Alum wins prestigious scholarship to do research in Seattle and Hawaii

Elizabeth Oloidi

It’s a huge step in his academic career, but receiving a Fulbright Scholarship has the added benefit of giving U of T Scarborough alum Adrian De Leon a chance to learn how to better talk to his grandmother. 

De Leon (BA, 2014) is working towards a PhD in History at the St. George campus. He has balanced his research, TA work and various projects around both the Scarborough and St. George campuses, including being the Don of Hall at Massey College and working on the U of T Scarborough culinary research website, SALT through a partnership with The Hub and Culinaria, since getting his undergraduate degree. 

De Leon says the Fulbright Scholarship is an opportunity for scholars to study in the United States as visiting students and researchers. He chose the University of Washington, Seattle—a school he had originally planned to attend for his PhD—and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

“I keep my U of T affiliation, but I’ll be a visiting scholar,” he says.  De Leon is studying the working-class history of race in the Philippines. 

“I am interested in looking at how different aspects of global capitalism such as industrialization, land reforms, agriculture, photography and road building impacts how we understand race in the Philippines and in the Filipino North American diaspora,” he says. 

De Leon will spend five months in Hawaii with the American Studies department doing language training and archival research on the northern regions of the Philippines in relation to Hawaiian sugar plantations. 

In his language studies, he hopes to learn Ilocano, which is the mother tongue on his maternal side. 

“It’s cool to learn it again and get funding for it to do research and dedicate your professional life to learning how to talk to my grandmother, and I love my grandmother,” he said. 

In Seattle, he will work in the history department, taking classes and conducting archival research with the Filipino-American National Historical Society.

“I’ll be looking at Filipino migrants to Seattle from that region and working with the professors there.” 

His background might be in the Philippines, but he is deeply rooted in the U of T Scarborough community. 

“I grew up in Scarborough, I went to elementary school down the road, I went to high school literally on the other side of Military Trail,” De Leon says. “It’s home.” 

De Leon completed his undergraduate degree in English Literature at U of T Scarborough in 2014. However, he faced a lot of rejections for when applying for graduate school in in that discipline. 

He recalls a professor of his telling him he was not a literary scholar. “I took that as an insult at first,” De Leon says. “But she said, ‘you might be thinking and researching like a historian,’ and I haven’t looked back since,” De Leon said. 

Though he was accepted to several U.S. graduate schools, he decided to stay at U of T and move to St. George’s Massey College for his PhD. 

De Leon’s scholarly plans won’t end in Washington or Hawai‘i. He hopes to return home as a faculty member. 

“I would love to be a researcher, but also a teacher here,” he says. “In part, because there is no Philippine history program here. That’s the ultimate goal.”