“Liberal arts taught me to synthesize difficult material in an elegant way.”

Rocket Ships, Politics, & Going to Mars

Maria Stratienko, C’14
Legislative Assistant, United States Senate
Major: International and Global Studies

Maria Stratienko, C’14, never envisioned herself having meetings with physicists about nuclear propulsion. In fact, she didn’t take a lot of science in college at all. She was part of the international and global studies program at Sewanee and minored in women’s and gender studies.

“I took such a broad swath of courses,” Maria says. “I think that’s the beauty of liberal arts.”

Now, Maria lives and works in Washington, D.C., where she acts as a legislative assistant for the Senate Space and Science Subcommittee and facilitates projects as critical as the next generation of human spaceflight launches. On any given day, Maria could be writing press releases, gathering votes, or meeting with scientists.

“Scientists usually don’t talk directly with the government,” Maria says. “That’s where I come in. I hear about scientists’ work and translate the terms they use in their work to help bridge the gap between them and government officials.”

Maria is able to render specialized subjects palatable for both the politically-minded and the mathematically-minded. If it weren’t for intermediaries like Maria, some vital science projects would never get funded. For each project she works on, she generates a thesis objective for everyone to understand. Being trained in the liberal arts has helped Maria keep everyone on the same page.

“Being a liaison between the government and scientists is like watching two ships passing in the night,” she says, "I feel like my job can help us eventually get to Mars—maybe beyond.”

Maria’s Sewanee education, with its emphasis on writing across the curriculum, has provided her with the invaluable gift of writing well. From writing speeches about the International Space Station to writing press releases on the new administrator of NASA, Maria has handled a wide range of topics, matching the precision of science with the eloquence of good communication. Even with something as esoteric as aeronautics, Maria never sacrifices heart for content—and studying the humanities at Sewanee helped her do that.

“Did I ever think I’d be working on space and science issues?” She asks. “Absolutely not.”