Nick Mayr shouldn’t be graduating this spring.
No. Mayr, 21, has not fallen prey to an ailing academic record in need of life support. Rather, Mayr’s drive and determination have led him to complete his undergraduate studies in three years time. And, it’s that perseverance which has contributed to Mayr’s selection as The Marist Poll’s featured student.
Like many of MIPO’s supervisors and interviewers, Mayr began his polling “career” by signing up at Marist’s job fair his freshman year. Although he was familiar with the poll, he didn’t know just what he was in for once he walked through the phone room door.
“I was excited. I was excited. I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” says Mayr. “I didn’t really understand the kind of work we did or what it would mean to be an interviewer, what that might require, how it would work. It was a pretty blank page.”
But, that blank page soon filled in. Taken with survey methodology, the political science major began studying related coursework with Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, during the 2008 presidential primary season.
“Nick is the model MIPO student,” says Miringoff. “He’s intelligent, hard working, and really embraced the opportunities afforded to him both in and outside of the classroom.”
Mayr’s interest in political science developed at an early age, and so it’s probably not surprising that this self-described “organizer of people” and “builder of systems” became energized by witnessing firsthand how survey data came to life during the historic 2008 primary season.
“I was doing the polling at work. I was talking about the polling in class, and we were watching the election unfold,” recalls Mayr. “It was pretty exciting.”
The interconnectedness of his coursework and employment in the MIPO office had an added benefit, too. It provided Mayr with a broader understanding of the American political debate.
“I have a much better appreciation for where the numbers that are being batted around in the media or by politicians in talking points actually come from, and what it actually takes to get that information, [and] how it’s disseminated,” states Mayr.
Mayr’s interests, though, extend far beyond the survey center. He enjoys travel and participated in three short-term educational programs abroad during his three years at Marist. Mayr’s journeys took him to Italy, South Africa, and Israel. And, of the three, he cites South Africa as his favorite. It was there that Mayr was able to participate in issues of the developing world, an area of strong interest to him, and he came face-to-face with a polling experience while in the country.
“I realized one day it’s a country that’s kind of straddling the border between first world and third world,” remarks Mayr. “It really floored me because it made me wonder where we get the information we get about the very poorest of the poor. How we get it and what we do with it and what it really reflects, because it would be impossible to call them up or to do a web survey which is something we can do here, but we can’t do there.”
His travels to South Africa also affected this socially aware 21 year old in another way. Mayr says he has always been committed to improving the world. But, he had a very “hands off” attitude. Like many, to an extent, he accepted the socioeconomic disparities that exist in the world, reasoning that there was a special type of person who could make a difference, and that person wasn’t him. However, that all changed after visiting South Africa.
“I think normal people make a tremendous difference in the world,” states Mayr who goes on to say, “I recognized that if there were simple answers, they would have been found already. If there were people who were specifically talented with this…. then, the rest of us could step back, but there aren’t. And, when we outsource the responsibility to care, people are left alone.”
So, what’s next for this insightful, 2010 college graduate? After receiving the MIPO Excellence Award and the top designation in political science at baccalaureate ceremonies and his degree at graduation, he will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall, pursuing a Masters Degree in Public Policy.
But, before he steps off the Marist College campus, Mayr has one very big piece of advice for all those interested in working at The Marist Poll.
“If you’re an incoming freshman, don’t think that you [have to] come into The Marist Poll with skills or with a drive or even a very serious interest,” Mayr counsels. “If you come, and you are open to the experience, and you are committed to doing your best, the place will open up to you, and you can follow it where you think you fit.”