Inaugural Jepson Scholar

July 15, 2019
Inaugural Jepson Scholar Sabrina Escobar Miranda, '19, will pursue a master's degree at the University of Oxford

Sabrina Escobar Miranda, ’19, used her majors in leadership studies and journalism to explore Latin American culture and identity, and by extension, her personal identity. Now, thanks to the Jepson Scholars Program, the El Salvadoran native has received a full scholarship to study the culture and society of her country in a master’s program at the University of Oxford. 

“I have always been fascinated by the differences between El Salvador and the United States,” Escobar Miranda said.

Because she lived in Boston for six years as a child and attended a bilingual British school when she returned to El Salvador, she said she missed the opportunity to learn about much of El Salvador’s history. However, after spending four years in the United States as a college student, she has become keenly aware of the difference in living standards in El Salvador and the United States.

“The United States has a lot of problems, but not on the same scale as El Salvador,” Escobar Miranda said. “Most El Salvadorans live in dangerous, impoverished conditions.

“How do I use my education to make things better in my country?” she asked. She hopes to find some answers to this question through her graduate studies.

As an undergraduate, Escobar Miranda researched and wrote several articles about the Latino experience in the United States.

She wrote a feature story for the University of Richmond student-run Forum Magazine about the Richmond branch of the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), a college-access program run by leadership studies professor Peter Kaufman. The story relates Hispanic high school students’ narratives about fleeing Latin America and the financial, language, and legal challenges they have faced since arriving in the United States.

Last summer, Escobar Miranda completed her Jepson internship as a reporter at Newsday, a daily newspaper located on Long Island, home to one of the largest El Salvadoran populations in the United States. Some of her stories were about Latino street festivals and New York City’s Families Belong Together rally, held to protest the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

During her senior year, Escobar Miranda undertook an independent study on the colonization of El Salvador and Guatemala. With the guidance of leadership studies associate professor Chris von Rueden, she explored how colonization created and affected mestizo and other indigenous identities. She presented her research at the Jepson Student Research Symposium in April.

“Joining the Jepson School of Leadership Studies was the best thing I could have done as an undergraduate,” she said. “The Jepson School burst my bubble. It challenged me to think about my pre-conceived notions and my biases. I benefitted from the in-depth discussions I had with classmates and professors.”

This fall, she will benefit from her Jepson School education yet again when she becomes the inaugural Jepson Scholar in a master’s program at the University of Oxford. She is considering focusing her research specifically on nonprofits or gender violence in El Salvador.  

Jepson School benefactors Robert S. Jepson Jr., B'64, GB'75, H'87, and Alice Andrews Jepson generously donated the funds needed to support up to three graduating Jepson seniors in a one-year master’s program at the University of Oxford each year. The Jepson School awards scholarships based on academic achievement and acceptance into an Oxford graduate program. Scholarships cover tuition, room, board, and fees.

“The purpose of the scholarship is to enable future leaders to gain firsthand experience at global institutions and with people who live and work in an international environment,” Robert Jepson said.

“With the benefit of a world-class undergraduate and graduate education,” Jepson School Dean Sandra Peart added, “Jepson Scholars will be exceptionally well prepared to lead at home and abroad.”

Indeed, for Escobar Miranda, the Jepson Scholars Program offers a unique opportunity to understand more about her native country and her personal identity as an El Salvadoran, while simultaneously increasing her exposure to international people and ideas.