August 11, 2016
LIVONIA, Mich. – Alejandra “Lexii” Carrillo recalled sitting in her first class at Madonna University “with my eyes sparkling, I was so excited.”
While thrilled to be a student at Madonna, she never let on that she was only 15 and still attending Divine Child High School, in Dearborn. Since she already had a full load of high school classes, including a zero hour of Greek before most of her fellow students even arrived on campus, it was easier on her schedule to take economics as a college class over the summer.
Two college degrees, a handful of internships and many, many classes later, Lexii learned she had been selected for a Fulbright award to study and work in Mexico for the coming academic year. “It still doesn’t feel real,” she said.
According to Fulbright, Carrillo, now 22, is one of 13 students chosen to participate in the Mexico Binational Business Internship, designed to enhance knowledge, expertise, and understanding of post-NAFTA Mexico. The program is for students interested in combining coursework in international business or law with an internship at a Mexico-based company conducting international or legal business. Carrillo will attend graduate school in Mexico City and work an internship at a business there.
Carrillo took a roundabout path to studying sociology, law and business. While registering for her economics class at Madonna, she noticed criminal justice class offerings, which she took in the evenings and over summer break – driven to and from campus by her parents until she could drive herself. By the end of her senior year in high school, she realized she was only a few classes away from an associate degree.
The Dearborn resident graduated from Divine Child in 2011, and shortly thereafter completed her associate degree in criminal justice, with a certificate in homeland security. She then headed to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., where many of her credits transferred. Carrillo stayed for four years and double majored in sociology and classics (the study of Latin, Greek and Arabic), minored in philosophy, and had a concentration in legal studies. She graduated last May and currently teaches English as a second language and citizenship classes.
During her upcoming Fulbright year and afterward – she hopes to apply to Columbia Law School and conduct research at Columbia’s Center on Global Legal Transformation – Carrilloi wants to study the sociological foundation for the criminal justice system. “I’m so excited to be given the opportunity; not just to be a Fulbright scholar, but to understand the international community and to live in it,” she said. “To understand the international community, you need to understand how the country functions.”
In the research proposal she submitted for Fulbright consideration, she noted that poor communication hinders a corporation’s transparency and accountability, which can lead to fines and a marred reputation. “As a Binational Business Scholar, I want to play a key role in Mexico’s path toward leadership in clean business practices that espouse transparency, accountability, and compromise,” she wrote. “Accessible and effective grievance mechanisms for all employees can be the first step toward transparency.”
She points to transparency, trust and communication as the keys to streamlining bureaucratic procedures and saving time and money. “I want to live a life promoting a monumental shift across institutions toward transparency, and, ultimately, human rights,” she wrote.
Carrillo credits at least part of her interest in sociology to those first few classes she took in criminal justice. “This was the foundation of my education,” she says of her time at Madonna. “I remember being so fueled, so passionate. The professors here want to see you succeed.”
Stephen Boak, adjunct professor at Madonna University, said he didn’t realize Carrillo was still in high school when she started taking his criminal justice classes. “There was nothing extraordinary about Lexii that would indicate what an amazing young woman she was,” he said. “Her demeanor, maturity, and her obvious intelligence allowed her to fit right into a class of college juniors and seniors. It didn't take long for me to realize what a gifted person and student she is.”
He remembered that Carrillo excelled in all his classes, including Constitutional Law. “It’s no surprise to me that she has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship,” he said. “We are very proud of her accomplishments. She is an example of what can be done, when one has the benefit of a Madonna education.”
The Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, aims to increase mutual understanding and strong ties between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students. It is named after Senator J. William Fulbright, who in 1945 introduced a bill in the United States Congress that called for the use of surplus war property to fund the “promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science.”