Alejandro Ruizesparza

Stanford senior Alejandro Ruizesparza will further his education in cultural psychology next year as a Marshall Scholar at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Stanford senior Alejandro Ruizesparza, who grew up in a tough neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, followed the advice of his immigrant parents when they said “aguántate!” – an exhortation encouraging their first-born child to “hold on!” in the face of challenges.

“I didn’t know it then, but the word gave me the ambition to get where I am, and continues to push me,” Ruizesparza said. “Growing up, the spirit of aguántate was always tested.”

Ruizesparza, who was recently named a 2016 Marshall Scholar, said the exhortation would continue to guide him as he pursues his goal of becoming a professor of psychology.

At Stanford, Ruizesparza, 22, is majoring in psychology with honors, with a minor in Japanese. His undergraduate research focused on cross-cultural differences. The title of his honors thesis is “Influence of Partner Selfishness on Ideal Affect.” He worked as a research assistant in the Culture and Emotion Lab at Stanford.

He is the founder of the Stanford Undergraduate Psychology Association, and co-chair of the Japanese Student Union.

Ruizesparza is one of 40 young Americans awarded 2016 Marshall Scholarships, which pay for graduate-level study in the United Kingdom in any field of study.

The scholarships were established to strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions, and to enhance the intellectual and personal growth of scholars. The scholarship are named for former U.S. Secretary of State and Army Gen. George Marshall, who formulated the Marshall Plan to aid economic development in Western Europe after World War II.

As a Marshall Scholar, Ruizesparza plans to pursue two one-year graduate programs – in social statistics and in sociology – at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

“I need a greater global perspective,” he wrote in his Marshall Scholarship application. “As a budding cultural psychologist, it’s foolish to assume social structures hold outside the United States. Cross-cultural interaction is constantly on the rise. Miscommunication will be more common globally. What do cross-cultural misunderstandings in the United Kingdom look like? I’m drawn to investigating a cultural context historically close to, yet different from, my own.”

In an interview, Ruizesparza said he hopes to “broaden my perspective on the human psyche” as a Marshall Scholar.

“I’ve told close friends, both new and old, that I want to be held accountable for my behavior after the program and always be conscious of where I’ve come from,” he said.

“I don’t want to be known as some kid who ‘made it out’ in a trite and offensive way. I’d prefer to think of myself as someone who’s in the process of ‘coming back,’ with more to offer than was ever bargained for. Sandra Cisneros, another Chicagoan and author I look up to, ended her novel The House on Mango Street with the lines, ‘They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot [get] out.’ I’ll be back in good time and make sure I do my part in the best way I know how, and I’ll make sure to aguántate.”

Future Marshall Scholars

If Stanford students are interested in overseas scholarships or if Stanford faculty are interested in nominating students for such awards, they may contact Diane Murk, manager of the Overseas Resource Center, at, or John Pearson, director of the Bechtel International Center, at