UConn Senior Margo Bailey Awarded Fulbright

Margo Bailey, a senior honors student majoring in marketing, is the sole recipient of the competitive Fulbright Scholarship to earn a master's degree in management at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. (Nathan Oldham/UConn School of Business)
Margo Bailey, a senior honors student majoring in marketing, is the sole recipient of the competitive Fulbright Scholarship to earn a master’s degree in management at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. (Nathan Oldham/UConn School of Business)

Bailey Plans Career Helping Kids Appreciate Foreign Languages, Cultures, People

How do you top a college career that includes two study-abroad trips, internships at international companies, and a three-part honors thesis exploring bilingual advertising and the toy industry?

Margo Bailey, a senior honors student majoring in marketing, did it by earning a Fulbright Scholarship. 

Bailey is the sole recipient of the competitive Fulbright Scholarship to earn a master’s degree in management at IE Business School. Located in Madrid, Spain, IE Business School is a business powerhouse that draws 65 percent of its students from other countries.

Her career goal is to work for a company, possibly the LEGO Foundation, that is committed to fostering a love of languages and different cultures among children. Not only is this something she enjoys, Bailey said, but also something she believes can change the world.

“Understanding another’s story makes you more empathetic. Since studying abroad and hosting students in my home, I’ve come to believe that every person has a backstory that explains his or her flaws, virtues, beliefs, problems, successes and passions. All of those stories deserve to be understood, and if they are, that reduces tensions between cultures,” she said.

“Aside from that, I understand how privileged I am, and I feel a need to do something more for the world,” she added.

As a Child, New, Foreign Neighbors Intrigued Her

Bailey’s interest in foreign cultures began at age 11, when a new, Spanish-speaking family moved into her neighborhood. Because the neighbors couldn’t communicate with the newcomers, some were wary of them. But Bailey was intrigued.

She opted to study Spanish, beginning in middle school, but found the conjugation lessons repetitive, and memorizing vocabulary to be dull.

“What was missing was the human connection to language,” she wrote in one of her Fulbright essays. “For me, that connection developed in college when I began to appreciate languages as doorways connecting my world with those of others.”

She decided to challenge herself by traveling alone to Costa Rica for a six-week Spanish immersion program in 2014.

“I thrived during that experience because I let language carry me toward others, instead of away from them. Every day came with new words, every meal brought new flavors and faces, and every conversation with my host mom made me feel more at home,” she wrote. “I stepped out of my comfort zone to learn a new language and I found a community that was ready to share their experiences with me.”

Her trip was so rewarding that as a junior, Bailey spent a full semester living and studying in Granada, Spain.

“I came back with near fluency thanks to the patience of my host family, the persistence of my teachers and the laughs shared with my Spanish friends after failed translations,” said Bailey, of Ellington, Conn.

She would encourage others to travel as part of their education.

“If you can live with the locals you’ll gain a whole different perspective on life. I had such a feeling of gratitude. I stepped out of my own reality and learned a lot about myself. I used to be terrified to fly and I’m pretty much a pro now,” she said.

“I know some people get worried about being homesick when they travel abroad, but if you keep busy it’s not that bad. If you stay in your room and watch Netflix and Skype people from home, you will be homesick. You need to make some local friends.”

Bailey Completed Three-Part Thesis, Explored Advertising and Toys

Professor Robin Coulter, the head of the Marketing Department and Bailey’s thesis adviser, said she is thrilled that Bailey, an exceptional student, was selected to participate in the Fulbright program.

“Margo’s honors thesis and UConn IDEA Grant Project was very ambitious,” Coulter said. “She conducted three studies to learn more about how languages are used in advertisements to target monolingual and bilingual consumers within a country, and how consumers respond to monolingual and bilinguals advertisements.”

“She interviewed senior executives in the toy industry, conducted in-depth interviews with parents in the United States and Spain, and then, using an online survey in those countries, conducted an experiment contrasting English, Spanish, and bilingual-speaking individuals’ reactions to advertisements with content in English, Spanish, and both languages,” Coulter continued.

As an honor student majoring in marketing, with minors in Spanish and international studies, her work combines her interest in global citizenship, language and corporate social responsibility, Coulter said.

“Margo will be an excellent cultural ambassador representing UConn and the U.S. in Spain,” Coulter said.

The Fulbright educational opportunity, Bailey said, will expand her business knowledge and international perspective and offer a network of thought leaders to support her goals. She will take classes in English and in Spanish. Having already explored many of the tourist spots in Spain, she hopes to learn the flamenco, deepen her knowledge of the culture, and make new friends.

Two Powerful Internships and a Teaching Assignment

Kelly Kennedy, associate director of student development and outreach at the School of Business, said Bailey has maximized her education. In addition to having two internships—at LEGO and Pratt & Whitney—she worked as a teaching assistant in a professional development course, helping others explore career options.

“Margo is a perfect example of how students should not postpone being brave. She has an incredible ability to seek out, find and courageously tackle unique campus experiences that will enhance her college career,” Kelly said.

“Tenacity, courage, and intelligence are all things I truly admire about Margo. They are the qualities that have made her successful to date and will continue to do so, going forward,” she said. “I am so proud of her and her ability to make every moment count.”

After completing an internship in the communications department at Pratt & Whitney, Bailey is now covering for a colleague on maternity leave in LEGO’s Latin American division. She is working full-time while taking a final course at UConn in preparation for her May graduation.

Bailey can’t contain her fondness for LEGO, adding that her dream job would be to work for the LEGO Foundation, a non-profit that supports diverse initiatives around the world.

At UConn, Bailey participated in several business fraternities and was a committee member and dancer for HuskyTHON.

When she leaves the University in May, Bailey said she will be grateful for the academic support she received from Coulter and the life-advice offered by Kennedy, as well as the joy of finding her niche.

“What I most appreciate about UConn was that it allowed me to enjoy a variety of experiences and to specialize my education to my interests,” she said.