at the same time feel like I barely scratched the surface of what’s available.”
Currently at Boston University Law School, Kanof is on the brink of fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. “I enjoy intelligent debate and am intrigued by the thought of going up against a rationally thinking opponent in an intellectual battle. I also am fascinated by how law has evolved as a way to protect and punish its citizens—especially interesting in a democracy that advocates their staunch rights.” In the long run, Kanof is considering a career in politics. “I’d like to be a Senator one day. As cheesy as it sounds, I’d like to make a difference. Too many people in this country are without adequate healthcare, education, employment opportunities and more. I believe our first responsibility as a nation is to our citizens.”
January 4, 2007