2014 Graduate Eric Salgado Awarded Prestigious Rangel Fellowship
Graduate school, with an eventual career as a diplomat, was a dream Eric Salgado ’14 had since he was a first-year student majoring in Spanish at Fairfield. So, last year, in his final semester, when he learned he had been accepted to the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University to study for a master’s degree in Latin American Studies, Salgado was thrilled.
But costs were high, and so Salgado decided to defer for a year, get a job, and save resources to make the transition to Washington, D.C., possible.
He worked as a paralegal at a law firm in Manhattan specializing in workers’ compensation, commuting every day from East Haven, Conn., managing up to 340 cases and making good use of his Spanish and Portuguese skills. “I’m actually very glad to have had the opportunity to gain some professional experience before beginning grad school,” he said. “I’ve learned so much about myself and some of the skills I have to offer outside of an academic setting.”
Over the year, Salgado also applied for a number of fellowships, aided by a course he had taken at Fairfield, "Global Leadership and Project Development," with Dr. Janie Leatherman, professor of politics and international studies.
In March, barely a year after graduation, after an intense, day-long interview process at the U.S. State Department, Salgado was notified that he had received a 2015 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship—the first Fairfield graduate to receive the prestigious award. He was one of more than 500 applicants and 60 finalists; 30 fellows were chosen from across the country.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Rangel Fellowship supports extraordinary individuals who want to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. As part of the fellowship, Salgado will intern this summer on Capitol Hill with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives. Next summer he will intern at a U.S. embassy abroad. He will also receive approximately $95,000 in benefits over a two-year period to pursue his graduate studies at Georgetown, and serve as a U.S. diplomat after graduation.
“When I got the news, I could hardly process what that meant for my future,” Salgado said. “While at Fairfield, I worked extremely hard to make something like this come to pass, but it’s still hard to believe.”
At Fairfield, Salgado double-majored in Spanish and an individually-designed major in Latin American Studies. He took advantage of every opportunity, studying abroad in Nicaragua, leading service immersion trips to Quito, Ecuador, and conducting field research in León, Nicaragua and Havana, Cuba. His research projects ranged from such diverse topics as the youth gang crisis in Central America and the chronic kidney disease epidemic in Nicaragua, to the economic downturn in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union. In his senior year, he began studying Brazilian Portuguese in an effort to more fully understand Brazil’s role in Latin America and the world. His interest in Meso-American language and culture was sparked from an early age by his family ties to Honduras.
After graduation this past August, Salgado co-presented at the Annual Encounter on the Teaching of Portuguese conference held at Columbia University—the only non-professor presenting—and co-authored the subsequent conference paper, which was published in December 2014.
“People often asked me, ‘What do you plan on doing with that degree?’,” he said. “My hope was to either pursue a higher degree or go into diplomacy. The idea of representing the United States in a capacity that promotes our values and also calls for deep cultural understanding attracted me...This is the sort of career that allows you to engage in real dialogue that promotes change.”
Salgado is particularly grateful to Dr. Michelle Leigh Farrell, assistant professor of modern languages and literatures, for his success. “Dr. Farrell taught me two languages (Spanish and Portuguese), supported my goals, and provided me with opportunities to penetrate the scholarly world as an undergraduate.” Besides Dr. Farrell and Dr. Leatherman, Salgado also credits Drs. Dina Franceschi, Terry-Ann Jones, Gisela Gil-Egui, and Joy Gordon of the Latin American and Carribean Studies program, “which provided me with a supportive space to explore my passion.”
At Georgetown, Salgado will focus on Latin American Studies, with a concentration on conflict resolution and human rights.
“I am just so proud to be the first Rangel fellow from Fairfield University. It is a community that means so much to me and facilitated the growth that brought me to this point. This is what my Jesuit education prepared me for!”