Maribel Vasquez ’09

For Maribel Vasquez ’09, there was a time not long ago when Lancaster, Pa., seemed like a foreign country. The Bronx native says enrolling at F&M in fall 2005 was like studying abroad: a new school, new state and different local culture. Seven years later, Vasquez has seen the world beyond Lancaster and is preparing to see more.

Vasquez has received a 2012 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to help her prepare academically and professionally to enter the United States Foreign Service.

One of 20 winners chosen from a national pool of 270 applicants, Vasquez will use the award to support a two-
year graduate program in international affairs at American University beginning this fall. Joining her in the ranks of Pickering Fellows is current F&M student Melissa Sandoval ’13, who secured one of 20 undergraduate Pickering awards. Fellowship winners commit to three years of service as foreign service officers for the U.S. Department of State.

“It’s humbling to be part of this cohort of Pickering Fellows,” Vasquez said. “This fellowship means a lot to me because of what it represents to my family, my community and to me as a first-generation American. I can now really touch my dreams.”

Vasquez began to shape those dreams at F&M, where she was a member of the College’s first cohort of Posse Scholars — student leaders from diverse backgrounds. After developing a passion for international service on a “transformative trip” to El Salvador during her “U.S. and Central American History” class in 2007, she traveled extensively during her junior year. She co-produced a documentary on homeless children and drug abuse while studying abroad in Bolivia, and later researched the role of the press in the development of the state during a semester in Uganda.

The international experiences clarified Vasquez’s goal to do meaningful work in foreign countries. “After graduation, I wanted to find a way to go abroad and have an impact on people’s lives,” she said.

Vasquez spent the summer after college in Europe as a Humanity in Action Summer Fellow, exploring issues of human trafficking and immigrants’ rights. She then embarked on her biggest international adventure: a yearlong Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Venezuela.

On American soil, Vasquez further developed her passion for international issues as an intern with the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she tracked aid to Haiti and learned about international law. “It was an unpaid internship, but it made me say, ‘Wow, I can do this, not get paid, and love it.’”

As Vasquez embarks on her path toward a career in the U.S. Foreign Service, she says she is proud to live up to F&M’s nickname. She still has an F&M Diplomats T-shirt from her undergraduate days that now holds greater meaning than ever.

“I can’t thank F&M and Posse enough for the support they’ve given me,” Vasquez said. “Now I’m set up to be a real diplomat.”


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