Andrea Morales Loucil, CLA '20, has been named a recipient of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She, and the rest of the 2022 U.S. Class of Gates Cambridge Scholars, will be awarded a full scholarship toward any postgraduate degree offered at the University of Cambridge.
Established in 2000, the Gates Cambridge program selects honorees according to four main criteria: intellectual ability, the reason for choosing their course, a commitment to improving the lives of others, and potential as a future leader.
Morales Loucil joins a prestigious and exclusive group — only about 25 American applicants are chosen annually. She is the first Temple alumni to accept a Gates Cambridge scholarship and will pursue a PhD in Latin American Studies. A history major at Temple, she credits the University for supporting her on her path.
"I really loved the Temple history department. It has been one of my most formative experiences both personally and academically," she says. "The faculty there really do want the best for their students, and they really did shape and impact the path that I have pursued as a scholar."
One member of that department, Professor Katya Motyl, is not surprised by the news. The two first met in Motyl's course, Glitter and Doom: Europe 1885-1914, and struck up a relationship that would provide mentorship and valuable outside perspective to Morales Loucil's work.
"An active and engaging class participant, Andrea immediately stood out from the rest of the class. Her intellectual curiosity was palpable, and she soon started coming to my office hours regularly," says Motyl via e-mail. "During this time, we would engage in thrilling conversations about history, her native Puerto Rico, the German-speaking world (as a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship recipient, Andrea lived in Munich for a year and become fluent in German), and US politics."
Morales Loucil grew up in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and has always been passionate about Puerto Rican literature and history. She began studying History at the University of Puerto Rico: Mayagüez before transferring to Temple.
While at Temple, she was able to secure a Creative Arts, Research and Scholarship (CARAS) grant. The university awards CARAS grants to undergraduate students engaged in projects that tackle significant concerns within their field of study. Morales Loucil's project tapped into subject matter close to her heart.
"My focus was not only on how cultural narratives changed when the US invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 but how people of African descent led independence movements and liberation movements in Puerto Rico throughout the 19th century. My CARAS grant was super helpful because I was able to go home and conduct actual research both at the journal archive in Puerto Rico and the University of Puerto Rico: Rio Piedras."
She cites her faculty mentor, Professor Harvey Neptune, for helping shape her CARAS research. The two first met in a class he taught on decolonization in the Americas — a course Morales Loucil credits with shifting her perspectives on Caribbean politics.
"Apart from being analytically sharp and an original thinker, Andrea is perhaps the most dedicated, independent student I have had at Temple," says Neptune of his former student. "From day one, I was convinced that she could be very successful in the academic world if she wanted to."
After graduating from Temple in May of 2020, Morales Loucil began a master's degree at Miami University in Ohio. There, she made the jump from History to English, earning her MA in literature. She recognizes how the two fields augment one another.
"I have backgrounds both in history and English, and a lot of the work that I do in history is contextualizing how literature enacted these sociopolitical changes," says Morales Loucil. "I am a staunch supporter of interdisciplinary studies, specifically because I have this mix of two fields. While they may seem similar, they are very different in the ways that they're redacted and composed. I think that makes for stronger scholarship in the end."
That disciplinary breadth will come in handy in her PhD program at Cambridge.
Her research will highlight how Cubans and Puerto Ricans mobilized together toward independence in the late 1800s, honing in on how revolutionaries of African descent navigated through fluid racial politics. Of course, the literature of the time will play a crucial role in her approach.
"I am focusing on a poet called Francisco Gonzalo Marín or Pachín Marín. What is significant about him is that, at a time when identifying with your Blackness limited your socioeconomic mobility or precluded you from engaging in some things, he actually embraced it. He used that identity to forge bonds with other people of African descent as they moved towards independence."
Morales Loucil hopes to follow her Doctorate program with a career in academia but also acknowledges the value her Latin American Studies experience could lend to a government institution or NGO in Puerto Rico. She hasn't ruled out writing, either.
CLA congratulates Andrea Morales Loucil on her Gates Cambridge Scholarship and wishes her luck in completing her PhD!