Ohio State offers MSP grad a passport to the world

Aron Olegnowicz-Cruz stands in front of the US capitol

Ohio State offers MSP grad a passport to the world

By Paige Galperin

Global citizenship: It's a concept that continues to grow in importance as the world becomes increasingly interconnected—and few embody it better than Arón Olegnowicz-Cruz.

A high-achieving Mexico City native who grew up in suburban Cincinnati, Olegnowicz-Cruz knew from a young age that he wanted to improve educational equity, especially for folks from diverse backgrounds.

“My parents pushed for educational excellence all throughout my life. That led me to embark on academic challenges from as early as I could imagine, including AP and Honors classes. But in those classes, I was usually the only Latino student,” Olegnowicz-Cruz said. “I saw most ethnicities represented, except for mine, so when I got to Ohio State, I wanted to change that.”

Thanks to support from the Morrill Scholars Program (MSP), Olegnowicz-Cruz entered Ohio State in Autumn 2020 with plans to major in political science and minor in education.

“I came into college thinking I wanted to go into social studies education for the long run,” Olegnowicz-Cruz explained. “Education is such a passion of mine, and I've seen the role that it plays in the lives of countless individuals, myself included. When we moved to the States, it was teachers in the education field who really took me under their wing and helped me transition into the culture.”

Experiences and mentors at the university exposed Olegnowicz-Cruz to new fields, however, and he will graduate this May with a dual degree in political science and psychology, as well as minors in education, geography, history, and Portuguese.

Portuguese was just one element of Olegnowicz-Cruz's language learning journey, though: He also speaks English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese, and he earned a pair of federal fellowships for the study of high-priority languages.

“In Summer 2023, I invested those funds into a study abroad in Taipei, Taiwan. I lived there for two months, refining my Chinese and being immersed in East Asian culture. That was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” Olegnowicz-Cruz commented. “Language learning has been truly transformational, and I would encourage anybody, regardless of their profession or career trajectory, to open their minds up to picking up new languages.”

Studying abroad was also an extension of Olegnowicz-Cruz's passion for exploring global cultures.

“It's been really neat to immerse myself in different parts of the world right here on campus. I've attended student organization meetings of African students, East Asian students, South Asian students, Middle Eastern students, and of course, Latino students,” Olegnowicz-Cruz noted. “The possibilities are limitless. Even for folks who haven't had the privilege of traveling outside the country, you get a taste of different parts of the world right here at Ohio State.”

Olegnowicz-Cruz even founded his own cultural organization, the Mexican Student Association, which hosted 20 events and provided Spanish language mentoring for over two dozen students this academic year. Additionally, he is Co-President of the Association of Latino Professionals for America and the first non-Black contributor for Black X Bold Magazine.

After graduation, Olegnowicz-Cruz will attend Harvard Business School's Summer Venture in Management Program. He then plans to spend two years teaching special education in Columbus with Teach for America before pivoting to consulting to focus on educational equity—a career path he chose after experiences teaching Chinese at Gahanna Jefferson Schools and interning with Nationwide and the Department of Defense.

While excited for the path ahead, Olegnowicz-Cruz says he will miss the community he found through MSP, where he served as a resident advisor for the learning community.

“Something special about the program is that when you're in a non-MSP space and smaller groups break out, so much of the time, those groups that you find yourself in have so many other Morrill Scholars. I guess it's the values each of us hold, the experiences we bring to the table, our priorities, our aspirations,” Olegnowicz-Cruz said. “MSP is just a phenomenal program for high achievers who value diversity in the classroom and well beyond it. It's a really robust community of people who want to learn more, and that just makes for an incredible experience.”