Mercedes Varela ’21 Receives Stouffer Fellowship for Graduate Studies

May 25, 2021
Mercedes Varela
Mercedes Varela, class of 2021, is named the Elsie M. Stouffer ’24 Fellow.

Mercedes Varela ’21 has received the Elsie M. Stouffer ’24 Fellowship, which provides funding for graduate study leading to a career in public service for her own Latinx community.  

The $21,900 fellowship award is the result of a generous gift Stouffer made in 1982 – four years before she died in 1986. The fellowship is open to senior women who are fluent in French, Spanish, or Portuguese, and plan to pursue graduate studies and a career in public service in support of Latin America.  

Varela, a class of 2021 graduate from Las Vegas, Nevada, is a French major with education licensure. She has native proficiency in Spanish along with her academic study in both French and Spanish. She plans to study for a Master of Arts in bilingual-bicultural education. 

Her passion for teaching and leadership in education imagines a United States curriculum that incorporates Latinx narratives and implements bilingual models of education. 

“Thanks to the Stouffer ’24 Fellowship, I hope to fulfill my dream of making education for Latinx students more equitable, accessible, and equipped to enrich their linguistic diversity,” said Varela. 

Prior to her graduate school education, Varela will receive her Iowa teaching license in December of 2021 to teach secondary level French and Spanish. She wants to teach for three to four years prior to pursuing her master’s degree, hopefully in Mexico and then back home in the Clark County School District.  

While at Grinnell, Varela was an assistant teacher at the Grinnell College Preschool for three years and the event manager for the Class of 2021 Leadership Council. She taught English to middle and high school students in Nantes, France during off-campus study in spring 2020 and supervised math and literacy lessons for Latinx students in Jackson, Wyoming with the Teton Literacy Center in summer 2020. 

Her academic study offered Varela the opportunity to conduct research on the diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) with her adviser, Associate Professor Gwenola Caradec, to incorporate DELF style oral comprehension exercises into French assessments, and she has already completed 30 hours of clinical field experience in Spanish and English classrooms at the Grinnell Community High School. 

“Mercedes is prepared to make a prominent impact as a leader in public education,” said Ann Landstrom, assistant dean and director of global fellowships and awards. “She has a purposeful plan to listen and learn through her teaching experiences, advance her knowledge on bilingual education, and serve as a change agent within her home community and beyond.” 

More than 40 Grinnell College alumni have received funding for graduate studies through the Elsie M. Stouffer ’24 Fellowship. The award is advised and administered through Global Fellowships and Awards in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service. 

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