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Leave A Legacy

Leah Trotman '21

International Relations

Leah Trotman '21

Leah Trotman’s portrait hangs on a well-known wall in Agnes Scott’s Alston Student Center.  Artist Yehimi Cambron ’14 produced a portrait series in 2016, featuring nine Agnes Scott students and their stories.  Trotman, who was a first year student at the time she was featured, saw this portrait as the beginning of her Agnes Scott legacy.  “I thought, ‘they put my face up there, now I’ve got to do something,’” reflects Trotman, now Senior Class President.

For this Scottie, “do[ing] something,” unfolded to mean completing a SUMMIT global specialization, leading in various capacities of the college’s Student Government Association, studying abroad in Guatemala and Argentina, submitting an academic paper for publication, advising her peers as a writing tutor and Peer Advisor, and, of course, participating in Agnes Scott’s choir, Collegiate Chorale.

Trotman’s most recent accomplishment, though?  In April of 2020, soon after the college had pivoted to remote learning as a response to the Coronavirus, she received a call from Agnes Scott College’s President Zak.  Trotman had been named a Truman Scholar, the college’s first recipient since 2009 and the fifth since the program’s inception in 1975. The Truman Scholarship is a fellowship for students recognized for their goals and excellence in public service and leadership.  She was one of 62 scholars named from the 773 applicants representing 316 colleges and universities. 

Then, in December, Trotman, along with just 46 other students in the United States, received the honor of being named a Marshall Scholarship recipient, which is one of the most competitive scholarship programs in the world. This was the program's first majority-minority class in the scholarship's history, including eight recipients from the Atlanta region, and also made Trotman the first-ever Marshall Scholarship recipient from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a recipient, she will receive full funding to study in the United Kingdom at institutions of her choice. The International Relations major says her college decision played a part in her connecting with these opportunities. 

“I think if I would’ve gone to a bigger college, I might not have been exposed to some of the things I was exposed to at Agnes. I couldn’t replicate that elsewhere. ”

Leah Trotman

Trotman made this impactful decision during her senior year at Peter Gruber International Academy, an International Baccalaureate high school in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.  She describes her home and her community in St. Thomas with an undeniable fondness and works to replicate the impact of that community in every project and each community she touches.  

She recalls feeling unsure of attending a women’s college at the time of her college search, but interested in the college's opportunities for global studies.  At the encouragement of her high school counselor, Trotman attended an Agnes Scott info session at her school proceeding a two-hour cafe chat with, then Director of Admission, Alexa Gaeta.  Over the next few months, Trotman received attentive and personalized communication, including several calls from the college and even an email from then Agnes Scott President, Elizabeth Kiss.  

These interpersonal connections solidified Trotman’s decision to make Agnes Scott College her home, and remain the reason that Leah has chosen to stay at Agnes Scott for four years.  After being asked who “has her back” on campus, Trotman lit up to share the names of her two best friends: Natasha Griffin and Kaitlyn Mills.  Trotman and Griffin participated in a small group together during Legacy, Agnes Scott’s leadership immersion program that takes place during orientation, and according to Trotman, they “have not separated since.”  Leah shared, “We were on the phone when I submitted my Rhodes application.” 

Trotman’s belief in interpersonal connections, like the ones she finds at Agnes Scott and in St. Thomas, guides the community work that she does now, and the work she hopes to continue after graduation.  Her published essay, An Unexplored Nexus: The Central American Migration Crisis, Climate Change, and Green Theory explores Central American Migration through the lens of Green Theory.  She refers to this essay, which readers can find in Latin America and Policy Journal: A Harvard Kennedy School Student Publication, as a “call to action about why we need policies that center the environment.” 

Her coursework at Agnes Scott has influenced her understanding of such topics and the work that she can do to support communities impacted by the climate crisis.  She describes International Relations as the way she frames the world--through the lenses of colonialism, feminism, and green theory, for example, and Public Health, as a means to develop tangible answers as to how to create change.

When asked about her most impactful course at Agnes Scott, Trotman described a class she took titled, Decolonizing the Mind taught by Professor Waqas Khwaja.  “Post colonialism is such an effective lens to look at the Caribbean and Latin America,” Trotman declares, “the conversation was amazing.”  Trotman also highlights the opportunity she had to meet Author, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, whose work they read as part of the class, at the college’s Annual Writer’s Festival in 2019.  


african american woman posing on gazebo

“Now it’s coming full circle as we work on a resolution about decolonizing our curriculum,” Trotman shares, alluding to a recent effort by the Student Government Association to challenge colonial constructs within the syllabi and overall curriculum at the college.  “People in academia think change is slow,” she declares  “I want to push the needle in terms of what is the norm.”  

In efforts such as this one, Trotman sees herself as an ally and voice for the students who elected her, meaning sometimes challenging the administration and their policies.  “This is what our liberal arts education was designed to do,” she explains, “I enjoy looking at these intellectual challenges, and that’s what I will continue to do.”

So, how does Trotman plan to continue engaging in these challenges as an ally, community member and soon to be liberal arts graduate?  She is currently applying for fellowships like the Rhodes Scholarships and considering service opportunities like the Peace Corps.  Regardless of the prestige of these opportunities, Trotman approaches each application intentionally, reflecting deeply on her own purpose as well as the historic role of the organizations she seeks to represent, “Am I applying because I want to advance these communities or am I conforming to this system?” she continuously asks herself.  Trotman is also considering a Masters in Public Health down the line.  She would like to work for local public health departments and consider natural disaster response in her work and her studies.  

Of course, moving on to these exciting next steps means first graduating from Agnes Scott, a bittersweet concept for those community members who’ve been impacted by Trotman’s time on campus, and rooting for her success.  When asked what legacy she hopes to leave behind, she reflected on her portrait in Alston, and her words that are featured prominently on display.  “In it I talk about community,” she explains, “I hope people remember me as someone who walked into a room, made others smile or made them feel heard. I hope everyone I had interactions with knows that is who I am, someone who cares about interpersonal connections...someone who pushed as hard as they could for the students.” 

About the writer: Jade Domingue is the Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Agnes Scott College.  A proud New Orleanian and liberal arts alum, Jade graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a B.A. in English and a notebook full of creative writing, finished and otherwise.  When she is not singing the praises of Scotties like Leah, Jade enjoys solo traveling, baking chocolate chip cookies, discussing intersectional feminism, and spending time with friends, family, and a little black cat named Elphaba. 

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