As many students are celebrating the completion of their coursework and the upcoming Commencement ceremony, others are preparing for their next chapter of study. This year, four Clark scholars — Valerie Diaz ’19; Elizabeth Marszalek ’18, MAT ’19; Simone McGuinness ’18, MPA ’19; and doctoral student Mukadder Okuyan — received Fulbright and other prestigious awards to support their endeavors this summer and in the upcoming year.
Valerie Diaz ’19 received a Fulbright Binational award to study and intern in Mexico City; she will complete an internship at a corporate business and study international business at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, one of the most prestigious private universities in Mexico.
Diaz, who is majoring in political science with a minor in marketing, transferred to Clark at the start of her junior year after studying at St. Petersburg College in Florida. At Clark, she says, she “discovered an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for international relations and marketing.” While an undergraduate, she worked at IGWorcester MA to promote events in Worcester, and even started her own retail company, Shirt Shack+ Co; Laura Burgess, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Management, served as her faculty adviser.
Elizabeth Marszalek ’18, MAT ’19, received an English Teaching Assistant Award (ETA) to India. She will spend a year teaching at the Girls Baptist School in the city of Kolkata, West Bengal.
At Clark, Marszalek studied education through the lens of international development to provide her with “more of an understanding of the systems that affect education systems and those involved in them.” She volunteered and interned at Columbus Park Preparatory Academy and Goddard School of Science and Technology, both public elementary schools in Worcester, and even pursued her passion for teaching while abroad in South Africa, interning at the Bernard Nordkamp Centre in Namibia.
Marszalek says there’s an emphasis on critical thinking and community-building at Clark, and access to “knowledgeable and passionate professors and advisers” (including her own faculty adviser, Carmen Ocón, associate professor of practice in the Education Department) who “truly know what they are teaching because of their firsthand engagement.”
“Clark really empowers its students to make a difference in the world. I have a solid support system here. I’ve been inspired to continually grow and challenge myself and received support and advice on how to best do this in meaningful ways,” says Marszalek.
Simone McGuinness ’18, MPA ’19, is headed to the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan this summer to study Mandarin with an award from the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, which funds cultural immersion experiences abroad for American college students in an effort to increase the number of U.S. students who study a foreign language.
McGuinness received her Bachelor of Arts in 2018 and majored in psychology with a minor in Asian Studies. She completed her master of arts in public administration through Clark’s School of Professional Studies; her faculty adviser was Assistant Dean Mary Piecewicz.
McGuinness has studied abroad in China twice during her college career and took intensive language courses in Beijing. She also interned at a local company in Shanghai, which she says made her more fluent in Mandarin and added to her knowledge of Asian studies.
“The country itself captivated me the first time I traveled there,” she says. “I had not been to China since I was adopted, and through my time there, I have reconnected to my Chinese identity.”
McGuinness, who wants to pursue a career in government, says she learned about the public sector from her mentor Joe O’Brien, the former mayor of Worcester who serves as the executive director of Clark’s MPA for Senior Leadership program.
Mukadder Okuyan, a doctoral student in psychology, received the DAAD award to study for a year alongside Professor Bernd Simon at Kiel University in Germany. Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), also known as the German Academic Exchange Service, is the largest funding organization in the world that supports the international exchange of students and scholars. Okuyan was selected for the award out of 522 applicants and nominees from the United States and Canada. Okuyan will study the social psychological factors that predict perceived grievances among advantaged group members of society, such as German citizens and men. Johanna Ray Vollhardt, associate professor in Clark’s Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology, served as her faculty adviser.
Jessica Bane Robert, director of the Office of Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships and a LEEP Center adviser, assisted 10 students with their applications for Fulbright and other fellowships this year, and was their biggest champion; five of the Fulbright applicants became semi-finalists and one was an alternate for a research award in Senegal.
“I’m honored to support applicants in the process of reflecting, telling their stories, finding their purpose, and moving toward their aspirations,” said Bane Robert. “I have known Liz and Val through their tenure at Clark; it was a thrill to see their engagement and hard work come to fruition.”
Diaz and the others said they are where they are today because of the strong, supportive mentors and faculty advisers they’ve encountered at Clark.
“Jess not only served as a mentor, but also is an amazing friend,” said Diaz. “At Clark, I feel like I have been able to find the right people who have helped me to become who I am today.”