When senior Maria Thurber was applying for colleges her guidance counselor gave her a stack of scholarship applications and some advice.

“She said to me, ‘Maria, apply for everything. Everything you can get your hands on. If you qualify, apply for it.’ I think that’s a way of thinking I have preserved. You don’t lose anything by applying.”

Thurber took her guidance counselor's advice and applied widely for college scholarship opportunities. Endless application forms and essays later, Thurber got a big hit: She was named a Gates Millennium Scholar.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started the Gates Millennium Scholars Program in order to help academically exceptional minority students with significant financial need to excel in underrepresented areas of study. The scholarship offers up to a full tuition waiver at any college or university in the country. Thurber described the scholarship as a “total blessing.”

“It’s the only way I would have been able to afford school,” she said.

“A lot of people know Catholic University, it’s really cool. It makes a huge difference in how employers think of you.”
– Maria Thurber

Since coming to Catholic University, Maria has kept her guidance counselor’s advice in mind and taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way. She’s added a second major — theology —  and a master’s in library science to her studies as a Spanish for International Services major. She’s also interned at the Embassy of Ecuador, the National and International Outreach unit at the Library of Congress, and has started another Library of Congress internship in the Hispanic Reading Room.

Thurber says her status as a Catholic University student has helped her network at her internships.

“A lot of people know Catholic University, it’s really cool. It makes a huge difference in how employers think of you,” said Thurber.  ‘Let’s say there are two interns. One says, “Oh, I’m from such-and-such university,’ The other one says, ‘Oh, I’m from Catholic University.’ The employer often responds, ‘Oh yeah! Catholic University! In Brookland!’ Being local makes a huge difference.”

Although her internships certainly make the short list, Thurber credits one of her best D.C. experiences to an art history course she took through Catholic University at the National Gallery of Art. At the gallery, Thurber and her classmates ditched the textbooks and studied famous American paintings up close. And of course, Thurber eventually used the class to secure an internship opportunity at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

When Maria graduates next year, she isn’t sure which direction she’ll head next. “If there is a way to combine theology, library science, and Spanish, I would love that.”