Marshall Scholar to focus on Latin America

Cadet 1st Class Austin McKinney is the Air Force Academy's 11th Marshall Scholarship recipient and one of 40 selected nationwide in 2009. He will attend the University of London in 2010 to pursue master's degrees in Latin American studies and in globalization and Latin American development. Cadet McKinney is a native of Detroit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Cadet 1st Class Austin McKinney is the Air Force Academy's 11th Marshall Scholarship recipient and one of 40 selected nationwide in 2009. He will attend the University of London in 2010 to pursue master's degrees in Latin American studies and in globalization and Latin American development. Cadet McKinney is a native of Detroit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Not only is Cadet 1st Class Austin McKinney at the top of his class academically, he is the Academy's newest Marshall Scholar.

The management major with a minor in Spanish will attend the University of London next year to begin pursuing two master's degrees, one in Latin American studies and another in globalization and Latin American development.

Cadet McKinney received word of the award from the British consulate via e-mail.

"When I opened it, I started yelling in excitement and actually woke up my roommate, who was taking a nap," he said.

Cadet McKinney will be the Academy's 11th Marshall Scholarship recipient and is one of 40 selected nationwide. The scholarships allow two-fully funded years of study, with a possible one-year extension, at any university in the United Kingdom and in any field of study.

"I feel ecstatic and proud to win the scholarship," Cadet McKinney said. "I am looking forward to the amazing opportunities and representing the Academy in the U.K."

The cadet took part in a language immersion program in Spain, spent a semester abroad in Mexico and, more recently, participated in a political science and economics study program through Georgetown University in the Czech Republic.

During his semester in Mexico, Cadet McKinney taught children mathematics and basic English. He also worked as a teacher in the local agriculture markets of Quito, Ecuador. While at the Academy, he has mentored a child through Big Brothers-Big Sisters.

The Latin American studies program at the University of London is interdisciplinary, but Cadet McKinney said he is particularly interested in studying the history and international politics of Latin America with an emphasis on Mexico.

He is also excited at the opportunity to study sustainable development and human rights and said he feels the most pressing aspect of Latin American development is the need for education.

"Throughout my experiences in Latin America, I have witnessed large disparities between urban and rural education as well as significant shortcomings in facilities and materials," he said. "I believe that improving education is the best way for successful long-term development."

Cadet McKinney said teaching in Mexico and Ecuador was "a real blast." He not only helped with their education but also enjoyed playing soccer and teaching students how to throw an American football.

He said he looks forward to living in London and absorbing its culture, from soccer matches to art exhibits.

One of three sons, Cadet McKinney credits his family for being extremely close and supportive of one another. His father is a retired Air Force officer, his mother a teacher. His brother, Connor McKinney, is a fourth-class cadet, which allows for occasional family visits.

In what little free time he has, Cadet McKinney enjoys working out, going out with friends and reading. After graduation, he looks forward to serving in the operational Air Force. After his Air Force career, he hopes to work in the State Department as a Latin American diplomat.

The Marshall Scholarships are a gift to the United States in recognition of the post-World War II European Recovery Plan, more widely known as the Marshall Plan. The Marshall plan was named for Army Gen. George Marshall, the plan's principal architect. The first class of Marshall Scholars began study in 1954. The logo of the Marshall Scholarship is a blended image of the U.S. and U.K. flags.