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Student Spotlight: Aidan Patrick Leahy

Aidan Patrick Leahy

Hometown: Cumming, GA

High School: Lambert HS

Degree Objective: History A.B. and Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) Double Dawg, Portuguese minor

Expected Graduation: Spring 2023 (A.B.), 2024 (M.P.A.)

Current Employment: Junior Advisor at the UGA Office of Global Engagement

UGA Highlights, Honors, Achievements, Awards, and Scholarships:  

I've been privileged to be given so many opportunities in college to grow both as a student and as a person. While at UGA, I've been able to pursue independent research through CURO as part of Dr. Richard Blissett's educational policy team, study away on two separate occasions, and meet so many amazing people. I'd especially like to thank Bonnie Cramond and Charles Martin, whose scholarship allowed me to achieve my lifelong dream of traveling abroad for the first time. My mentors in the Department of History, the Portuguese Flagship program, and the Office of Global Engagement always put in the work for me even when they didn't need to, and I'm lucky to have so many sources of guidance. 

Finally, I'm fortunate to have the friends I do for continuously supporting me and leaving Athens better than they found it. Not to be corny but y'all are the best achievement I could ask for. 

I chose to attend UGA because… 

I wanted to put myself out there. I primarily applied to in-state schools for financial reasons, and as a chronically introverted 18-year-old with no life experience, going to UGA allowed me to branch out and say yes to opportunities I may have never encountered otherwise. I'm also an avid music seeker, so I can't deny that watching Athens, GA: Inside/Out my senior year of high school and learning about the local scene probably swayed my decision as well.

I chose to major in History because…

It's all I've ever known. From the moment my mom made the ill-advised decision to get me a cell phone, I'd spend hours digging through Wikipedia learning whatever weird anecdotes I could find. History was the discipline where I could show people why they should care about what I care about, and as a bonus, it didn't require me to take organic chemistry. Joan Didion famously said that 'we tell ourselves stories in order to live', and history allows us to create present meaning out of our past and illuminate these stories worth telling.  

 My favorite things to do on campus are…

Pretending to do work at the Main Library, lazing about in the Founders Garden, or annoying whichever of my friends on campus is willing to let me. I'm also on the executive board for UGA's quiz bowl team and anime club (I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which of those two is more cringe).

When I have free time, I like…

going to concerts downtown, rock climbing at Ramsey, or watching a movie at Ciné. 

 The craziest thing I’ve done is… 

Compete for the United States at the International Quizzing Olympiad in Krakow, Poland. During my semester in at Oxford, I learned that a player on the US under-30 team had dropped and they needed a last-minute replacement. I applied on a whim while at the pub with some friends one night and was alarmed a week later to find out they had picked me (I was the cheapest to fly in due to already being in Europe). I flew to Poland that November with about $100 on me, played more trivia than the human brain can handle, and walked away with two medals as the moral support guy on very talented teams. I got to visit a beautiful country I would've never explored otherwise and got a pretty good story to tell at parties out of it as well.

My favorite place to study is…

The basement of Snelling, mostly because it's open 24 hours. I wrote the vast majority of my senior thesis over one mostly uninterrupted three-day session here, so I have to give it the nod for coming in clutch.

My favorite class in the History Department was…

I took a class on the global history of drugs with Dr. Yang on a whim during my sophomore year, and it really changed my perspective on how history could be written and utilized. It was the first time I had essentially free rein on deciding my research topic, and Dr. Yang encouraged me to research something I would have never thought of otherwise. His class was invaluable, and it was the first time I felt I could study history in the long term. 

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

I would like to make history and writing part of my career in some way, whether that be in more traditional academia or more media-adjacent things. I’ve been fascinated with new media for a long time, so I’ll probably give myself a year or so to make something happen in that space, just to see if I can. 

 If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

Travel, mostly, you’ve only got so much time to see what there is to see. Being a real adult can wait.

 After graduation, I plan to…

I’ll be in Athens for one more year to finish my Masters in Public Administration, where I’m currently specializing in urban policy. After that, I honestly couldn’t tell you, and if I did I’ll probably change my mind in a few months. 

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

Winning College Bowl! Most of the filming experience is a blur to me, probably because of how stressed I was, so watching the episodes and seeing the outpouring of support from the UGA community has been surreal. Layla, Elijah, and Ashrit are better teammates and friends than I could have ever wished for. UGA is more than just a football school, and I’m glad we could show it on the national stage. 

Also, I’m not sorry for doing awful dance moves every time we got a question, if the other teams had an issue with it they should have buzzed in before us. Fastest fingers first, baby. 

UGA students Layla Parsa, Aidan Leahy and Elijah Odunade celebrate their “Capital One College Bowl” victory. (Photo by Steve Swisher/NBC)
UGA students Layla Parsa, Aidan Leahy and Elijah Odunade celebrate their “Capital One College Bowl” victory. (Photo by Steve Swisher/NBC)


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