Marist Senior Awarded Grant for “Heritage Journey” to the Dominican Republic
January 2, 2019—For Nicole Doyle ’19, winning a competitive Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad is not simply the culmination of an undergraduate career filled with accomplishments. For this senior from Jackson Heights, New York, it represents a chance to embark on a highly personal journey to the Dominican Republic.
Growing up in a single-parent family in Queens, Doyle is used to working hard, making the most of opportunities, and exceeding expectations. Looking beyond New York City for a good communication program, she found it at Marist, where financial aid has made her education possible. Doyle is a double major in Communication (with a public relations concentration) and Spanish, with minors in Political Science and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She notes, “Academically, Marist has been great. My two advisors, [Assistant Professor of Communication and Public Relations] Jennifer Robinette and [Professor of Spanish] Ivette Romero, have been incredibly supportive.” She also gives great credit to communication instructor Nicole Peluse, with whom she has taken classes almost every semester. “Nicole helped me write and practice a big speech I had to give in front of 200 people. I’m so grateful for her mentorship!”
If Doyle is skilled at making the most of the opportunities that cross her path, she has also learned to create her own along the way. She found a niche as a Resident Assistant (RA) at Marist, loving the work and bonding with her fellow RAs. That position led to her attendance at an annual conference for RAs, where she spoke with one of the guest speakers, a senior official for the Girl Scouts. That connection – and Doyle’s decision to take the initiative and reach out to her – led to a communication internship with the Girl Scouts that summer. Success built upon success, and the following summer, Doyle snagged an internship at Goldman Sachs, where she worked in their Operations Division onboarding new clients.
As an undergraduate, one of Doyle’s goals has been to step outside her comfort zone, so she spent a semester at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, improving her Spanish and whetting her appetite for foreign travel with a purpose. She soon set her sights on the Dominican Republic. According to Doyle, “My mom grew up in the Dominican Republic, but I have never had the chance to visit. I have lots of relatives there still, so I feel like I have a direct connection to the country’s history.” Eventually, her family would emigrate to New York. She cites as one of her favorite movies In the Time of the Butterflies, about the famous Mirabal sisters, who were assassinated by Dominican President Rafael Trujillo’s regime.
To fund her dream trip to the Dominican Republic, Doyle took advantage of the opportunity presented by the Gilman Scholarship. She learned about the Gilman through Graduate School and Fellowship Advisor Pat Taylor, who also reviewed Doyle’s application. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Gilman Program funds study abroad for undergraduates receiving Pell Grants. Since its inception in 2001, more than 89,000 applications have been received and more than 25,000 scholarships awarded, making the selection process highly competitive. Like Doyle, 47 percent of Gilman Scholars are first-generation college students.
After some research, Doyle identified an advanced liberal arts program in Santiago, Dominican Republic through the Council on International Education Exchange. The program runs from January 2 to April 14, 2019, giving her the chance to live with a host family while studying Spanish, Dominican culture, the cultures of the Hispanic Caribbean, and Dominican-Haitian relations. Explains Doyle, “This program really appealed to me because it goes beyond the classroom. Through excursions and volunteer work, I’ll be able to get immersed in Dominican culture.”
While it is unusual for a Marist student to spend their final semester abroad, Doyle will still be connected to Poughkeepsie, taking an upper-level communication class online and participating in Commencement in May. In addition, she will prepare a capping project on contemporary Dominican politics and socioeconomics while also pursuing a project on the Mirabal sisters, which Doyle will present to Marist’s Department of Modern Languages and Cultures upon her return to campus in April. After graduation, Doyle will head back to Goldman Sachs, where she has accepted a job offer in the Operations Division.
Doyle feels strongly about the value of study abroad, as well as the power of opportunity to change lives. “Money shouldn’t determine your life experience. I always tell people not to get discouraged. Look for opportunities like the Gilman, speak to the right people, and do what you have to do in order to go abroad.” Like all international study programs, Doyle’s semester in the Dominican Republic will be a learning experience, but her personal connection to the country is making it even more meaningful. Says Doyle, “Because I’ve never been to the Dominican Republic, I’ve always felt like there’s something missing in me. This trip will help me fill that gap. I’m calling it my heritage journey.”