Ernesto Alvarado '12 prepares for career in improving Latin America

Ernesto Alvarado began his studies at the School of International Affairs dedicated to improving life in LatinErnesto Alvarado interned at LASPAU. America. He shares his perspective on his unique summer internship with LASPAU, a non-profit institute established in 1964 to address education disparities in Latin America.

What did you do over the summer?

I interned at the LASPAU, a non-profit institute affiliated with Harvard University. I worked on the Initiative for the Development of Academic Innovation (IDIA) team, which focuses on institutional capacity-building.

What kinds of projects did you work on?

My duties ranged from basic research to intensive translation of scholarly articles for not only LASPAU, but for government and private organizations. Three of the main projects I played an integral role in were for Peru, Chile, Mexico and the Dominican Republic that were comprised of revolutionary education reforms that would have profound effects on the respective countries. I worked with the Ministry of Education of various other Latin American countries, and as a translator and researcher for projects that included NGOs Fundacion Inicia and the Inter-American Development Bank. I worked with top universities from all over the Americas including MIT, UASD and ISFODOSU of the Dominican Republic, the University of Costa Rica, and The University of Texas at Austin.

Besides those principle initiatives that I was assigned to, I also did research on the logistics of the possible effort for LASPAU to have a president's Forum that would incorporate all the top institutions in Latin America in order to foster collaboration within the region. In the closing days of my internship, I did extensive research on the education systems of Japan, Singapore, China, and Finland as the Inter-American Development Bank and LASPAU are working towards creating a state-of-the-art university for teacher education. IDIA has also begun to work with the Ministry of Education in Brazil for future programs in order to assist them in achieving the current administration's goals in education.

How did your SIA studies help you in this role?

The completion of the first two semesters at Penn State University's School of International Affairs equipped me with the necessary academic framework to understand the role of non-government organizations within the international community.

How has the internship furthered your professional perspective?

I have gained a deeper understanding of the role education will play in the remodeling of Latin America as they strive to close the achievement gap that has plagued the region in recent times. LASPAU gave me the training needed to work in a corporate environment as a part of a team whose work will be represented and used internationally. My writing in both Spanish and English has improved significantly through my development of executive reports used by the organization.

I gained a deeper understanding on how to create, plan, and carry out logistically complex seminars of an international scale. Through these seminars, I successfully worked with scholars and presenters in assisting them in any way possible while ensuring their presentations went smoothly. Working with the IDIA team gave me the ability to brainstorm, discuss and give input on future initiatives as well as improvements for current programs in a professional and articulate manner. The main programs in which I worked gave me hands-on experience in planning programs of an international scale, research skills, data analysis and proposal as well as executive report writings, which will all be imperative for my success in any international affairs field.