Carnegie Mellon University
May 03, 2022

Guerrero Awarded Beinecke Scholarship

By Bill Brink

Abby Simmons
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The synapses firing inside Arianna Garcia Guerrero's prodigious mind allowed her to learn many languages over time. Her fluency in English, Spanish, Russian, Georgian, Italian, French, German and Portuguese (plus a little Turkish) gives her a large vocabulary.

Yet, along the way to earning a prestigious scholarship, the Carnegie Mellon University junior found she would have to learn a new type of language in order to achieve her dreams. 

Different languages and cultures surrounded Guerrero during her childhood in Washington Heights, a multicultural neighborhood near the northern tip of Manhattan, and influenced her educational path.

"Every time I go back, I think I fall in love with that neighborhood all over again," Guerrero said. "There's so many different cultures there ... I think that's what really influenced my love of languages and learning history."

She is majoring in international relations and politics with a minor in cybersecurity and international conflict, and she will continue studying history after she graduates in 2023. Guerrero, a first-generation college student and the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, is one of 16 students in the country to receive a 2022 Beinecke Scholarship, which provides $34,000 worth of funding for graduate education. Only one other Carnegie Mellon student has received a Beinecke Scholarship, in 1996.

"It's really a premier scholarship for outstanding undergraduates in the arts, humanities and social sciences," said Richelle Bernazzoli, CMU's director of Undergraduate Research and Scholar Development. "This is one of the few that really seeks out students who want to follow the path of having a scholarly career in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and they really invest in them. They don't just give them money for graduate school, they really take care of the students that they select."

Guerrero understood the need to leave her beloved neighborhood in search of the best education she could get. She attended middle school at De La Salle Academy, a Catholic school that started on 92nd Street before moving south to Midtown, and went to high school at The Nightingale-Bamford School, an all-girls institution on the Upper East Side. 

Guerrero's sister, Graciela Garcia, paved the way for Guerrero at Carnegie Mellon. Garcia graduated in 2019 and now works at Apple.

When Guerrero arrived at Carnegie Mellon, she was interested in foreign affairs. She wanted to be a diplomat. Her first international relations and politics course, Decision Processes of American Political Institutions, challenged her.

"It was almost as if I was learning a new language," she said. "I did not understand any of the material, any of the readings. I would hear my peers talk about the readings and be able to converse about all these topics, and I felt out of place. I had almost decided that this wasn't for me. I was like, I definitely don't fit in, I could never learn how to speak this way."

She visited the professor, Geoffrey McGovern.

"If you're not able to learn this material, but you're excelling in your other classes, then that means it's something that I have to change in terms of how I help you learn the material," McGovern told her.

"That, for me, was the first time that I had ever heard a professor take that approach to learning. That's a major reason why I'm still in this major today."

Read the full story