BVU Senior of the Year Shares Award with His Mom

Alan Maldonado's work in the classroom and across campus led to being recognized as BVU’s Senior of the Year. Next year, he will go to graduate school at Purdue, where he has earned a doctoral fellowship with four years of tuition-free enrollment.

Alan Maldonado didn’t participate in student government or take a Spanish class in high school.

Ironic then, as the Buena Vista University Student Senate president prepares to graduate, he’s heading to graduate school, intent on earning his doctorate in Spanish literature.

Maldonado earned the Purdue Doctoral Fellowship, which provides four years of tuition-free post-graduate work, in addition to a two-year cost-of-living stipend and a two-year teaching assistanceship. He hopes to one day teach Spanish literature while working to open doors to people across cultures, a mission he accomplished last summer during a two-month internship in Seville, Spain, serving Asociacion Mujeres Entre Mundos. In English, that’s the Association of Women Between Worlds.

“She’s a single mother who raised me, her only child, and she worked 60 hours per week to help put me through college. She cried when I won the award.”

Alan Maldonado, about his mom, Laura Maldonado

“Our work involved helping individuals in need of assistance and immigrants, primarily immigrant women, coming into Spain,” says Maldonado, a native of Lenexa, Kan. “The organization helped women learn about Spain, build resumes, find jobs, and get settled. It was a great experience.”

The BVU Spanish and business double-major spent the summer translating marketing campaigns from Spanish to English.

Maldonado says an introductory essay in a Spanish class jettisoned him to this career path. “I tested into Spanish 302, which covers advanced grammar and composition,” he says of a class taught by Dr. Steven Mills, associate professor of Spanish. “My first essay was about bullfighting. I’d never had a paper get so marked-up. It was bleeding red.”

The metaphor about a paper on bullfighting bleeding red causes Maldonado to smile on the eve of his commencement exercises. It remains a seminal moment in his undergraduate experience.

“There was something about reading all I could on a topic, writing about it, and being able to defend my view,” he says. “I felt I could be free when I could explore others’ opinions and write about it.”

Mills, he says, pushed him and made him earn every good grade, ultimately teaching him more about essay writing than he knew was possible. He lauds all of his BVU professors and staff members, people who opened doors for a pair of internship experiences (his first involved development work at the National World War I Museum & Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.) and other opportunities on campus.

Maldonado, who played soccer for three years, grew more serious about academics and the world around him. He earned a 3.6 GPA, ran for Student Senate president, and won. He served as community coordinator for Pierce and White halls. He joined Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish honor society. His work in the classroom and across campus led to him being named BVU’s Senior of the Year, an award announced at a dinner culminating the popular Scholars Day festivities.

In addition to Maldonado, these finalists were nominated and voted by their peers for consideration as Senior of the Year: Andrew Bandstra, of Des Moines; Brandon Glienke, of Aurelia; Emily Kim, of Fairmont, Minn.; and Jenny Schildroth, of Reinbeck.

Alan Maldonado and Laura Maldonado
Laura Maldonado and her son, Alan

“I was happy for all the finalists for the award, because they are friends of mine,” Maldonado says. “But I was happiest for my mom, Laura Maldonado. She’s a single mother who raised me, her only child, and she worked 60 hours per week to help put me through college. She cried when I won the award.”

Maldonado pauses, thinking of the women he assisted all summer in Spain, workers, survivors who do all they can to better their lives and the lives of those they love. They are women who share a bond with his mother.

“The award I received is a testimony,” he says, “a testimony to the work my mom and I did together.”