Thursday, September 21, 2023

UTSA Honors College graduate Gonzalez wins Fulbright Grant

UTSA Honors College graduate Gonzalez wins Fulbright Grant

APRIL 13, 2020 — UTSA alumna Ana-Sofia Gonzalez ’19 has been named an English teaching assistant in the Fulbright Student Program. The Fulbright program is administered by the U.S. Department of State and is the flagship program for international educational exchange.

Born in Mexico City, Gonzalez grew up in Dallas and describes herself as a proud immigrant to the United States. Raised in a bilingual household, where English was spoken in school and Spanish was spoken at home, Gonzalez learned about language and difference from an early age. She witnessed how students like herself were stereotyped based on their ethnicity and socioeconomic status, rather than their character or their work in the classroom.

“Growing up, I often encountered classrooms decorated with posters that read knowledge is power. At first I didn’t think much of them, but eventually I realized this concept would be significant in my life,” Gonzalez said. “Less education means less general awareness and therefore less capability to create change. Toward the end of high school, I decided that I would no longer stand by idly in a rapidly polarizing society.”

At UTSA, Gonzalez became a leader through various student initiates. She founded the Women in Leadership group in 2017, which is a feminist organization that seeks to empower women in their everyday lives, as opposed to being strictly politically driven. Before graduation, she also served as chief of staff for Sustainable Youth Action, which was founded by fellow UTSA honors student Jay’Len Boone. The organization envisions a world in which young people are both civically engaged and empowered to use their creativity for social good.

“Less education means less general awareness and therefore less capability to create change.”

Studying global affairs and Spanish, Gonzalez has learned about how leadership and cross-cultural understanding can be applied on an international level. She has put her classroom curriculum into practice accordingly, first studying abroad in Madrid and then serving as a volunteer in Mexico City with the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences. There, she served as an English tutor for adults working at a marketing startup business. Her time spent abroad not only prepared her to apply for the Fulbright grant but instilled in her how to listen and understand others.

“Spending time alone in a foreign country is not always easy, but the benefits are numerous and wonderful,” Gonzalez said. “I was immersed in a unique culture and learned about the lives of students my age who grew up in completely different circumstances from my own. I learned humility, empathy and a willingness to ask for help and explore at a new level. I witnessed the commonalities that unite all of us. I learned to listen with the goal to understand even when I experienced confusion or disagreement. This enabled me to embrace new places and new faces.”

The prestigious Fulbright Program will fund Gonzalez’s travel to Colombia during the 2020–2021 academic year, where she will teach English to Colombian university students. Gonzalez was the first of UTSA’s five semifinalists to receive a notification about winning the award. Other finalists are vying for awards in Taiwan, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

She was drawn to Colombia as a UTSA student and Archer fellow spending a semester in Washington, D.C. She interned for Refugees International at the time and she noted how Colombia has been generous in its intake of Venezuelan refugees. She hopes to design a civic engagement project to work with the Venezuelan refugee community during her stay in Colombia and that the entire endeavor will serve as a stepping stone to a career in diplomacy or the nonprofit sector.

Students are awarded grants to conduct research, study in graduate programs, and teach English abroad. UTSA has had 13 students participate in the program and has seen a rise in awardees in the past decade, earning four awards in 2011. The mission of the program seeks to increase mutual understanding between countries all over the world and seeks to send abroad American students from a diversity of backgrounds.

The Fulbright student program encourages applicants to apply through their home institution’s endorsement. Undergraduate students in their junior and senior years, graduate and professional students, as well as alumni, should apply through the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, which is housed in the UTSA Honors College. Students typically start applications in April through early summer in consultation with Fulbright program adviser Andrew Chapman.

Applying for a Fulbright

The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards is now hosting weekly online info sessions to help students apply for the Fulbright Program’s 2021–2022 class, which will be comprised of approximately 2,000 awardees. Students can reach out directly to ONCA or follow ONCA on Instagram or Facebook, where the office regularly posts information on new scholarship opportunities, info sessions and workshops. 

Read about the Fulbright Program.

“While in our current situation with the coronavirus outbreak, international opportunities might be at the back of students’ minds,” said Chapman, “I’d like to encourage students to consider programs like Fulbright. It is so important during this time that we consider the ways in which the international community cooperates and helps one another, and Fulbright challenges students to consider how they can take part in this mission.” 

Students receive advice on crafting a competitive application, which helps them in writing personal statements and grant proposals, and participate in a campus interview. This year UTSA’s Fulbright committee was composed of faculty and staff throughout the university: Bridget Drinka (English), Alegra Lozano (Honors College) and Melissa Wallace (modern languages and literatures).

Andrew Chapman and Shea Conner

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University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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