University Park resident Jamie Marshall was honored Oct. 23 by Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland during the school’s academic year ceremonies. The university’s Fundacja Absolwentów, or alumni association, announced the inauguration of the Dr. Jamie Lynn Marshall Outstanding Graduate Prize, which will be presented with scholarship money each year to two worthy students.
The award was named for Marshall in recognition of her role in establishing the alumni association, which the school believes to be the first in Europe.
“It was an incredible honor,” Marshall said. “For an American to be allowed into their culture, and to then acknowledge that effort by naming [the award] for me — I was just at a loss of words.”
Unbeknownst to her, preparations for the award had been going on for quite some time. Still, Marshall did not learn about it until the night before the presentation when a school official she was meeting that evening brought along one of the plaques.
“I had just been in the hotel for a day,” Marshall said. “At first I didn’t notice, but then it dawned on me that my name was on it.”
Marshall moved to the Dallas area for a job 15 years ago. Soon after, she met her husband, former Dallas County Judge John McClellan Marshall. He has been teaching American law courses in Poland every spring since the early 1990s.
“I tagged along and fell in love with Poland,” Marshall said. “It has such gracious and hospitable people.”
One day, she asked a school administrator about the support they were getting from their alumni association. The school official gave her a strange look, and Marshall had to explain what an alumni organization was.
In Poland, as is the case in other European nations, universities rely almost exclusively on government funding. Even simple fundraising efforts like selling T-shirts and bumper stickers are rarely seen.
And while many basic needs are met, schools are limited in what they can do to expand or improve. Marshall believed that creating an organization of graduates working with local businesses could unlock the university’s untapped potential.
She gathered a group of former law students together and confirmed that her plan was permissible under Polish law. The Fundacja Absolwentów began with a small group of law students, friends, and a few department heads. It slowly grew and developed into a cohesive organization.
Even though Poland turned its back on communism nearly a quarter-century ago, many functions are still government-run. Marshall admits that some people were skeptical of her plans to implement an American-style plan in Eastern Europe. She has managed to win most of them over as the association has grown.
“You are talking about changing a mindset. It’s a culture change,” Marshall said. “It’s amazing how many partnerships they’ve had with local businesses. The power of alums can change and unite.”
The association was able to raise enough money to renovate the school auditorium. It also recently secured a $2.5 million Euro grant to update the environmental science department.
The Fundacja Absolwentów also built an on-campus bar that raises money for the university. Local construction companies partnered with the association to build the “Rock Bar,” where the walls are adorned with murals of rock icons like Jimi Hendrix, and the main bar is shaped like an electric guitar.
“The pushback is not what it used to be because we have results,” Marshall said. “When people can actually see change they are much more willing to participate.”
Future projects include beginning a campus-wide beautification project and updating the school’s website and marketing materials.
While her new job at Parallon Business Performance Group keeps her stateside most of the time, Marshall still manages to get back to Poland at least once or twice a year. She is also constantly working with her team there via phone, email, and FedEx.
“The young people there are inspiring. They just want to make their country better,” Marshall said. “Progress has been slow in coming, but now that it’s hit, it’s wonderful to see.”