History Making Awards for Two UCF Students

Briana-Assaf-Elias-Assaf-resizedFor the first time in UCF”s history, two graduate students, Briana Vargas-Gonzalez and Elias Assaf, have been selected as American Political Sciences Association (APSA) Minority Fellows with funding.  Both students are currently in the MA program in Political Science and are planning on continuing their graduate education in a PhD program beginning in the fall of 2014.

Vargas-Gonzalez applied for the fellowship in the beginning of the fall 2013 semester.  After gathering letters of recommendation, her GRE scores, and transcripts came the hard part–writing a personal statement. With sincerity, she discussed her family’s history and how she came to desire getting a PhD in political science.  She discussed the events that influence her academic decisions and dreams.  She sealed up the application and off it went.  A few months later, when she received notification that she was selected, she was thrilled and honored.

Vargas-Gonzalez says, “To receive such a prestigious award that acknowledges my academic achievements and hard work really made me feel great about what I do and what I study; all of the late nights, hours of studying, and writing research papers really paid off! The award encouraged me to continue to try my best and explore the field of political science and my research interests. The fellowship means to me both success and opportunity and endless possibilities for my future in academia.”

Elias Assaf’s research interests include topics in Political Psychology, mainly Foreign Policy Decision Making, leadership and personality traits, and the behaviors of political groups and institutions.  he has worked alongside UCF’s Psychology Department as a member of the Emotions and Moods in Organizations Lab, and is a member of both the Political Science Graduate Student Association and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Assaf says, “This honor is the product of my service and research efforts within my M.A. program, and  I now intend to continue this line of work as a doctoral student. As a Latino and Lebanese American, I would love to serve as a consultant or professor, and become an example to other minority students that seek to pursue their own passions within the discipline.  Additionally, it is my hope to inspire others that may not believe in their own ability to succeed within their desired careers due to a lack of experience or understanding of academia.”

apsa-logoThe American Political Science Minority Fellows Program

In 2009, APSA celebrated 40 years of the American Political Science Minority Fellows Program (MFP) success! The MFP was established in 1969 (originally as the Black Graduate Fellowship) in efforts to increase the number of minority scholars in the discipline.  To mark this occasion, MFP Alumni and former APSA Staff members who worked with the program gathered at the 2009 Annual Meeting for a Roundtable entitled: “The 40th Anniversary of the APSA Minority Fellowship Program: Promoting Scholarship and Diversity” and for a 40th Anniversary Reception.

Since 1969, the APSA Minority Fellowship has designated more than 500 Fellows, both funded and unfunded, and contributed to the completion of doctoral political science programs for over 100 individuals. The Association has refocused and increased efforts to assist minority students in completing their doctorates by concentrating not only on minority recruitment, but also assisting with the retention of these groups within the profession.

The APSA Minority Fellows Program designates up to twelve stipend minority fellows each year. Additional applicants who do not receive funds from the Association may also be recognized and recommended for admission and financial support to graduate political science programs. Fellows with stipends receive a $4,000 fellowship that is disbursed in two $2,000 payments–one at the end of their first graduate year and one at the end of their second–provided that they remain in good academic standing. APSA can disburse some of the funds at the start of the academic year by request of the student. Awards are based on students’ undergraduate or graduate course work, GPA, personal statement and resume, extracurricular activities, GRE scores, personal and recommendations from faculty.

The American Political Science Association, founded in 1903, is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 15,000 members in over 80 countries. With a range of programs and services for individuals, departments and institutions, APSA brings together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe in order to expand awareness and understanding of politics.


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