USC Rossier graduates and alums receive Fulbright Awards

After this week’s commencement ceremonies, two members of the 2015 graduating class will trade their diplomas for Fulbright Awards. They will join three Rossier alumni on international fellowships for 2015–16, including grants to teach English as well as one Fulbright Distinguished Award in teaching. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

Andrea Valenzuela

Andrea Valenzuela

Andrea Valenzuela is graduating with a master’s degree in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs and is the recipient of a Fulbright English teaching assistantship. She will be teaching at a public school in Mexico, where she plans to familiarize herself with the college application process and financial aid system for Mexican universities. She also has proposed working with Mexico’s secretary of public education to help improve access and retention rates to postsecondary education for low-income Mexican students.

“Coming from East Los Angeles—a low-income, underrepresented and urban area—I experienced daily obstacles to just graduate from high school,” says Valenzuela. “Once I made it to college I discovered that my passion and responsibility was to increase access and retention to higher education for students from backgrounds like mine.”

After completing her fellowship in Mexico, Valenzuela plans to pursue a doctoral degree in higher education, focusing on college access for underrepresented, low-income and first-generation students.

“I came to USC Rossier because of its mission to improve urban education locally, nationally and globally,” she says. “Rossier has provided me with the foundational knowledge and leadership experience to fulfill my passion.”

Jose Garza EdD 15 in his office at Foothill High School in Bakersfield.

Jose Garza EdD ’15 in his office at Foothill High School in Bakersfield.

Jose Garza is earning his EdD this week and will be heading to Great Britain for six months to study the creation of a counseling program for at-risk kids. In a recent profile of Garza in The Bakersfield Californian, reporter Herb Benham noted that Garza is one of only 49 educators in the country to win the Fulbright Distinguished Award in teaching and one of the first from Kern County. Garza was born and raised in Bakersfield and commuted to USC from his current job as a counselor at his alma mater, Foothill High School.

Garza was the first in his family to attend college, attending Berkeley before earning his master’s in education at Harvard. As a counselor, he founded the Ivy League Project to give students the confidence to apply Ivy League schools. One his students at Foothill, Luis Martinez, will attend the University of Pennsylvania this fall on a full scholarship.

“I see pieces of myself in these students,” Garza told Benham for the Bakersfield Californian profile. “I’m trying to push them to realize their dreams, and sometimes their dreams are bigger than the community and they have to leave.”

Garza sees his Fulbright Award as a milestone in his own career path as he leaves Bakersfield once again. “My education at Rossier has given me the skills and knowledge to pursue an original inquiry project at a global level,” he says.

Garza and Valenzuela are continuing an established tradition at USC Rossier. Earlier this year, USC News reported on three Rossier alums who have received Fulbright English teaching assistant awards for 2015–16:

Miriam Otero graduated from USC in 2013 with a Masters of Arts in Teaching–TESOL and will be an English teaching assistant in Spain, focusing on developing students’ new media literacy skills in English through the use of blogs, social networking and other forms of media.

Sarah Tomlinson, another MAT-TESOL graduate, will be an English teaching assistant in Mongolia, where she will also organize language-related cross-cultural student activities and engage in embassy-organized public outreach activities.

Master of Arts in Teaching alumnus Matthew Wong will serve his Fulbright year as an English teaching assistant working with elementary and junior high students in Taiwan and hopes to facilitate civic engagement through discussions of sustainability practices and participation in green activities such as biking and hiking.