Grad Student Named Diplomacy and Diversity Fellow

Robert Alvarez, a dual-degree student in public administration and Latin American studies, is one of two dozen fellows chosen by Humanity in Action, an international organization. He is the first UA student to be selected.

Robert Alvarez, a University of Arizona graduate student, is among two dozen American and European students to be named a 2015 Humanity in Action Diplomacy and Diversity Fellow. 

Recruited from a pool of 421 applicants representing more than 180 universities around the world, Alvarez and 23 other fellows will be supported through a program that helps develop collaborative leadership skills and knowledge in those who have an interest in pursuing professional careers in foreign policy.

"I wouldn't say I was in shock when I was chosen, but I did feel really privileged," said Alvarez, a dual-degree master's student studying public administration and Latin American studies in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He is the first UA student to receive the fellowship.

"They recognized my passion and research and thought I was one of the people that deserved this fellowship. It was humbling and it made me feel empowered," Alvarez said. "I'm in great company and surrounded by brilliant minds."

Humanity in Action, an international educational organization, aspires to educate, inspire and connect a global network of students, young professionals and established leaders committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship. This year's fellows represent institutions including Oxford University, Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley.

"The 2015 class brings great diversity to what is sure to be an innovative, fascinating and engaging program. Fellows are demonstrated leaders with a strong commitment to international concerns with a broad array of talents, experiences and interests," Judith Goldstein, Humanity in Action's executive director and founder, said in a statement.

In May, Alvarez and the other fellows will convene for a rigorous four-week program to be held in Washington, D.C., Paris and Berlin.

During the program, fellows will learn about and discuss issues related to national security conflict and reconciliation, the impact of technology in foreign policy, and immigrants and refugees.

"In each of the program cities, the fellows will participate in an extremely demanding series of discussions and site visits to explore the different diplomatic approaches of each country (in dealing with) issues of diversity, democracy and pluralism," Anthony Chase, Humanity in Action's director of programs, said in a statement.

From Football to Diplomacy 

Although Alvarez got his start in higher education as a student-athlete, his path would lead him toward international diplomacy.

In 2003, Alvarez, a native of Southern California, was recruited to play football for Northern Arizona University. He remained on the team for nearly two years before deciding to focus on academics and his work within a gang-diversion program at a detention center in Flagstaff.

After the center, he joined the Peace Corps.

"I was really drawn to it. It seemed like the logical next step for me, considering my growing interest in working with at-risk youth and doing community work," Alvarez said.

For three years, he served in El Salvador as a youth and community development specialist for the Peace Corps. He developed projects focused on disaster relief coordination, HIV/AIDS education, and leadership and recreation for vulnerable and exploited children.

"During that time I was able to do some great work and made a lot of friends in the federal government," he said. "It was the first time I truly realized that I had found my passion. I really enjoyed being in the diplomatic environment and I liked being able to talk about all of the social issues."   

Going Back to Brazil

After his service in Central America with the Peace Corps, Alvarez returned to the U.S. and spent three years in San Diego working to increase educational attainment among refugee families and low-income students at a mental health clinic.

In 2013, he moved to Tucson and enrolled at the UA, where his graduate work involves an economic and social analysis of the 2014 World Cup for the residents of Fortaleza, a city in northeastern Brazil.

Alvarez attended the World Cup in Brazil and will go back there this summer. He wants to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of state and federal economic investments in the city, along with the economic return and social costs.

"When you analyze the impact of mega-events like the World Cup or the Olympics, generally a country will ... look at the macroeconomic indicators of success," Alvarez explained. "For example, they could note that there was a jump in national GDP as a result of the mega-event and they'll deem it an economic success in that viewpoint."

However, Alvarez explained, governments often will overlook the long-term impact and dynamics of these events on a social and economic level. He noted that although a giant fiberoptic network was installed in Fortaleza for the World Cup, the network did not serve a purpose beyond the event.

"In addition, they built a brand-new highway that leads right to the stadium," he said. "Soccer in Fortaleza is fairly popular, but when you look at the amount of money that they put in to widen streets and put in bridges, these aren't necessarily benefiting the everyday individual that lives there.

"The goal of my research is to be more socially conscious and have a deeper understanding of the impact of these events."

By Evan Rosenfeld, UANews Student Associate , University Relations - Communications | March 17, 2015

Original story here.


Published Date: 

03/23/2015 - 2:34pm