Archive for May, 2015

Felipe Hernandez: Marshall Scholarship Winner, Blog #1

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Felipe Hernandez and Rudy Santacruz, Assistant Director of SAGE Scholars, at the screening of the Road Trip Nation documentary Why Not Us? on April 14, 2015

Reflections on the Marshall Application Experience

The Marshall Application process was long and arduous but also enlightening and rewarding. Although I had already gone through two similar long application processes for the Truman and Fulbright, this application process was different in terms of my approach.

I never planned on applying for the Marshall Scholarship. It was never something that I had factored into my career. In fact, I did not know that the Marshall Scholarship (along with the Rhodes and Mitchell Scholarships) existed until I received the Fulbright Scholarship and the Scholarship Opportunities Program at UC Irvine recommended that I apply for it. Although I initially dismissed it, I came to the realization that this was the best option for me after reflecting on my work as an ETA in Colombia. In Colombia, I found that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in education and policy in an international context to figure out how to help entire communities mobilize economically and socially via education, particularly low-socioeconomic communities. My work in Colombia served as my motivation to apply for the Marshall Scholarship because I was working with underprivileged communities that unified around education as the catalyst for change. However, these communities faced several systemic barriers which severely hindered the mobilization of those most in need, which, in this case, were children affected by the ongoing civil war. I also knew that I wanted to comparatively analyze social policies from various governments to learn about effective and ineffective policies in varying contexts. This provided my motivation and focus to apply for the Marshall.

The more I researched the more I discovered that I would fit in well with various UK programs with support from the Marshall Scholarship. I compiled a list of suitable programs that fit my goals. Next I researched the curriculum, faculty, research papers, alumni, current student profiles, and the city to refine my decision. At this point, I knew that I preferred faculty with educational policy and leadership experience specifically focused on serving underserved and low-socioeconomic regions inside and outside the UK. Ultimately, what helped me make my decision was a combination of the program, country, city, and the fact that my roommate, who was currently teaching English in Colombia with me, happened to be attending the University of Bristol and had nothing but great things to say about it.

The SOP staff were key throughout the entire process. They not only helped refine my choices and helped me research various programs but also constantly provided support in the form of mentorship. The best advice I got from various people, including the SOP office, was to continually ask questions and do as much research as I could.

During this process, my focus was not on getting a Marshall Scholarship. Rather, I focused on fit and whether the program met my goals and personality. Once I narrowed my choices to four or five top programs I proceeded to contact current Marshall Scholars in those programs and faculty in those programs. I asked about their experiences and sought advice. This was crucial in refining my choices. They all echoed what the SOP staff had advised to focus on fit. At the same time I contacted faculty members who taught the courses that I would take and asked them questions about their backgrounds and the course(s). Later, when I was selected as a finalist I looked at their research papers, previous work experience, and current work.

At the same time, I was constantly reevaluating and reflecting on my choices and reasons for applying until I submitted my final Marshall Scholarship application. I was fortunate enough to participate in Road Trip Nation’s First Generation Roadtrip* across the US which provided me with the perfect opportunity to ask questions, reflect, and work on my essays while on the road. After spending a couple of months in Colombia, the most difficult aspect was spending time away from my family and hometown. Spending two years abroad in another country away from my family and California would be a challenge within itself. I would advise all potential applicants to take time away from the hustle and bustle of your daily activities to meditate, reflect, and ask yourself “Why do I want to apply for a Marshall?” Throughout the process I was able to select my affiliates, programs, courses, and extracurricular opportunities that I would partake in by doing just that.

Preparing for the First Year of Graduate School in the United Kingdom

I am most excited about doing what I spent a year planning and researching. I am excited about integrating myself into a new community, meeting the other Master’s students, and challenging myself in a new community with different barriers. I am also excited about traveling across the UK and Europe, befriending other Marshall Scholars and British students, and taking advantage of the new opportunities available to me. To prepare, I contacted both universities (University of Bristol and King’s College London) to obtain information on pre-arrival tasks to complete and have been reading the suggested reading material, continuing my conversations with current Marshall Scholars, and reaching out to faculty and community organizations. I have also been watching documentaries that relate to the subject that I am going to study as well as about life in England in general.

*The Road Trip Nation special will air on PBS in spring 2015 and can be viewed for free here: http://whynotusfilm.com/.