The US-Ireland Alliance recently named the 12 members of the George J. Mitchell Scholar Class of 2021. Among the winners is Baltimore native and University of Maryland alumnus Adler “A.J.” Pruitt, B.A. ’18, a double-degree major in economics and in government and politics.
The Mitchell Scholarship sends future American leaders to Ireland for a year of graduate study. Pruitt will pursue a master’s degree in comparative criminology and criminal justice at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
“I applied to the Mitchell Scholarship for the unparalleled opportunity to study criminal justice and conflict transformation in Ireland. I believe Irish universities are pushing forward a modern form of criminology that is beginning to acknowledge that effective crime prevention requires a more holistic approach,” Pruitt said.
“Given the history of the island of Ireland, I look forward to learning how the people of Ireland have worked to overcome their violent past and continue to dismantle systems of oppression. I also don’t know of a better place to observe as the UK, the EU, and of course Ireland continue to grapple with the consequences of Brexit.”
Pruitt serves as Chief of Staff to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee, and works on the leadership’s legislative efforts on criminal and juvenile justice reform. He also volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children and Youth.
Pruitt said his interest in criminal justice began when his supervisor, Del. Luke Clippinger, was appointed to serve as the Chair of the Maryland House Judiciary Committee. “Since then, I've been fortunate enough to have a front-row seat to the development of our criminal and juvenile justice policy in Maryland. Moving forward, I’m excited to bring policies and programs back to Maryland that have been effective in Ireland.”
During his time on campus, Pruitt represented students charged with conduct violations as part of the campus Legal Aid Office and co-founded Maryland Discourse, a non-partisan student organization designed to research, explore, and discuss politics. He was elected to serve as Student Body President during his senior year.
“This distinguished scholarship attests to A.J.’s academic achievements, leadership, and community service,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “He brings honor to the University, and we’re sure he will continue to do so as he advances his education and career.”
Ultimately, Pruitt hopes to return to Baltimore to play a role in reducing the levels of violence facing communities, and to help build a more equitable criminal justice system.
“Baltimore requires a new approach to violence intervention, and I remain committed to partnering with communities across the city to create grassroots change,” Pruitt said.
Dean Gregory Ball of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences said that Pruitt’s scholarship and work to date are inspiring to the entire campus community.
“A.J. represents the ideal we are trying to foster in all our students in the College, namely a commitment to academic investigation and a commitment to issues of fundamental significance to society; in his case, to promote justice and to strengthen communities.”
In his role as UMD’s advisor for UK/Ireland fellowships and scholarships, Dr. Richard Bell, an associate professor in the Department of History guided Pruitt through the application process.
“A.J. is about as fearless a Terp as you’ll find. He is bursting with ideas to make this state and this country safer and fairer for everyone, and will fight with every fiber to achieve them,” Bell said. “The award of a George J. Mitchell Scholarship to study in Ireland is an important and deserved acknowledgment of AJ’s dauntless vision and character.”
Pruitt said he is grateful for the support he received from faculty and staff through the rigorous application and interview process.
“I was encouraged to pursue this opportunity by my scholarship advisors at UMD. UMD is fortunate to have two of the best in the business in Dr. Francis DuVinage, director of the National Scholarships Office, and Dr. Bell. They not only directed me toward the Mitchell program, but have provided resources and guidance throughout the application and interview process. I could not have done this without their tireless effort, and would encourage anyone interested to seek their guidance.”
The Mitchell Scholarship was created by the founder and president of the US-Ireland Alliance, Trina Vargo. The prestigious award is named in honor of Senator George J. Mitchell’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process.
Pruitt is now the third Mitchell Scholar from UMD since the program’s founding in 1999.
Learn more about the award, and the latest cohort of Mitchell Scholars.
Photo: UMD Alumni Association