Prestigious scholarship rewards MC student's dedication

Jasmina Tumbas receives scholarship from Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

May 20, 2003
Written by: David Rasnake, Communications Assistant

To say that Jasmina Tumbas has been on a roll lately would be an understatement.

In a single month, the Maryville College sophomore was recognized with the Mary Elizabeth Jackson International Student Award and offered the College’s Presidential Scholarship. Now Tumbas can add “recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship” to her list of academic accolades.

Earlier this month, Tumbas received a letter from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation informing her that she was among the 30 students selected for the award from a pool of 1,150 applicants.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, named for and funded by the late Washington Redskins owner, underwrites hundreds of graduate and undergraduate scholarships yearly. The Lansdowne, Va.-based foundation aims “to help young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education.”

The Foundation’s undergraduate scholarship, which varies in amount according to need, provides funding for tuition, room and board, required fees and books for the remainder of the Scholar’s undergraduate degree. Tumbas’ award, valued at approximately $60,000 over the next two years, will help defray mounting educational expenses for the international student, who cannot legally work in the United States.

To compete for the award, which is given exclusively to rising juniors, a student must have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. According to a press release issued by the Foundation announcing the 2003 recipients, the Scholars “demonstrated outstanding records of achievement, not only academically, but also in service, leadership, the arts and community involvement.”

In her impressive list of activities, Jasmina Tumbas illustrates the essence of this statement. As a Bradford Scholar, she has tutored teenage mothers working toward their GEDs and inmates at the Blount County Justice Center. During her two years at the College, she also has tutored peers studying German as a foreign language. She has designed posters and programs for four MC Playhouse theatre productions and the recent student-led run of “The Fantasticks.” Additionally, she has recently been selected to serve the campus community as a resident assistant for the upcoming school year.

A surprise recognition

Though she was independently nominated by two Maryville College professors and selected by a committee to represent the College in competing for the award, Tumbas was not optimistic given the large number of applicants.

“ I didn’t really think I’d get [the scholarship],” she said. “I didn’t get my hopes up.”

Though Tumbas was surprised by her achievement, Dr. Mardi Craig, associate dean of the College and head of the committee that nominated Tumbas, sees the recognition as deserved.

“I am really pleased and excited for both her and the College. It is a prestigious award that reflects well on her and us.”

“Changing a place”

For Tumbas, the road to East Tennessee and Maryville College has been a long one. Born in Yugoslavia, Tumbas spent the first six years of her life in the country; sensing the rise in Serbian nationalism that would ultimately bring turmoil to the region, Tumbas’ family immigrated to Germany in 1988. The political instability in her native country, however, would continue to profoundly affect Tumbas, and would ultimately encourage her to work for positive change.

Prior to college, Tumbas spent her summers volunteering at a refugee camp in Germany. When asked to help improve the “aesthetic quality” of the camp, Tumbas painted several large murals; Tumbas’ murals proved to be such a positive addition that, following her lead, camp residents created several more public works of art for the space, communicating their own emotions and ideas.

“ There are many ways of communicating with people,” Tumbas said about the joint project. “Art is a way of changing a place, even a refugee camp. I like to think that I inspired them to have the courage and motivation to create and hang their own paintings.”

Tumbas became acquainted with Maryville College and the surrounding community as an exchange student at Heritage High School during her junior year. When she looked to study abroad after completing high school in Germany, Tumbas’ familiarity with East Tennessee made Maryville College a natural choice. In August 2001, Tumbas matriculated to the liberal arts institution, bringing both her passion for art and her belief in the importance of serving others.

Decisions, directions and callings

In her application essay for the Cooke Foundation Scholarship, Tumbas reflected, “When I came to Maryville College, I was determined to study psychology, although art had long been my passion.”

Seeing the remains of Nazi concentration camps on a ninth-grade school trip raised basic questions about human nature for Tumbas: How could humans commit such atrocities?

“ Such questions,” Tumbas wrote, “have led me to psychology in order to understand the complex and unique structure of the human psyche.”

At Maryville, Tumbas began to seriously examine her vocational interests. Art remained her passion. “I never really believed I could be an artist,” she stated. “I thought that being an artist was a gift that some people were simply born with.

“ In a seminar class [at the College] we were asked to explore our calling, and when I filled my schedule instinctively with art history and drawing classes … I realized that I did not want to give up my passion. I decided that art was not above me and that I could be successful given [my] willingness to work hard and to commit myself to a goal.”

So what does a person with a double major in psychology and art plan to do after college? Though she is open about her future, Tumbas is determined to go on to graduated school, and she is equally determined to use art as an instrument of change.

Giving back

As a veteran international student, Tumbas is well acquainted with the unique challenges of being in a foreign country.

“ You feel let down,” she explained. “You feel sometimes like you’re a second-class person because of the language barrier and all.”

However, a supportive college community has made all the difference.

“I feel like Maryville College respects my background,” she added. “Differences are celebrated here.”

Ever grateful, Tumbas is quick to recognize how much she owes to others – her parents, her professors and her adopted community – for her success. From loading supplies for refugees, organizing arts programs and counseling adolescents in Eastern Europe to working with the College’s GED tutorial and American Humanics non-profit leadership development programs in Maryville, Tumbas models a spirit of service and dedication to others.

Optimistic about her ability to personally excel and work for the good of others and ending a successful school year with the financial support to help her achieve her goals, Tumbas is compelled to give back to others “because,” in her own words, “so much has been given to me.”

Though Tumbas has had her share of difficulties, persistence and perspective keep her going.

“ The difficult times are so much a part of me,” she said. “My life puts things into perspective.”

And in many ways, Tumbas’ life reflects a favorite quote of hers, the mantra of writer Samuel Johnson: “Great works are not preformed by strength, but by perseverance.”