SIA student honored with Spirit of Internationalization Award

Daniela Robledo Vallejos
Daniela Robledo Vallejos Credit: Mary Szmolko

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Daniela Robledo Vallejos, second-year student at the Penn State School of International Affairs has been awarded the Penn State student Spirit of Internationalization Award. This award, presented by Global Connections, honors individual women and community organizations that have a commitment to empowering and uniting the international community of women and girls. Robledo Vallejos was presented with the award during the Global Connections International Women’s Day celebration on March 15. Global Connections is a community-based, nonprofit organization affiliated with Penn State and the United Way of Centre County.

Robledo Vallejos, who is pursuing her SIA concentration in Gender and Human Rights, was recognized for her commitment to improving the welfare of minorities, girls, and women of Latin American-descent. She is the third SIA student to receive this award.

“Daniela has demonstrated her ongoing commitment to working for the welfare of minorities, girls and women of Latin American-descent through her academic studies, internship opportunities, and volunteering experiences,” said SIA academic adviser Claudia Prieto, who nominated Robledo Vallejos for the event. “A native of Chile, Daniela understands first hand that developing regions such as Latin American and the Caribbean have many obstacles to overcome in terms of discrimination, racism, violence and gender inequality. In the short time that Daniela has been in the Penn State graduate program, she has made it her mission to be part of this transnational dialogue and movement for gender and human rights.”

During her internship last summer with the Department of International Affairs – Civil Society Section in the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C., Robledo Vallejos assisted members of Civil Society Organizations in addressing issues of gender and human rights during their annual meeting. Additionally, she had the opportunity to be part of the 23 Model-OAS “Racism and Intolerance” exercise, in which she worked with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights about new approaches to address intolerance and discrimination of LGBTI persons in the Americas.

“I wasn’t expecting this award, and I was very surprised,” Robledo Vallejos said. “At the awards ceremony, I heard women of all ages speak and tell their inspiring stories of how they overcame adversity.”

She graduates in May and hopes to find a position either in the United States or Chile where she can combine her academic background and career aspirations to foster empowerment and respect for women and girls, break down obstacles of gender and racial discrimination, and address basic human rights in policymaking practices.

Growing up in Santiago, Chile, Robledo Vallejos said her parents supported her education as a female, but she was still surrounded by a patriarchal culture. Coming to SIA has not only primed her academic, research, and writing skills, but has helped her grow personally and professionally.

“My experience here has helped me become more independent, by pushing me outside of my comfort zone, and boosting my confidence, for example, when I speak in public,” she said. “SIA has given me the professional and practical skills I need to be able to try to make a difference in gender issues in Chile.”