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30 Under 30: Marian Royston, '13, social studies teacher in Roanoke, AL

Marian Royston

Originally from Roanoke, AL, Marian Royston returned home after completing her master's degree in Northern Ireland. Royston, who graduated with honors from Auburn, majored in history with minors in community and civic engagement and political science. She was one of only 12 students selected for the prestigious Mitchell Scholarship in 2013, and to-date, remains Auburn's first and only Mitchell Scholar. She is currently a social studies teacher at Roanoke City Schools, serves on Randolph county's economic development authority board of directors, and is answering a call to ordained ministry. In our interview below, Royston talks about her Auburn experience as a student and her path after graduation. 

Q: How did you first develop an interest in studying history?
A: I had really good high school history teachers. The history department here in Roanoke is pretty fantastic. When I came from journalism camp at Auburn, I originally applied to Auburn as a communication major because I like the way human beings communicate with each other. But I did some exploring and decided that I wanted to be pre-law instead, so I switched to history because you can be some of anything as a pre-law major. I'm obviously not a lawyer. But I definitely was on the pre-law track when I was at Auburn. And I thought I was going to be a lawyer for a very long time.

Q: What was your path after you graduated?
A: When I was a senior at Auburn, I applied for a prestigious national scholarship called the George Mitchell Scholarship, named after Senator George Mitchell who was instrumental in the peace process in Northern Ireland. I got it and spent a year of postgraduate study in Belfast. While I was there, I studied leadership for sustainable rural development. I was really interested in community development when I left Auburn and also studying civil rights history. After spending a year in Ireland, I came back home to Alabama, because I strongly believe that we need to make the world around us better. 

Q: What classes and/or professors best prepared you for your future career?
A: There are a few professors I think of immediately. First, Mark Wilson, who is still one of my mentors to this day. Dr. Wilson’s Introduction to Community and Civic Engagement class allowed me to get involved with the Appalachia Teaching Project, which opened up the door for several opportunities. Professor Nan Fairly was one of the sponsors of the Living Democracy initiative, and she is my Auburn "momma." In the history department, professors David Carter and Jennifer Brooks are amazing. They teach their subject matter in such a sensitive way that helps us to become more informed citizens and empathetic to understanding how systems around us work. 

Q: If you could go back, is there anything you would do differently during your time at Auburn? 
A: I would have taken foreign language more seriously. I took two Spanish classes, but I kind of regret not studying foreign language more intensely because I think it’s interesting. I'm also currently in seminary to become an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, so I'm studying Greek on the Duolingo app right now, which is a great brain exercise!

Q: What is next for you?
A: I'll be teaching for the foreseeable future but I'll also be pursuing ordination. I'm only in my first semester of seminary so I have a while. So eventually I'll be fully ordained.

Tags: 30 Under 30 Alumni Community and Outreach History

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