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MLS Program Awards Mary Roney Scholarship

Master of Liberal Studies student Mischalgrace Diasanta receives the scholarship for her exceptional work, including a paper about how Muslim Filipinos were viewed in American travel writing in the early 1900s.

July 12, 2013

Mischalgrace Diasanta, the Mary Roney Scholarship winner for 2013, is congratulated by Susan Kamei, Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) director and Jim Kincaid, chair of the MLS faculty board, who presented Diasanta with a copy of the master's thesis by Mary Roney. Photo by Erica Christianson.

Mischalgrace Diasanta, the Mary Roney Scholarship winner for 2013, is congratulated by Susan Kamei, Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) director and Jim Kincaid, chair of the MLS faculty board, who presented Diasanta with a copy of the master's thesis by Mary Roney. Photo by Erica Christianson.

Mischalgrace Diasanta of USC Dornsife Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) has received the Mary Roney Memorial Scholarship for 2013.

MLS presented Diasanta, who as a MLS student wrote about the early depiction of Muslim Filipinos, with the scholarship recently during the program’s annual colloquium.

Diasanta, who graduated from the MLS program in May and works as a graduate affairs coordinator at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said she has grown personally and scholastically during her time in the MLS program.

“Now as a MLS graduate,” she said, “I’m looking forward to continuing my interdisciplinary inquiries.”

The family of MLS alumna Mary Roney established the award in 2012 to provide support to students who have returned to higher education for graduate multidisciplinary work and who have excelled in the program. The scholarship helps to defray tuition costs.

Born in 1933, Mary Roney was the daughter of a Methodist minister. She grew up in Camden, N.J., and developed intense interests in English literature and European and American history as a young person.

After graduating from Dickenson College in Carlisle, Pa., Roney set aside law school plans to raise her son and daughter with husband Roger. Once her children were older, Roney resumed her education and in 1986 earned a USC Master of Liberal Arts degree, the predecessor to the MLS degree.

In honor of Roney, who died in September 2011, and her love of learning and the enriching experience in the MLA program, her family established the scholarship.

The scholarship ceremony took place in May, shortly before Diasanta graduated from MLS. During the event, Susan Kamei, USC Dornsife associate dean for advanced and professional programs and director of the MLS program, paid tribute to Roney’s commitment to lifelong learning and to her family’s support of MLS. 

On behalf of the Roney family, Kamei and James R. Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Chair in English and professor of English, presented Diasanta with a bound copy of Roney’s thesis, written about the life of Mary James, the mother of American-born writer Henry James.

Diasanta received her bachelor’s in history with a minor in French at UCLA in 1999, and returned to school at the graduate level because of her desire to develop greater analytical skills in a multidisciplinary context. She served on the MLS Student Association board and has been a frequent volunteer to help with MLS projects. 

At the recent 2013 Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium held in San Rafael, Calif., Diasanta presented a paper titled “Familiar Others: Empire and the Image of Muslim Filipinos in American Travel Writings (1902-1913).” 

In the project, Diasanta analyzed how Muslim Filipinos were depicted in travel narratives by four American authors after the United States annexation of the Philippines and while the U.S. continued to battle for control in southern Philippines. She also studied how current representations of Muslims had roots in America’s first imperial expansion overseas.

“As was the case for Mary Roney, Mischal has a great love of travel, anthropology, history, political science and literature, and she has drawn upon those passions to produce an outstanding research project,” Kamei said. “Mischal was the consensus selection among the faculty for this year’s Roney Scholarship because her summative project represents the kind of exemplary research, rigorous thinking, creativity and well-crafted writing that we aspire all of our students to achieve.” 

The Master of Liberal Studies program offers graduate studies for professional development and personal enrichment. Weekly evening seminar-style classes make it possible for the working professional to enroll on a part-time basis. Students also may enroll full-time. MLS students receive individual writing instruction and mentoring from USC Dornsife faculty, and enjoy camaraderie with diverse classmates. 

To learn more about the MLS program and the scholarship, visit dornsife.usc.edu/mls, e-mail mls@dornsife.usc.edu or call (213) 740-1349.