How do you top a college career that includes two Education Abroad trips, internships at international companies, and a three-part honors thesis exploring bilingual advertising and the toy industry?
Margo Bailey, a senior honors student majoring in marketing, did it by earning a Fulbright Scholarship. She’s one of six UConn Fulbright winners this year.
Bailey was awarded a highly competitive Fulbright Scholarship to earn a master’s in management at the IE Business School, the only such scholarship to the school this year. Located in Madrid, Spain, the School is a business powerhouse that draws 65 percent of its students from other countries.
Her career goal is to work for a company, possibly the LEGO Foundation, that’s committed to fostering a love of languages and different cultures among children. Not only is this something she enjoys, it’s also something she believes can change the world.
“Understanding another person’s story makes you more empathetic,” Bailey says. “Since studying abroad and hosting [international] students in my home, I’ve come to believe that every person has a backstory that explains his or her flaws, virtues, beliefs, problems, successes, and passions. All of those stories deserve to be understood, and if they are, that reduces tensions between cultures.
“Aside from that, I understand how privileged I am, and I feel a need to do something more for the world,’’ she adds.
Her interest in foreign cultures began at age 11, when a new, Spanish-speaking family moved into her neighborhood. Because the neighbors couldn’t communicate with the newcomers, some were wary of them. But Bailey was intrigued.
She opted to study Spanish, beginning in middle school, but found the conjugation lessons repetitive, and memorizing vocabulary to be dull.
“What was missing was the human connection to language,’’ she wrote in one of her Fulbright essays. “For me, that connection developed in college when I began to appreciate languages as doorways connecting my world with those of others.’’
She decided to challenge herself by traveling alone to Costa Rica for a six-week Spanish immersion program in 2014.
“I thrived during that experience because I let language carry me toward others, instead of away from them. Every day came with new words, every meal brought new flavors and faces, and every conversation with my host mom made me feel more at home,’’ she wrote. “I stepped out of my comfort zone to learn a new language, and I found a community that was ready to share their experiences with me.’’
UConn … allowed me to enjoy a variety of experiences and to specialize my education to my interests. — Margo Bailey
Her trip was so rewarding that as a junior, she spent a full semester living and studying in Granada, Spain.
“I came back with near fluency thanks to the patience of my host family, the persistence of my teachers, and the laughs shared with my Spanish friends after failed translations,’’ says Bailey, of Ellington, Connecticut.
She would encourage others to travel as part of their education.
“If you can live with the locals, you’ll gain a whole different perspective on life. I had such a feeling of gratitude,” she says. “I stepped out of my own reality and learned a lot about myself. I used to be terrified to fly and I’m pretty much a pro now.”
She notes that some people worry about being homesick when they travel abroad. “If you keep busy, it’s not that bad. If you stay in your room and watch Netflix and Skype people from home, you will be homesick. You need to make some local friends.’’
Professor Robin Coulter, head of the marketing department and Bailey’s thesis adviser, describes Bailey as an exceptional student.
“Margo’s honors thesis and UConn IDEA Grant project were very ambitious,’’ Coulter says. “She conducted three studies to learn more about how languages are used in advertisements to target monolingual and bilingual consumers within a country, and how consumers respond to monolingual and bilinguals advertisements.’’
For her thesis, she interviewed senior executives in the toy industry, conducted in-depth interviews with parents in the United States and Spain, and then, using an online survey in those countries, conducted an experiment contrasting English, Spanish, and bilingual- speaking individuals’ reactions to advertisements with content in English, Spanish, and both languages.
As an honors student majoring in marketing, with minors in Spanish and international studies, her work combines her interest in global citizenship, language, and corporate social responsibility, Coulter says: “Margo will be an excellent cultural ambassador representing UConn and the U.S. in Spain.’’
The Fulbright educational opportunity, Bailey says, will expand her business knowledge and international perspective and offer a network of thought leaders to support her goals. She will take classes in English and in Spanish. Having already explored many of the tourist spots in Spain, she hopes to learn the flamenco, deepen her knowledge of the culture, and make new friends.
In addition to having two internships – at LEGO and Pratt & Whitney – she worked as a teaching assistant in a professional development course, helping others explore career options.
After completing an internship in the communications department at Pratt & Whitney, Bailey is now working as a maternity cover in LEGO’s Latin American division. She is working full-time, while taking a final course at UConn in preparation for her May graduation.
Bailey is enthusiastic about her experiences at LEGO, adding that her dream job would be to work for the LEGO Foundation, a non-profit that supports diverse initiatives around the world.
On campus, Bailey participated in several business fraternities and was a committee member and dancer for HuskyTHON.
“What I most appreciate about UConn,” she says, “was that it allowed me to enjoy a variety of experiences and to specialize my education to my interests.’’