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Georgetown Student Wins Mitchell Scholarship

A Georgetown student who proposed the Bleeding Disorders Screening, Awareness and Further Education (SAFE) Act of 2010 in his junior year has won a prestigious Mitchell Scholarship.

Derick Stace-Naughton of Madison, Wisc., a senior who suffers from a genetic condition that prevents his blood from clotting properly, will use his Mitchell Scholarship to study health communication at the University of Ulster in the 2011-2012 academic year.

Policy and Science

“I intend to enter a career at the intersection of science and politics, influencing public policy as an elected official or government policymaker,” the 21-year-old wrote in his Mitchell application statement.

The scholarships are named for former Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) and provide for a year of graduate study at a university in Ireland. The U.S.-Ireland Alliance, which funds the scholarship, announced the winners Nov. 21.

“While I was working on the SAFE act, I constantly had to sell my idea to government policymakers,” the physics and English major said in an interview. “Now I’d like to be on the other side of that dynamic. I want to help solve the core global challenges of the 21st century.”

Mini-Golf Surprise

The student said he was in Virginia playing miniature golf when he got the call saying he’d won the scholarship.

“My first reaction was just pure excitement,” said Stace-Naughton, who also won one of the university’s Baker Scholarships. “My second thought was, ‘I have to call my mom.”

His mother and sister have the same disorder he does and are in chronic pain and on disability.

He attributed his less severe form of the disorder to “arbitrary luck,” in his Mitchell statement, and wrote, “And so I have chosen to commit my time, my knowledge, and my energy to support those with bleeding disorders who have not enjoyed my good fortune.”

Lobbying for Legislation

During his sophomore year, Stace-Naughton took part in the physics department’s Program on Science in the Public Interest (SPI), for which students examine national environmental, energy, health and security issues and have helped pass legislation.

He developed a proposal for the SAFE act, and, after being discouraged by many a politico in Washington, eventually found a sponsor in Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.).

The bill, whose co-sponsors included Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a series of measures, including grants to provide screenings for the disorder among high schools.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

A Worthy Heir

“Derick Stace-Naughton already shows himself, at this very early stage, a worthy heir to the great Wisconsin legacy of leading the nation in the innovation of social policy,” said John Glavin, fellowship secretary and a professor in the English department. “In claiming that heritage he also demonstrates how deeply he has been touched and guided by Georgetown’s Jesuit ideal to train men and women for others.”

The Georgetown student said physics professor Francis Slakey, SPI co-director, helped him maneuver obstacles in the legislative process to advocate for the SAFE act.

“The course was a reminder that academic thought is most valuable when it’s applied in a way that improves the world,” Stace-Naughton said.