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Yazmin Guzman named 2019 Gates Cambridge Scholar

DUSP student will pursue an advanced degree in educational policy at Cambridge University.
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Yazmin Guzman
Yazmin Guzman
Photo: Jake Belcher

Yazmin Guzman, a master's student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, has won the prestigious Gates Cambridge scholarship, which offers students an opportunity to pursue graduate study in the field of their choice at Cambridge University. 

Guzman, from Wichita, Kansas, recently completed her bachelor's in DUSP with a minor in economics, and this spring will complete a Master in City Planning. At Cambridge University she plans on reading for a degree in educational policy. Guzman aims for a career in educational reform with a focus on increasing educational opportunities for low-income students and improving policies related to community colleges and vocational training. 

The daughter of immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, Guzman is the first person in her family to pursue a college degree. At MIT, she has researched deindustrialization, immigration law, and residential mobility, and conducted interviews with Latino residents in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Justin Steil, the Charles H. and Ann E. Spaulding Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, has advised and mentored Guzman throughout her time at MIT.

“Yazmin is a problem solver at heart and is constantly inspiring and building bridges with others," Steil says. "A first-generation college student, Yazmin is passionate about improving access to high-quality education for all. Over her years at MIT, Yazmin discovered a love of statistical analysis and enthusiasm for applying those skills to meaningful public problems, such as educational access and quality. It has been an honor to have Yazmin as a student and an advisee and to work with her on research.”

Guzman has made strategic use of MIT’s many resources for community engagement and experiential learning to prepare herself for a career addressing inequalities. With support from the PKG Center, she spent an Independent Activities Period working with the KIPP school in Washington Heights, New York, where she developed community-building resources and supported classroom teachers, while seeking to understand how education policy affects the classroom experience of teachers and pupils. The following summer, she investigated how education equality initiatives use their data to improve services, as a research initiative intern at Questbridge, an organization that helps students from low-income backgrounds access leading institutions of higher education. Back at MIT, Guzman volunteered as a tutor and mentor for Amphibious Achievement, a dual athletic-academic program for underprivileged students in the Boston area, and directed the organization’s academic programming. She also tutored in mathematics through MIT SHINE for Girls, a mentorship program for middle school girls that combines dance and mathematics.

Alison Hynd, assistant dean at the PKG Center says, “Yazmin brings to her work a drive to make real change in the world, combined with a focus on deeply understanding the problems she wants to address. She’s an extraordinary woman and a future leader in education equity!"

Guzman has been president of La Union Chicana Por Aztlan (LUChA) and is the co-founder of Hermanas Unidas, an initiative that seeks to empower Latinas across MIT’s campus. She has held leadership positions with MIT organizations that mentor local high school and middle school students, including Amphibious Achievement and SHINE. She has been a student representative for the Committee on Academic Performance, vice president of educational outreach for Latinos in Engineering and Science, and a tutor at correctional facilities through the Petey Greene program. She is also a member of the Sakata Afrique dance team. 

Guzman was advised in her application by Kim Benard in the Office of Distinguished Fellowships. Established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides full funding for talented students from outside the United Kingdom to pursue postgraduate study in any subject at Cambridge University. The 2019 awards process was extremely competitive, with 34 ultimately chosen. Since the program’s inception in 2001, there have been 28 Gates Cambridge Scholars from MIT.

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