‘Georgetown actually helped me grow more confident in my Filipino-American identity’

Georgetown graduate Celine Calpo (C’19), was recently named a 2024 recipient of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans—a merit-based program for immigrants and children of immigrants. Reflecting on the Georgetown faculty, programs, and peers who shaped her academic journey, Calpo recalled the supportive community she found in the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), which paired her with a mentor and provided resources throughout her time on the Hilltop. 

As a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, Calpo will receive up to $90,000 for one to two years of graduate school in any field or advanced degree program in the United States. This year, 30 fellows were selected from over 2,300 applicants based on their potential to make significant contributions. Calpo, who currently works as a program specialist at The Federal Judicial Center—the research and education agency of the judicial branch of the federal government—says she’ll use the award to pursue a law degree and plans to explore judicial policy and education.

Related: ‘It felt like Georgetown was built for us’: First-gen student reflects on his GSP experience >

Thriving on the Hilltop and beyond

Calpo says her interest in law began her first year at Georgetown. “During move-in week, I took a private tour of the Supreme Court and immediately fell in love with the library. I enrolled in classes on constitutional law, because I thought I might become a law librarian.”

During her undergraduate years, Calpo worked at Lauinger Library, interned at the Library of Congress and The San Diego Museum of Art, and worked in the Brookings Institution archives. In her senior year as an American Studies major, Calpo wrote a thesis on the appearance and articulation of ethics on the Supreme Court. 

“Finding the American Studies community was an incredibly important part of my Georgetown experience,” says Calpo. “If it weren’t for the interdisciplinary aspects of the American Studies program, I would have never been able to take Constitutional Law with Joseph Hartman, study judiciaries around the world with Diana Kapiszewski, and learn about technologies of power with Erika Seamon. All these classes led me to the field I am working in right now, and have prepared me to succeed in law school.”

Related: ‘I just felt like Georgetown was going to be home’ >

Building confidence

Calpo was able to take advantage of Georgetown’s academic and professional opportunities with the support of the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), which provides programming and resources for first-generation and low-income students, connecting them to peers, mentors, and an active alumni network to ensure students have what they need to thrive. The program’s Necessity and Professional Development Funds also offer financial support in the form of microgrants for unexpected out-of-pocket expenses and career development needs, such as professional attire or grad school application fees. 

Related: Georgetown Scholars Program nears $20M goal to permanently fund emergency aid for first-gen and low-income students >

GSP connected Calpo to her mentor, Angelica Garcia (C’21), and offered ongoing support throughout her four years at Georgetown. With GSP and Georgetown’s financial aid package, Calpo was able to focus on curating classes that fulfilled her academic and personal interests. 

One of those classes, a Georgetown American literature course taught by Brian Hochman, the Hubert J. Cloke director of American Studies, helped Calpo develop a sense of belonging on the Hilltop. That class, Calpo recalls, “was my first exposure to a Filipino-American work being part of the American canon.” The course’s inclusion of Filipino American novelist and poet Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, made her feel that her experiences and culture were valued.  

“That experience helped me begin to get over things like imposter syndrome, which I experienced as a first-generation, low-income student,” says Calpo. “Georgetown actually helped me grow more confident in my Filipino-American identity.” 

Read more about Celine Calpo (C’19), a 2024 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow.

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