Graduate student Monica Arboleda does not quit. She only had a bachelor’s degree and was competing with applicants who had completed their Ph.D.s when she interviewed to be a Houle Scholar in Latin America. Her background included research with women who had risen to leadership positions in their communities in Colombia through education and other means. She received the Houle scholarship, and when she reported on her work at a retreat the following year in Mexico, the committee was impressed. The content was wonderful, but they also found out that in the course of her research Arboleda endured several hardships including having been laid off by her sponsoring organization due to financial cutbacks. Not long after returning from the seminar, Arboleda decided to apply to UGA as a graduate student and began improving her mastery of English. As a single mother, she was denied a student visa twice by the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. Finally, she got a visa and came to America with her daughter, Manuela. After only a few months of study, she has already inquired about switching from a M.Ed. to a Ph.D. in her program. After graduation, she hopes to work for social change for women in Latin America.
Colegio Santa Clara, Bogota, Colombia
Master of education in adult education with a certificate in women’s studies
B.A., Psychology, Pontificy University Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia
Diploma, Women and Human Rights, Rosario University, Bogota, Colombia
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
Before I came to UGA, I received a scholarship from the British Embassy that helped me complete my diploma in the study of women and human rights. I am also one of two Cyril O. Houle scholarship program recipients for 1999-2001. My research was called Contributions for Strengthening and Promoting Processes of Social Organizations with Political Processes. Now that I am in America, I have been granted an assistantship in UGA’s Department of Lifelong Education, Administration and Policy.
I am working for two professors in the College of Education. As an assistant to Bob Hill, I do translation work. As an assistant to Brad Courtenay, I am helping collect interviews for a research project about online education. I also volunteer for a group called Women and Armed Conflict whose main objective is to document the status and treatment of women in the current political, economic and social situation in Colombia. For this group, I am collecting interviews and conducting analyses of news coverage.
I chose to attend UGA because…
…I wanted to study and work with the UGA faculty I met in 1999 as a part of the Cyril O. Houle Program. This program was financed by the Kellogg Foundation (USA) and sponsored by UGA. As a result of my involvement, I had the opportunity to get to know several faculty members from UGA’s Department of Lifelong Education, Administration and Policy. Houle Scholars have the opportunity to participate in two international “encounters” where we present advances and/or results from our own research projects. Those “encounters” were an outstanding experience for me because it was the first time that I had the opportunity to meet professionals and share scholarship from other parts of the world. When I returned to my country, I had new ideas and new questions, and I wanted to learn more. As a result, I decided to apply to UGA.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
…walk around and observe other students, and I also like to take my daughter to the Oconee Forest and Lake Herrick to enjoy nature. I come from a big city in where it is difficult to be in contact to the nature, so I enjoy the peace I find on campus.
When I have free time, I like…
When I am not working or studying or taking care of my daughter or cleaning house, I like to spend time outdoors, go out with some friends from Chile, or, if I really have time for luxury, I like to watch a good movie and then discuss it with my friends.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
…come to America to study. It took me three years of studying English (in the USA and on my own in Colombia) and five tries to pass the TOEFL. The first time that I applied to UGA was in 2004. When I applied for my visa, it was denied because I “did not have enough support.” A year later, I had some scholarships, and when I went to the embassy and started to answer the questions, I realized that when they said I “lacked support” they were saying that they did not think I could make it as a single mother without a husband or male partner. Before I went back in 2006, many friends, relatives, professors, and others wrote letters to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota and to the Colombian consulate in Atlanta. I had to reapply to UGA, and I lost one of my scholarships due to the time lapse, but in June 2006, more than four years after I started my preparations, I received a student visa. My daughter and I arrived in Atlanta on July 28, 2006.
My favorite place to study is…
…my apartment, because it is comfortable, I have the necessary resources, and I can play classical music while I am studying. The music is an important element to help me concentrate and get inspired. If the weather is nice, I sometimes like to study at a little table at Lake Herrick. I like that table because it is hidden and quiet, and I also have a good view of the lake.
My favorite professor is…
It’s hard to say since this is only my first semester here. In each of my classes, I learn so much, and I am also discovering how my professors’ different approaches make a difference to my learning. My professors have helped me to improve and develop new skills that I really need to be successful in my studies and in my professional and personal life.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
…my father. He passed away 10 years ago. The most important lesson that he gave to my sister and me was to emphasize the importance of education. Even though he could not finish his college studies because of economic reasons, he always insisted that we continue no matter what kind of hardships we encountered. When he died, I was in the last year of my bachelor’s degree program, and my daughter was two years old. It was wonderful to talk with him about interesting, important topics even though we sometimes disagreed. I would like to hear his advice, to tell him thanks, and to let him know that I love him just one more time.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
…design an inclusive social policy platform in Colombia where human rights would be a reality and not just rhetoric. I strongly believe this kind of platform is very important, and I also think it is possible.
After graduation, I plan to…
…continue my research to improve the plight of women in my country. I would like to design and develop grassroots adult education programs for people who cannot afford formal educational programs. I would also like to continue contributing academic scholarship to my field.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
…going to a UGA football game. It was quite a cultural experience for me and my daughter! Since we came to America, I have not seen her as excited and happy as I saw her that day.