Motivated by the collaborative work he experienced at a China leadership conference in high school, Oscar Escobar spent his four years at Emory University pursuing similar international interactions.
Many times, the Florida native and 2020 graduate in International Relations and East Asian Studies was the only domestic student in groups and at events. This experience will continue with the selection of Escobar as 2022 Rangel Graduate Scholar, the U.S. Department of State’s prestigious entry-level career program for aspiring diplomats.
“I’m very grateful to Emory for showing me how to take this path to public service by following what I love, people-to-people exchanges,” says Escobar, son of immigrants from Ecuador and Nicaragua. “I am honored to continue to work with diverse groups of people.”
He is Emory’s third recipient of the highly competitive Rangel Scholarship, which provides funding for two years of graduate study as well as mentorship, professional development and a home internship.
Escobar plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration or international affairs, with a focus on security policy. After his studies, he will begin a five-year commitment to the American foreign service. The mission could take him to almost any country for service — especially since he already speaks Japanese, Korean and Spanish — but he hopes to start in Asia.
An interest in Asia aroused at Emory
The area first caught his eye during a meeting with Frank Gaertner, associate director of academic advising in the Office of Undergraduate Education, during the fall semester of his freshman year.
Escobar was not assigned to work with Gaertner, an adviser for international students, but was looking for a staff member to help organize the Hult Prize, an annual college competition to tackle global social issues.
They met in Gaertner’s office, decorated with objects from his many trips to Asia and a poster of the Korean alphabet. Intrigued by the 24 curved letters, designed to mimic the shape of the mouth when speaking, Escobar decided to add Korean lessons to his study of Japanese language and culture.
Escobar then took several advanced courses on Korea, studied abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, and served as a leader of the International Student Leadership and Advocacy Council and the Student Government Association. of Emory.
Gaertner, who assisted Escobar in his role as campus director for the Hult Prize, worked with him for three years as an Academic Fellow, who provides incoming international students with student mentors. During this time, Escobar also founded Emory Global Ambassadors, which matches freshmen with international students with similar interests.
“Oscar is focused on a task and he’s very calm, but he’s tenacious to work on it,” says Gaertner. “It’s his trademark, always smiling and persevering to understand things.”
Active in Atlanta and beyond
Escobar’s interest in public service and global issues continued to Re’Generation Movement, an Atlanta-based organization founded by Emory graduate Jongdae “JD” Kim, who earned degrees from Oxford College in 2007, Emory College in 2011, and Goizueta Business School’s Evening MBA program in 2017. 2020 Emory College graduate Mary Bohn, who worked alongside Escobar and Kim, received a similar State Department scholarship last year.
As Director of Advocacy and Events for the nonprofit organization, Escobar divides his time between mentoring and tutoring programs for immigrant and refugee students and advocating for and promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“I’ve known Oscar since he was an undergraduate leader, and he always intrigued me with his passion for peace on the Korean Peninsula as a non-Korean,” Kim says. “Soon I could see how he reconciles and expands his own identity as a second-generation Latino immigrant by having a broader perspective to look at the world and a passion for world peace.”
Working at the grassroots level broadened Escobar’s interest in political work and additional volunteer efforts with organizations such as the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies and Aurora NK, a student-run international organization that helps North Korean refugee populations around the world.
“Oscar approaches diplomacy with deep thought and knowledge,” says Olivia Hendricks, a former scholarship adviser in the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships at Emory College, who is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Oxford College. . “He has formed relationships with a network of Emory alumni who share similar interests in thinking globally.”
The Rangel Fellowship will allow her to further expand her interest in diversity and public service, Escobar said.
“Emory has given me these opportunities that I cherish, bringing together my passions for international education and international business, but always with a focus on people. It is inspiring to think that I will be able to share these opportunities on behalf of the United States. I can not wait.