Growing up in Venezuela, Joze Moreno Pelayo always wanted to study abroad, and as his country slid into political turmoil and economic disarray in 2011, he knew that it was time to leave.
Corruption and massive economic inflation had made it difficult for everyday citizens to make ends meet, and Pelayo had big dreams.
âWhen I realized that even if I finished college it would be impossible to afford a car, I knew something was wrong,â he says. âThings were getting so expensive; I knew I was not going to accomplish my goals there. I didnât see any future, so I just left.â
Pelayo applied and was accepted to Southern Arkansas University as a political science major, and with some help from his family and some scholarships, he made his way through his undergraduate studies. Toward the end of his senior year, however, the political situation back home grew worse.
âI remember during my last term the Venezuelan government began to tighten their grip on citizens who were studying abroad,â Pelayo recalls.
The government blocked his bank accounts from receiving money from his parents back home. Pelayo wanted to continue to study abroad, and knew he needed to make his next move quickly and get into graduate school, so he began applying for masterâs degree programs in international studies.
He poured all his effort into his applications, knowing that he would not be able to achieve his goals if he was forced to return to Venezuela. Pelayo says UO caught his attention because the International Studies Department had a focus in Middle Eastern Studies, which he was particularly interested in studying. He was accepted and was even offered a GE position that covered his tuition.
âIt was such a big relief when I got the email,â he says, recalling the day he was accepted.
Upon starting at the UO, Pelayo was keenly interested in traveling to Lebanon to study its politics and to work to help disadvantaged people in the country. He planned a thesis project that would take him to Lebanon to work directly with the people there.
âI wanted to provide a way for disadvantaged people to voice their concerns,â Pelayo says.
While he was determined to travel to Lebanon, the trip would be costly. Pelayo applied for the Sandra Morgen Public Impact Graduate Fellowship to help fund his proposed research, and was granted a stipend of $6,000 to carry out his research.
The prestigious award is given each year to recognize and support the work of up to two University of Oregon graduate students whose research has the potential to have a significant impact on society. Pelayo says winning the Sandra Morgen Public Impact Graduate Fellowship was vital to making the most of his trip to Lebanon.
âThe award made it more viable and allowed me to stay longer,â he says. âIf I had gone to…