Marissa Loterina began her Gamma Eta experience in Fall of 2009, founding Zeta Colony at the University of Georgia. While pursuing her degree in International Affairs and Sociology with a minor in Spanish, she interned at EMILY’s List and the Office of Presidential Correspondence at the White House, located in Washington, DC. She also studied abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she taught adults basic computer skills and interacted with children. As a result of this and other past experiences, she became interested in educating individuals in developing countries about their human rights, health, and the skills needed to develop personal goals. Marissa is currently attending the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver where she is pursuing a Master of Arts in International Development. Her personal interests include music, art, photography, traveling, learning languages, and having fun with her family and friends!
Wow. The White House. Was it everything you expected?
I came in with no expectations. I was just excited to be working at the White House and for those of you who don’t already know, I LOVE President Obama. I even call him my boyfriend, (yeah, it’s that bad). I find him very attractive and a strong leader for our country. I knew it would be a lot of work and super intense. I worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in the Greetings Department. We got wedding invitations, birthday greetings requests, 70th wedding anniversaries, and 101st birthdays! It was amazing! Also, it was great when we got baby announcements and pictures from every day Americans. We would hang them in the office. Of course we received hate mail and had to read some discouraging things about how people were losing their homes or had been without work. I’ll tell you want, it was so much more than I expected. There was loads of work and we always had something to do, but it would be so great when a letter came in for our staff. They would say something like “thank you for honoring our request. My dad or my mom got her birthday card from the President and now has it framed in her living room” Being able to make someone’s day was so fulfilling for us. We actually made a difference in people’s lives and even if it was a birthday card or a signed picture of the President, we knew people would cherish that for the rest of their lives.
What was the best part of your experience in South Africa?
It was just awesome overall. Gosh, everything. I guess the best part of my experience was actually getting to work in the community. We taught adults basic computer skills in a township. They didn’t even know what a mouse was. I also worked and played with the kids, which was the most rewarding. When you study abroad, you usually go do the touristy things. You don’t realize that there are a lot of issues that are happening all around you. There are people still living in shacks. It makes you appreciate everything that you take for granted. It made the experience more real for me.
Who is your role model?
There’s so many people. My mom is very inspirational. If you ask me where all this passion comes from, it comes from her. She went to college, but had to stop after she became a teenage mom. She made that sacrifice, but I knew that I was very important to her, so I made sure I went to school. I hope I can be half the woman that she is when I am older. Chris Medrano is my other role model. She is my big and she has done a lot for the sisterhood. She’s always been very encouraging and supportive no matter what. There’s a lot that happens in college and you learn a lot about yourself. Both are very amazing women.
What is the strangest sentence you can say in a foreign language?
There’s a saying in a lot of Hispanic cultures, it’s not the strangest thing, but it’s about a frog’s butt.
It’s a cold, rainy day outside. What kind of music are you listening to?
The Weeknd . He’s really mellow and a little explicit. The music is so mellow that when I listen to it on a rainy day, it makes it happy.
What inspired you to found Zeta Colony at UGA?When we joined, we really didn’t know what we were getting into. We were so trusting of Chris and everyone with the process, that we just went with it. We definitely felt the passion that they had. I still remember the day that I first met Chris. At first, I was like: I don’t want to join a sorority. All I’ll do is party and drink. Then I saw Chris with a pamphlet and she kept looking at me. She kept talking to me, as if she really wanted me to join. I had also been approached by an Asian interest sorority. That was how it started, when I went home that night with Chris’s pamphlet. My great aunt is a breast cancer survivor, so it ended up being very personal for me. I am also multiracial and I’ve always felt like I didn’t know which “side” to choose. Choosing a diverse sorority meant that I wouldn’t have to choose a side. I knew it was the right direction to go in. We had a two hour conversation when I called Chris. She wanted to know more about me. That’s when I knew. It has, so far, been the best experience of my life. It has given me so much confidence.
What are you hopes and dreams for Gamma Eta in the future?
I have high expectations for the sisterhood. I dream big, which is always how I’ve been. I hope we can develop as women, as a sisterhood and become more involved. I just really want sisters to feel the passion on the first day they joined and never let that feeling die. I hope to see Gamma Eta go international, that would be so awesome. I love Gamma Eta, and everyone else should too!