Andres Machado already has been inducted into the FGCU Hall of Fame, so we may have to come up with a new way to salute Eagles whose achievements exceed the already lofty adjective “distinguished.”
After a year of intensive study, Machado has earned a master’s degree in global governance and diplomacy from the University of Oxford in England, earning a “strong pass” — the second-highest grade level – on a series of rigorous examinations. The highly selective program accepts only 30 students each year from around the world, and Machado was awarded the only fully funded scholarship for 2015-16.
“The last few weeks were hard,” he says. “I wasn’t sleeping more than four or five hours a day. You can’t realize it until it’s over, but all the sacrifice was worth it.”
What he learned in the hallowed halls of Oxford amounts to much more than just a deeper knowledge of governance and diplomacy. The 30 students in his program represented about 20 nations with diverse cultures, political systems and religions.
“Everyone has a different perspective, so you learn to look at things from a non-Western point of view,” he says. “My ability to understand issues from a global perspective is probably the most important thing I learned at Oxford.”
The oldest university in the English-speaking world — there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096 — Oxford is steeped in age-old traditions. Those three-hour examinations commanded formal academic attire — “sub fusc” in Latin — including a dark suit, school gown and mortar board. Students customarily sport carnations, too: white for their first test, red for the last and pink for exams in between.
“The red is meant to represent the blood of the scholar — pouring everything into the exam paper,” Machado says.
Now, he’s home in Naples enjoying a break from the academic grind after spending a few weeks traveling across Europe with his parents, who attended his graduation ceremony. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it was nice to have them there,” he says.
Machado, 26, is the first in his family to complete a bachelor’s degree let alone attend an elite graduate school. A native of Colombia, he was still struggling to learn English as a teenager attending Barron Collier High School. With the support of FGCU Foundation scholarships and the Honors Program, he made the most of his time at FGCU. He graduated summa cum laude in 2014 with a political science degree, a 3.9 GPA and a rich portfolio of achievements in scholarship, service and leadership.
He may have been the first FGCU alum to graduate from Oxford, but Machado doesn’t want to be the last. His success, and that of FGCU’s first student Fulbright Scholars, should inspire others to aspire to higher goals, he says.
“FGCU is proving it can produce high-level students, and this is just the beginning,” he says. “FGCU students learn the importance of research, leadership and service. Those are the most valuable skills to have when applying for higher-level programs.”
FGCU History Professor Dr. Nicola Foote, chair of the Department of Social Sciences, has served as a mentor to Machado and says she couldn’t be more proud of him.
“Oxford University is one of the top three universities in the world,” she says. “For Andres to not just complete such a rigorous and selective program but to excel — earning a prestigious and rare ‘strong pass’ — reflects so well on his outstanding capabilities, as well as the social science training he received here at FGCU.”
Machado has used his success story to inspire young people in Collier County facing obstacles to attending college. Some of the high school students he mentored at Grace Place of Naples are now Honors students at FGCU.
“That made me very proud,” says Machado, who is considering applying to law schools next. “I’d like to keep helping students. I want everyone to know they have an equal chance if they work hard. That’s what The FGCU Effect means to me. FGCU gave me the skills to become a leader in the community and do research and reach my potential.”