A 2018 University of Maryland graduate now serving as chief of staff to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee was named Saturday among the 12 winners nationwide of the George J. Mitchell Scholar Class of 2021

Baltimore native Adler “A.J.” Pruitt, a double-degree major in economics and in government and politics, and his fellow Mitchell Scholarship winners were awarded a year of graduate study in Ireland. Pruitt will pursue a master’s degree in comparative criminology and criminal justice at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. 

A.J. Pruitt headshotPruitt is the third Mitchell Scholar from UMD since the program’s founding in 1999; it was created by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance and named in honor of former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Pruitt called it an “unparalleled opportunity” to study criminal justice and conflict transformation in Ireland, where he said “universities are pushing forward a modern form of criminology that is beginning to acknowledge that effective crime prevention requires a more holistic approach.” 

“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.”

At the State House in Annapolis, Pruitt 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 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.”

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 nonpartisan student organization designed to research, explore and discuss politics. He was elected to serve as Student Government Association president during his senior year.

“This distinguished scholarship attests to A.J.’s academic achievements, leadership and community service,” said UMD 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.

Gregory Ball, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, said that Pruitt’s scholarship and work to date are inspiring to the 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,” he said.

In his role as UMD’s advisor for UK/Ireland fellowships and scholarships, Richard Bell, 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 A.J.’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 advisers 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.”