Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2024

Title:‘Sharing her story’ via podcast

Author: Gabrielle Barone
Date Published: April 8, 2024
a woman stands outside healy hall doors in a black dress and sunglasses with a golden retriever
Nissley got her guide dog, Smalls, in January 2023. “Sometimes the labrador’s tail gets in the microphone,” she says of her podcasting pal. Photo: Courtesy of Marissa Nissley

Marissa Nissley (B’24) started at Georgetown thinking she’d eventually become a lawyer. She used this as inspiration in November 2020 when she started a podcast called “Legally Blonde & Blind” while learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now Nissley, who is blind and has albinism, will soon graduate from the McDonough School of Business with a whole host of accomplishments and experiences she never imagined.

Her podcast, which posts monthly, has episode transcripts for accessibility and features her 2023 TEDTalk with TEDxGeorgetown, “Miss Interdependent: Perspectives on Disability and Independence.”

Though living with her parents and attending classes remotely wasn’t the first-year college experience she’d envisioned, “it gave me more time to be introspective about my experiences as a disabled student, and I think that’s where the idea for the podcast came from,” Nissley says. “I saw examples at Georgetown where many students were proud to be part of the disability community, and considered it part of their identity and culture. That made me want to connect virtually with others and share my story.”

“I think Georgetown has changed me in ways that I never could have expected… Being here has given me a lot of confidence to explore new interests and embrace my identity.”

Nissley, who doesn’t drive, was initially attracted to Georgetown because it’s so easy to explore DC from campus, but has found even more to love.

“I think Georgetown has changed me in ways that I never could have expected,” Nissley says. Before, “I never thought I’d make a podcast, have a guide dog, ride a bike, or walk Jack the Bulldog as part of the Jack Crew. Being here has given me a lot of confidence to explore new interests and embrace my identity.”

Nissley is currently serving as the director of client engagement for Hilltop Consultants, a student-run marketing consulting program for external clients, and was able to secure the New York-based Guide Dog Foundation as a client.

“Not only do our consultants get to see the tangible impact of what they’re doing through my guide dog, Smalls, but they get to go beyond that DC bubble,” Nissley says. “They get to feel like they’re making an impact.”

A fan of SoulCycle, she’s participated in both annual BellRinger races: first 50 miles in the inaugural 2022 event, and then the 100-mile race in 2023. She also enjoys walks around DC, particularly on Theodore Roosevelt Island or the Georgetown Waterfront. And in November, she hosted a ‘Snuggle with Smalls’ Booth on Giving Tuesday, with proceeds going to the Guide Dog Foundation.

“Georgetown has taught me that I’m valuable and that my perspective is meaningful and worth sharing. Going into college I had a lot of imposter syndrome, which doesn’t go away, but I think Georgetown does a lot to build confidence in students and help us find career opportunities and platforms where we can advocate for what we’re passionate about.”

“I’m really happy I ended up at a school with a very vibrant disability culture.”

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