Pauley Perrette, best known for her role as Abby Sciuto on CBS’s “NCIS,” is one of the most well-known actresses out there. What many people do not know is that Perrette is a VSU alumna who studied criminal justice in hopes of someday working in the field.
Perrette, graduated from VSU in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice. She received a Governor’s Honors scholarship in Roswell, GA, and planned to obtain a master’s degree in criminal justice.
“I was planning on finishing my master’s degree at John Jay School of Criminal Justice,” but then I accidentally became an actress,” Perrette said in an interview with The Bonfire in 2018. “But I wanted to be a crime fighter. I wanted to be a cop or work for the FBI. That’s what I thought I would be doing right now.”
Perrette created a scholarship for women pursuing a degree in criminal justice at VSU and John Jay School in 2018.
“I thought it made a lot of sense to establish a scholarship at my school that I went to and then also to the school that I never got to go to,” she said.
The Pauley Perrette Scholarship, according to VSU’s scholarship page, is a “full” scholarship currently estimated at $8,200 per semester, or $16,400 a year, for the first year it is awarded.
The scholarship is awarded by a selection process. A female student is selected each year by the Department of Criminal Justice, in accordance with the Office of Admissions, based on merit, character, and financial need.
Perrette left “NCIS” after a 15-year run on the show. Following the suggestion from a CBS executive, she created the scholarship as a way for her character to live on.”I said, ‘I want Abby to live on forever,’ and we were also talking about how she’s inspired young girls, and in that conversation thought, ‘Wow, that makes Abby immortal,’” she said in her interview with The Bonfire in 2018. “Because if young people via this scholarship actually go and become more little Abbys, then she literally does live forever and so does her influence, and in a real-life way.”
Perrette said she used what she learned at VSU while in every role she has played, but especially when it came to portraying Abby on “NCIS.” She memorized her notes and textbooks, and rewrote the information in spiral notebooks multiple times.
Abby was a difficult role for Perrette to play because of all the science terminology she had to memorize. Using the same method she did for her studies, Perrette copied her lines over and over into spirals notebooks so she would know everything before she went onto set.
“It’s exactly what I did in college,” Perrette said.
Perrette discussed how overwhelming it was for her to see all the young women her character inspired throughout her time on the show. When asked how it felt to be a role model for so many girls, Perrette said she felt Abby was the role model, not her.
“For 16 years, Abby has raised these young girls, and now they have fully completed their degrees in forensic science and in science, technology, engineering, and math, and they’re working in these fields because of the inspiration of a fictional television character,” she said. “That is just outstanding.”
Perrette received straight A’s during her time at VSU, saying she began taking her studies very seriously. This is something she talks about with young people often by comparing a high school education to a college one.
Perrette said it felt illegal not to be in high school. However, she realized receiving a higher education was something she chose for herself, not because someone was making her go.
“I got an excellent education at Valdosta State, and I encourage young people all the time,” she said. ””If they don’t understand why higher education is so important, it’s not only the information that you get and what you learn. It’s also the process of accomplishment of starting something, dedicating yourself to it, and finishing it.”
Despite never pursuing her hopes to work in the criminal justice system and retiring from acting in 2020, Perrette still hopes to see young women studying criminal justice or forensics succeed in the field.
Her advice to VSU students who wish to go into this career path is to work hard and dedicate themselves to their education.
“Never, ever let it be lost on you what a privilege getting an education is,” she said in her closing statement with The Bonfire. “Take advantage of it. Work hard. Learn everything you can. Dedicate yourself to it.”
Story by Bailey Storey, Photo Editor. Photo courtesy of flickr.