STARKVILLE, Miss.--For more than 50 years, Mississippi State University's international appeal has stretched from the U.S. to a family in the South American Republic of Ecuador.
That 2,500-mile reach impacts three generations of the Baquero family.
Biological sciences major Margarita Baquero left her native land in 2012 to pursue a doctoral degree at MSU. Her father, Jaime Baquero, completed his master's degree at MSU almost 40 years earlier, and his father, Jose A. Baquero, taught at the university about six years prior to that.
Fulbright Scholar Jose Baquero came to MSU in 1958. He spoke English quite well, thanks in part, to his prior service as Ecuadoran ambassador to the United Nations in New York City and as the Ecuador consul in Los Angeles.
Jaime Baquero was a seventh-grader when his family first moved to Starkville, but he quickly came to love both the university and Starkville community, he said. After graduating from Starkville High School, he began pursuing a bachelor's degree at MSU in 1964.
Though he transferred and subsequently completed his undergraduate degree in Ecuador, Jamie Baquero returned to MSU in 1970 to finish a master's industrial engineering degree in 1973. He, his wife Jeannette and their first child returned to Ecuador following his graduation.
Margarita Baquero was born in South America, but she grew up hearing about her parents' first years of marriage in Starkville.
"My parents were always talking about Mississippi State, and they would say, 'Starkville is almost like heaven,'" she said. "When we found out MSU was accepting Ph.D. students, they said to me, 'Apply, and see what happens.'"
After she Skyped with Brian Counterman, assistant professor of biological sciences, she decided MSU would be a good fit for her.
Margarita Baquero, like her father and her grandfather, was on her way to MSU to join the approximately 800-strong international students already enrolled at the institution and supported by MSU's International Institute.
"We are a research university, and our reach is global," said Karin Lee, manager of the institute's International Students and Scholars division. "By bringing diverse people here with native students, everybody is working with people from different backgrounds as part of their education."
While upper-level coursework is challenging in Ecuador, Margarita Baquero said the biological sciences program at MSU is even more demanding.
In addition to taking doctoral classes, she is a teaching assistant in the biological sciences department. She said she appreciates how respectful native U.S. students have been to her, both as a classroom peer and in her TA role.
"Coming to Mississippi State is a family thing," she said. "I've always known about Starkville and Mississippi State, and it's been like a dream to get to come here."
Margarita Banquero's parents recently came for a visit, an added bonus, she said.
"It's been really nice -- my parents being able to come be with me here and stay for a week or two," she said.
Seeing his daughter studying at MSU and being part of the Starkville community was quite enjoyable, her father said. While campus and city have both grown considerably over the years, Jaime Baquero was able to connect with friends he had in high school, as well as former MSU colleagues.
"We came back after 40 years," he said. "I never dreamed we would come back, but I always wanted to."
Jaime Baquero said that some local things remain the same for them, including lunch in the former Perry Cafeteria, known to current students as Marketplace at Perry, and the appearance of their first apartment house near campus.
Margarita and Jaime Baquero agreed they appreciate the many opportunities and advantages made possible through their affiliation with MSU.
For more about the International Institute, visit www.international.msstate.edu/about.
Complete information about MSU is available at www.msstate.edu.