By Michael Vazquez, graduate assistant in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
The Graduate School has created a Diversity Fellowship that allows for qualified graduate students to attend Marquette University. These merit-based fellowships have supported students who are looking to pursue their graduate studies and make an impact at Marquette.
Erick Padilla-Rosas, a doctoral student studying educational policy and leadership, was awarded the fellowship during the 2022-2023 academic school year. This fellowship will be renewable for four years.
Padilla-Rosas, native to Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, obtained his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez Campus.
Padilla-Rosas mentions, “After not knowing what I was going to study, I fell in love with philosophy in college.” He then went on to do his master’s degree at Louisiana State University. There he was able to focus more on Latin American philosophy, specifically on the philosophy of liberation and issues related to social struggles in Latin America.
After earning his master’s degree, he and his wife, Iris Soto-Ruiz, moved to Portland, Oregon. There the two worked with College Possible, where they committed themselves to guiding and instructing students who were in their fourth year of high school. When he arrived in Portland, he had in mind to do a Ph.D. in philosophy, but that all changed with his experience with the students. Padilla-Rosas says, “When I was working with the students at College Possible, I realized that I liked the education aspect better. There I saw that philosophy and education communicated a lot.”
At that time, Padilla-Rosas saw that he wanted to do a doctorate in education with a focus on philosophy. His plan was to read more about philosophy and try to apply it in a more practical way. Padilla-Rosas wanted to “get to work.” When he did his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy, he focused a lot on the texts, which distanced him from the community. He yearned for connection with the community and his experience with College Possible made him realize that he had a great desire to work with youth.
Even though Padilla-Rosas had the doctorate in mind, he and his wife made the decision to apply for a master’s degree in education together at Marquette. Padilla-Rosas did not know what the doctorate was going to be like, yet the master’s degree was going to provide him with better guidance as he prepared for the doctorate.
Padilla-Rosas says, “My entire college career, going to LSU, and then being in Portland, took me more into the branch of how I can place praxis, which is practice, with theory, and that is where the intention of studying Educational Policy and Foundations came from.”
He has loved the educational policy and foundations program. He believes that his experience has been formative.
He mentions, “It has been a moment of finding myself because I did take the right step in selecting education.” His experience has led him to understand that he can focus on education and philosophy. Padilla-Rosas understood that he does not have to abandon the foundation that he has created with philosophy and that is why he decided to apply for the doctoral program after a year’s worth of credit from the Educational Policy and Foundations program.
After being accepted to the Educational Policy and Leadership Doctoral Program, Padilla-Rosas applied to the Diversity Fellowship. When he received the fellowship offer, he felt much excitement and relief. Padilla-Rosas stated, “Now I can focus on my research.”
Padilla-Rosas’ research interests focus on the philosophy of children. This interest began when his thesis director at LSU introduced him to Jean Luc Nancy’s philosophical work with children. Through Nancy’s work, Padilla-Rosas would see that children can partake in philosophical conversations. Work like Nancy’s has inspired Padilla-Rosas to create a center of philosophy for children.
He hopes to create a center of philosophy in Puerto Rico where children will form small circles of two or three people and dialogue over a stimulus that they are presented with. For instance, a video can serve as a stimulus. When the children are presented with the video, they can come up with two or three ethical and philosophical questions with their respective groups. Once each group has their questions, they will offer them to the other students within the class. The class will look over the questions and select one to speak together in a larger circle. Padilla-Rosas states, “This is a democratic and collaborative process.”
“I want to return to Puerto Rico with my wife and impact the education system, whether public or private,” Padilla-Rosas says.
Padilla-Rosas said the public education system in Puerto Rico was created with liberation in mind – so that children can think for themselves – and he wants to return to be part of that liberation. Padilla-Rosas is ready to move forward with his goals as the Diversity Fellowship will give him that opportunity.