Wilfredo Tangui will graduate in May with his long-held dream of a career in medicine within reach and an impressive string of accomplishments to his credit—most recently, he was selected for a Fulbright award to Colombia. And when this Talent Development Scholar and Honors Program participant reflects on his college career, he speaks with gratitude for all the people who supported him and the opportunities that he found a URI.
“I’m not an extraordinary student,” he says. “I’m just trying my best and I’m grateful that I have been given this opportunity. As a first-generation college student of color, I’ve come a long way but there’s so much more to work on if I want to become the physician I strive to be.”
Wilfredo was 12 years old, recovering from open-heart surgery, when he decided he wanted to be a doctor. Today, as an accomplished biological sciences major with minors in Japanese and leadership studies, he’s on his way. He got an extra boost in the summer of 2014, when he participated in a special pre-med program at Yale School of Medicine, which he learned about from his URI honors program and pre-med advisors.
For now, the Fulbright opportunity will take him on a new journey. The broad range of his URI experiences—and his personal strengths—have prepared him well.
Wilfredo spent his junior year in Japan at Seinan Gakuin University with support from a US Department of State Gilman Scholarship. While there he also served as an English teaching assistant. Spending that year in Japan with a homestay family not only improved his fluency, he says it gave him a global perspective he feels will make him a better physician.
On campus, Wilfredo has served as a Japanese tutor, a biology lab teaching assistant, a peer ambassador to incoming exchange students at URI, and a Leadership Institute mentor. He started a coed club tennis team—played club tennis for four years, recently serving as club president—and managed the Ram’s Den eatery in the Memorial Union.
“These experiences and others make Wilfredo a perfect fit to serve as a university-level Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Colombia,” says Kathleen Maher, director of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities. “For his community engagement project, he plans to introduce disadvantaged youth to the sport of tennis.”
Wilfredo remains humble about the Fulbright opportunity, aware of the responsibilities associated with such an honor. “I hope to empower the people around me as a way to give back to the mentors, advisers, family, friends, and teachers who have helped me make it this far.
“Never forget the shoulders you stand on,” he adds.