From Colombia to Columbia

Meet doctoral candidate Jhon Bueno Vesga — a Fulbright Scholar who spent 10 years teaching at universities in Asia before trading in his lecture cap to pursue a PhD at Mizzou.

  • jhon bueno vesga portrait

May 9, 2022
Contact: Deidra Ashley,

Jhon Bueno Vesga has a passion for learning. After earning bachelor and master of science degrees, the first-generation college graduate worked for 10 years in information technology positions. To help others succeed in the field, he headed to Thailand, where he spent another 10 years teaching information science at Asia-Pacific International University.

“As I taught others, my desire grew to continue my own education journey,” Bueno Vesga said. “I wanted to become a professor, so I applied to the Fulbright Program to get my PhD.”

His advisor recommended Mizzou, a place Bueno Vesga had never heard of.

“Mizzou wasn’t a place I had even considered, but after I did some research, I decided to apply he said. “Looking back, I think my advisor’s advice is some of the greatest I’ve ever received.”

Becoming a Tiger

In August 2018, Bueno Vesga and his wife made the 24-hour trip from Bucaramanga, Colombia, to Columbia, Missouri, for Bueno Vesga to pursue a PhD in information science and learning technologies. It wasn’t the couple’s first time visiting the United States, but it was Bueno Vesga’s first experience with the U.S. education system.

Despite language and cultural barriers, Bueno Vesga’s commitment to learning stayed strong. “It was definitely an adjustment, but I quickly grew to love Mizzou,” he said. “Everyone was so kind and professional, and I found ways to get involved on campus.”

In addition to connecting with other Fulbright Scholars, Bueno Vesga grew his network as he sharpened his research skills in the Technology to Enhance Learning Lab and the Adroit Studios Gaming Lab. He also reprised his role as lecturer by becoming a graduate teaching assistant.

“It was great to get back to teaching, help students reach their learning goals and encourage them when they were having problems,” Bueno Vegsa said. “Students in the U.S. don’t expect you to answer an email on the weekend, but I felt their pain and helped them when I could. They were very surprised and thankful about it.”

Whether behind the podium or in the students’ seat, Bueno Vesga said the greatest lesson he’s learned at Mizzou is humility. “There are amazing, remarkable researchers in this place — all who have great humility,” he said. “I’m going to take that with me: No matter how far you go, or how much you achieve, keep humble and teachable.”

The third C

As he rounds out his PhD studies, Bueno Vesga has his eye on another C for his next stop: California. That’s where he’ll start a job as an assistant professor at California Polytechnic State University after he graduates this summer.

“I ask myself: ‘How can a Latino person from an underdeveloped country — who never had formal training in English — be the first in their family to graduate college, get a Fulbright scholarship, come to this great nation, finish a PhD in four years and have three job offers from some of the biggest universities in the United States?’” he said. “I believe that the only answer is God’s grace. He opened the doors. He gave me the skills, the strength, and the encouragement. And he gave me the best wife and the best advisor to make it happen.”

Meet more spring 2022 graduates

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