Magdalena Fitipaldi

Ask Magdalena Fitipaldi ’15 what she has done since the 2013 fall semester, and the honors political science and international studies double major will tell you she worked on an ambitious research project focused on the participation of women in politics.

That diligent work took her from her native country of Uruguay to a study abroad trip to Spain and Europe then back to South America in July 2014 when she completed her fieldwork. The highlight came in anuary of 2014 when she finished interviewing 15 members of parliament including Senator Lucia Topolansky, the outspoken First Lady of Uruguay and wife of President Jose “Pepe” Mujica.

 “I could do a whole project just on Topolansky,” Magda says. “It was very interesting to hear her perspective and opinion on female leadership. She explained her controversial life and her decisions in a way that made sense of her past.  She was very forthcoming, which is something that other individuals at her level may not do.”

Magda’s interview with the First Lady is indicative of the grand scale of her project that she is co-authoring with international relations professor Dr. Gigi Gokcek, international business professor Dr. Rajeev Sooreea, and Dominican alum Daniel Tapia-Jimenez ’11, now a Ph.D. candidate at University of California, Davis.

The research, which Magda plans to present with her senior thesis this spring, is centered on women’s roles in politics in an emerging market that ranks high among the world’s least gender-biased country. Magda’s interest stems from a curiosity for her homeland. She asks, “Why is there low participation and representation of women in politics in Uruguay?”

Prior to returning to Uruguay to distribute surveys, Magda had another remarkable adventure in Santiago de Compostela in Spain as part of Dominican’s Study Abroad Program.

“Not to sound cliché, but it has been a life-changing experience,” Magda says. “Living alone and being independent for the first time in Spain was awesome. I learned a lot academically and I grew so much personally and spiritually that I am a different person now than when I left. The way they taught things really opened up my mind because they came from a different perspective.”

Through discussions with other teachers and students, Magda learned opposing political views than those presented in America and even in Uruguay.

“In Spain, as in all of the European Union, you are in the middle of it all,” Magda says. “Everything seems more real and relevant to our everyday lives when overseas, while in the U.S., international conflicts sometimes feel very distant and disconnected from us.”

Magda is still collecting data from her research project and is also beginning the process of applying to grad schools. Dominican has provided her with the education and experiences that have prepared her for that in a unique way. In her first three years at the University, she joined the Siena Leadership team, Rotary Club, and Alpha Lambda Delta, Alpha Chi, and Pi Sigma Alpha honor societies. Not only has she interned at 10,000 Degrees and the Marin Chapter of the World Affairs Council, but also participated in the Public Leadership Education Network Conference, a platform that prepares women to lead.

In addition, while Magda was in an immersion trip to Uganda, she took a snapshot – which she labeled “Pray” – and that photograph was accepted in October 2013 for the World Affairs Council’s juried “Global Visions 2013” exhibition in San Francisco.

“If there is one thing that I have learned from everything that I’ve done at Dominican, it is to pursue opportunities,” Magda asserts. “Just do it and see what happens!”

Photo in A Coruna, Spain courtesy  of Magdalena Fitipaldi