DU Grad Awarded Prestigious Marshall Scholarship
University of Denver alumna Rosie Contino is headed across the pond. The 2022 grad with a double major in international studies and economics will spend the next two years at the University of Warwick and University College London, both located in England. Her upcoming academic journey to the United Kingdom was made possible by the Marshall Scholarship, a prestigious award that allows American students to pursue degrees at UK universities. Contino will pursue two degrees—one in behavioral economics and the other in social cognition.
The Marshall Scholarship was created by the British government in 1953 as a living memorial to former U.S. Secretary of State General George Marshall. The program is extremely competitive, with just 51 people selected to receive the award out of the 1,006 who were nominated this year.
Contino, a Colorado native, is the first Marshall Scholar to hail from DU in more than 20 years. “I was absolutely delighted to learn of Rosie’s marvelous recognition by the Marshall Scholarship Foundation,” says DU Provost Mary Clark. “We are enormously proud of her. My warmest congratulations to Rosie and all best wishes for her time in England!”
The DU Newsroom spoke with Contino about her upcoming studies and her time spent at DU.
What brought you to the University of Denver?
I was offered the Puksta Scholarship, which is a Colorado-specific scholarship for undergraduates who are interested in social justice and community organizing. So, once I received the Puksta Scholarship, I knew I was going to a Colorado school. And DU just seemed like the best option; I just got great vibes on the campus.
Tell us a little about your experience at DU.
So in terms of what I studied, I studied International Studies and Economics. International studies was kind of inspired by—I lived in Guatemala for six months in high school. And so that was like an eye-opening experience as a young person, just seeing how different life can be in different parts of the world. It made me interested in those differences. And then when it came to economics, I just thought it was really cool how economics can be used to create a lot of social change.
I mentioned the Puksta Scholarship—this was probably the crowning jewel of what I did at DU. It's not just a scholarship, it's a four-year program. So, if you're selected for the scholarship, you are in a cohort of 15 to 20 other undergraduate students, all of whom study community organizing and social justice. And then on top of that, you're expected to deliver some kind of community change project over your four years as an undergraduate student. My older brother has Sotos Syndrome, which is an intellectual disability. And from a young age, I was really passionate about the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. I actually partnered with a research group at the Morgridge College of Education, and I initiated a research project where we were researching sexual health education for people with intellectual disabilities. And this resulted in several presentations presented at the National Association of School Psychologists in Baltimore. This resulted in my first ever peer-reviewed publication.
How do you feel like your time at DU shaped you into the person and scholar you are today?
Something that's really unique about DU—and the reason why I chose to go to DU rather than CU Boulder or CSU—is that DU is a relatively small campus, especially for undergraduates. And so what that meant is that every opportunity that I wanted was an opportunity that I could have. So, I was able to really become a leader, just because I was like, “Here I am, sign me up, I want to do this.” I was able to have so many unique experiences, and I think at a larger campus you can kind of just become a number—get lost in the sauce. I think DU provided me with a lot of opportunities I wouldn't get elsewhere.
What prompted you to apply for the Marshall Scholarship?
I have been interested in studying behavioral economics pretty much since my junior year of college. When COVID happened, it was kind of like this “aha” moment, that what we model and graph in traditional economics doesn't really translate very well to the real world and the nature of how things really are. And COVID kind of made me realize that there was a lot of dissonance between these little, perfect supply and demand graphs.
And I was listening to a lot of podcasts on economics, and I was like, “Oh, light bulb, that's it.” Economics isn't just going to cut it. We also need to integrate psychology into our economic models, to actually address social issues using economics. That's kind of what behavioral economics is—50% psychology and 50% economics. The UK has been a trailblazer in this particular field. And so I was like, “Well, I might as well toss my hat in the ring for this scholarship.”
Tell us a little bit about what you’re going to be studying in the next two years.
I've got two programs, one each year. In the first year, I'll be studying behavioral and economic sciences. That's kind of your typical behavioral economics. And then the second year, I will actually be studying social cognition, which is basically the psychology of social connections, community building, that kind of thing. And so these two will prepare me perfectly for what I hope to study in my PhD as a behavioral economist—basically, what makes human communities strong and how this impacts our social and economic behavior.
Then, to add a layer to it, I'm really interested in how digital media is changing this. We live in a world of ubiquitous media, where, on average, we spend eight hours a day on screens. I'm really interested in how human community building and connection have changed in the face of this kind of ubiquitous media, and how that then translates to our economic and social behavior.
What are you most excited for?
I am so excited to get back to research, which was my most positive experience as an undergraduate. And I'm really excited to get back to learning about things I'm passionate about and trying to get to the bottom of some of these really important issues that we're facing in this age of ubiquitous media, where there’s screen stimulation everywhere. I'm really excited for that.
Anyone interested in competing for the Marshall Scholarship or other nationally or internationally competitive awards can work with DU’s new Office of Scholar Development & Fellowship Advising.