Alumni Spotlight

Loving inner city America: One alumnus’ journey to fight for civil rights

–By Gisela Valencia for FIU News

As a teenager raised in inner city neighborhoods—including Compton, California—Ronald Fox MA ’19 didn’t think he would find success. He dropped out of high school his senior year.

But he didn’t give up on education.

Inspired by the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Fox decided he could dream big – and achieve those dreams. Fox earned his GED and eventually set his sights on graduate school. With the goal of attending a graduate program that would provide a wide breadth and depth about global issues, he enrolled in FIU’s Master of Arts in Global Affairs, which has been ranked one of the top 40 programs of its kind in the country by Foreign Policy.

“The program taught me more about the world than what I had ever known,” Fox says, adding that the program helped him discover his deepest goals and allowed him the opportunity to focus on his area of interest: civil rights.

“FIU was a necessary bridge from where I started being this naïve kid to where I’m headed now,” says Fox, who will begin law school at the University of Southern California in the fall of 2019. “Because of my experience in the program and my time at FIU, I know the direction I want to take in my life, where I want to go.”

He says his favorite part of the program, which is housed under the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, was getting to meet people whose experiences and cultures were vastly different from his own.

“I’m from a rough inner-city area of America,” he says. “Some of my classmates were from other countries and had different backgrounds. I was able to truly be immersed in a diverse environment. These relationships allowed me to enhance my career opportunities and gain valuable friendships for a lifetime.”

Fox conducted research on how governments use finance as a weapon within their countries for his capstone project – a policy-specific research project in which students are assigned mentors who are current practitioners employed at various partner organizations ranging from governmental agencies to non-profits.

He presented his project, the hallmark for all students in the Global Affairs program, in front of a panel of real-world public and private sector stakeholders, which for Fox included members of the security community and staff from Raymond James Financial.

“I was fortunate to have had Ronald in my two courses and then to mentor him for his capstone,” said David Kramer, a faculty member in the program and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. “He and his capstone partner gave an amazing presentation and knocked the socks off of everyone in the room. Ronald’s story is inspiring, and I look forward to following his successful career in the years ahead.”

Fox says the program impacted his life.

“It was really amazing. From program administrators like Shlomi Dinar and Malena Torres to professors and mentors like David Kramer and Fernando Figueredo, it was just an amazing experience.”

During his time at FIU, Fox also worked several jobs, including as a clerk at the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami.

Right before starting the program, he also volunteered with the AmeriCorps VISTA – a national service program designed to alleviate poverty. He organized an after school program and worked with inner city youth at Booker T. Washington Senior High School and Overtown Youth Center and taught them how to build their resumes and other skills essential for college.

He says his biggest future goal is to have a prominent role in civil rights and social justice at a national level, as an attorney and perhaps even as a politician.

“[Civic duty] is the essence of who I am,” he says. “It defines my journey. Those trials and tribulations that I had to go through made me who I am. My civic duty is to give back in some form or fashion to the community from which I came.”

Being a role model for youth who face similar challenges to the ones he faced is, Fox says, “the utmost important factor to me in my immediate career path and personal life.”

“It’s a unique experience being black in inner city America, and I dare say there isn’t anything equivalent in our current society,” Fox says. “With the heightened political and social unrest in our country currently, its vital that those from these communities step in and offer a filling for the void that exists [between] where our communities are and what we want them to be. The American Dream is a mirage unless we seek to take up the challenge of offering valuable advice and a moral compass for those who walk the same path we have crossed.”

He adds, “I hope to one day be an alum that’s able to come back to FIU and share my story from getting a GED, bachelor’s, master’s and then turning it into a legal career and making a difference in the world.”

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