Rollins Grad Awarded Rangel Fellowship

Nadia Ramirez ’13 is the first Rollins alum to earn a place in the highly competitive Rangel International Affairs Program, which is designed to prepare graduate students for careers in Foreign Service.

Nadia Ramirez ’13 (Photo by Scott Cook) Nadia Ramirez ’13 (Photo by Scott Cook)

Nadia Ramirez ’13, a second-year Fulbright Scholar, was recently awarded a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship.

The fellowship, which is funded by the U.S. State Department and managed by the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University, is awarded annually to 30 students who want to pursue a career in the Foreign Service. The fellowship finances two-year graduate programs, provides paid Congressional and State Department internships, and aids in other professional development activities.

Ramirez is the first Rollins alum to earn a place in the highly competitive fellowship program. She was also a finalist for the Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship.

In a way, Ramirez has been preparing for a career in Foreign Service for most of her life. When she was 10, Ramirez emigrated to the U.S. with her parents and sister to escape the drug war in her native Colombia. Her parents, who didn’t speak English, relied on their multilingual children to help navigate life in their new home.

“My sister and I picked up English super-quickly,” Nadia says. “So we had to do things like ‘Hey, I have a doctor’s appointment, so you can’t go to school because you have to go with me.’ It’s a very common thing for immigrant children—you translate a lot of things for your immigrant parents.”

Her experience planted a seed that would blossom at Rollins into a passion for language education and a desire to serve immigrant and refugee communities.

As a sophomore at Rollins, Ramirez won the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship, which allowed her to study Chinese language and culture as well as international relations and business in the Rollins in Shanghai Program. Later, her thesis work with Professor of Political Science Dexter Boniface centered on relations between Asia and Latin America.

When she returned from Shanghai, Ramirez experienced another breakthrough during an immigration course taught by Associate Professor of Spanish Gabriel Barreneche. The class required students to volunteer at the Apopka Family Learning Center, a Central Florida nonprofit that provided educational services to children and their families.

“I love it because as a first-generation immigrant it was work that was very personal to me,” Ramirez says. “These kids needed help with their English, help with their homework. They had to translate everything for their parents. You’re 8, 10 years old and have you have to make your parents’ doctor’s appointments. I was that child.

“I think that is what set it up for me. I realized I could help people through language learning. It was a way for me to help people—no matter how young they were—take control of their narrative and encourage them to get an international education.”

Today, Ramirez is pursuing her passion for language education and service on the other side of the world. Ramirez won a Fulbright Scholarship after graduating from Rollins with a degree in international relations. She is completing her second year in the Fulbright Program in South Korea where she works as a coordinator in the North Korean Defector Program, which helps North Korean refugees assimilate into South Korean culture.

Ramirez will begin graduate school this fall and is currently mulling offers from Columbia University, Georgetown University, and American University. She’s leaning towards Colombia because the university’s School of International and Public Affairs has a strong Latin America concentration.

“I focused most of my undergrad career in Asia and the Middle East,” Ramirez says. “Now I’m ready to bring it home as Dr. Boniface would say and do some work in Latin America."

Rollins students interested in applying to the Rangel Fellowship should contact Director of External and Competitive Scholarships Jay Shivamoggi at jshivamoggi@rollins.edu or 407-646-2346.