Rising University of Notre Dame sophomore Connor Kaufmann has won a Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute award to attend a three-week academic and cultural program this month at the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.
The history major, member of the Glynn Family Honors Program and Latino Studies Scholar in the Institute for Latino Studies is one of just 39 college students from the United States to be selected for one of six summer institutes across the United Kingdom.
He learned via email that he’d won the award to attend the U.K. Summer Institute on the same day that he interviewed.
“I opened it expecting the worst and saw that I had been accepted,” he said. “I put my computer aside, jumped out of my chair and screamed, ‘Oh my gosh!’ before calling my dad to tell him the amazing news.”
At the Summer Institute on Technology, Innovation and Creativity, he’ll learn about Scotland’s development and the cultural roles of its institutions and museums, and he’ll get to explore the country known for its castles and dramatic landscapes.
Kaufmann, whose first name was inspired by a Scottish character in the movie “Highlander,” anticipates the experience will provide him with a fresh perspective about how he can better use his talents to help the world.
“I strongly felt that it would give me the opportunity to foster my creativity in a unique, robust and international way,” he said. “This would, in turn, give me the opportunity to best help my community’s immigration issues in creative and innovative ways.”
The resident of El Paso, Texas, has been a longtime advocate for immigrant rights.
Growing up, some of his friends who lived in Mexico were applying for U.S. citizenship and crossing the border to attend school in Texas. And while working at a migrant shelter during his senior year of high school, Kaufmann taught himself basic Portuguese so he could help Brazilian migrants arriving in El Paso.
“I remember trying to guide a few families to their sleeping quarters using my limited knowledge of Portuguese,” he said, “and their gratitude for my help has stuck with me forever.”
Kaufmann and the other selected undergraduates hail from 22 states and 33 universities; 27 have not previously traveled outside of North America, and 15 are the first in their family to attend college. The US-UK Fulbright Commission seeks to invest in people’s potential and seeks to remove obstacles to learning, understanding and collaboration.
Kaufmann’s selection was based on several factors, including academic excellence (3.7 minimum GPA), a focused application, extracurricular and community activities, ambassadorial skills and a plan to give back to his home country.
He credits his mother, now deceased, with encouraging him to dream big and to pursue those dreams.
“The lessons she taught me, and her belief in me, has and will continue to stay with me forever,” he said. “She inspired me to put myself out there.”
He set his sights on attending Notre Dame as a youth after learning his maternal grandfather had wanted to attend Notre Dame, but was drafted to serve in the Korean War.
Kaufmann is grateful for the myriad experiences he’s already had at Notre Dame; he said the Institute for Latino Studies’ wilderness backpacking trip to Wyoming before his first semester got underway was a wonderful way to make friends who have become like family.
“When times were difficult during the school year, I relied on my peers in the Latino Studies Scholars Program and the Institute for Latino Studies to keep on pushing through,” he said. “My peers could and did rely on me, too, which created a beautiful support system between us all.”
Aside from his family and peers in the Latino Studies Scholars Program, Kaufmann credits many first-year professors and the ILS administration including Luis Fraga, director; Paloma Garcia-Lopez, associate director; Karen Richman, director of undergraduate studies; and Maribel Rodriguez, administrative coordinator, for helping to make his transition to Notre Dame a smooth and enjoyable process.
Kaufmann plans to eventually attend law school and become an immigration attorney.
“History is an enormous passion and interest of mine,” he said, “and is perfect to begin forming the mindset I will need to utilize in law school, which is my dream.”
Originally published by al.nd.edu on July 25.at