When did you graduate from UPS?
What have you been doing since graduation?
1998-1999: Paralegal and Advocate for Clinica Legal Latina at Ayuda, Inc. in Washington DC. Worked on behalf of battered immigrant women in the DC-metropolitan area, mostly the Salvadoran community. (This position was through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps)
1999-2000: Central America Program Associate with the Center for Global Education study abroad program. Worked with U.S. undergraduate students on a study abroad program in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua focusing on "Sustainable Development and Social Change in Central America."
2000-2003: Educator and Policy Analyst with Witness for Peace International Team in Nicaragua. Based in Managua, I worked with grassroots and civil society groups throughout the country to analyze U.S. economic and military policies in Nicaragua and educate/mobilize U.S. citizens to transform U.S. policy in Latin America.
2003-2004: Completed my coursework at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont towards a M.A. degree in "Social Justice in Intercultural Relations" with an emphasis on Community Action Training.
2004-2005: Case Manager and Trainer for the Project to Stop Human Trafficking at Ayuda, Inc. in Washington, DC.
2005-present: Associate Director of Amazon Watch in San Francisco, CA. Amazon Watch works to support Amazonian indigenous peoples in defending their rights, cultures and rainforest homelands from industrial activity, such as oil and gas mega-projects.
Why and how did you decide to take the career path you did?
I was a freshman at UPS the year that NAFTA was signed into being -- the same year of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. It was the dawning of a new globalization age. Although other corporation-friendly agreements such as GATT and IMF/World Bank neoliberal economic prescriptions preceded NAFTA, I believe NAFTA coupled with the indigenous uprising in Southern Mexico marked a turning point for my generation -- those of us who came of age during the Reagan/Bush Sr. years. NAFTA was the dawn of "Corporate-Led Globalization" as we know it. It was the tipping point where corporations began having more power than national governments (though they have always been a major influence in national governments; the revolving door between business and politics is nothing new). NAFTA and the Zapatista uprising also marked the dawning of a new generation of grassroots social justice activists -- the spark that ignited protests from Seattle to Argentina and became known as the Global Justice Movement. This movement, comprised of a broad scope of social and economic justice activists, has materialized in a new debate about whom globalization benefits and at whose expense. The World Social Forum was organized as one of the many responses by the Global Justice Movement to the closed-door meetings where corporate-led globalization was being designed and implemented.
So my "career path" after UPS was largely guided by my desire to be part of the solution in our current global context, to use the intersection of politics, economics and religion in the Americas as a lens through which to understand and critique corporate-led globalization and support organized resistance movements.
Are there any aspects of the Politics and Government major or your UPS education in general that have served you particularly well?
While at UPS I majored in Politics and Government and minored in Religion and Spanish, focusing in all three departments mostly on Latin America (this was before the Latin American Studies program was offered). The intersection of these academic areas has served me extremely well in my life and work since graduating 8 years ago. The quality of my academic education while at UPS was exceptional; my professors pushed me to make the connections and links between my different areas of interest. I often chose to write papers that combined material I was learning from the classes I was taking in the three different departments. Ultimately, both the liberal arts approach (the "process") and the content of information (the "material") has made me a better thinker, educator, analyst and activist.
Do you have any advice about what our students should make certain they do (or don't do!) while still in school?
Study abroad! Do it more than one semester if you can afford to. Learn a language, or more than one language. I regret only having spent one semester abroad (in Mexico in 1996). I highly recommend studying abroad with the Center for Global Education or with the School for International Training, particularly if you wish to study abroad in Latin America. Also, be sure that you're allowing yourself to use sources and material from one class for a project or paper in another class. Make the connections for yourself, see what intersections and overlap you can find in the material you're learning. It's important not to keep information from each course in its own silo; that's not how the information will serve you in the real world.
Do you have any advice about what our students should be thinking about as they consider their careers or further education?
What should you think about as you consider your careers or further education? What is your PURPOSE. Why are you here? What are you in a position to uniquely contribute to the earth, to the world, to other human beings? When in your life have you felt most fulfilled, most "in your element," most like you were contributing something of value? Take some time to discover your purpose.
Education in your head without lived experience to back it up won't make you useful; and it will potentially make you dangerous. Leave the country. Go to New Orleans and do something useful with your winter or spring break. Learn another language. Do a home stay with people who don't share your politics or your first language; and also with people who don't share your class background. Go to a meeting for a club or student organization on campus that seems to not affect you. Work with the homeless in Tacoma. Meet with farm workers. Get to know the people who wash your dishes, mow your lawns, trim your bushes, mop your floors, stock the produce in your grocery store. Listen to them, learn what their needs are and how you might be in a position to respond. Get outside of your head. Get your hands dirty. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and say the wrong thing. Other people don't care about that--they'd prefer you be real. Learn how to plant something and make it grow. Learn where your coffee comes from, and who got paid what from the money you spent to buy it. Get confused. Feel guilty. Feel angry. Feel overwhelmed. Feel humbled. Feel challenged. Feel motivated. These things will help you make the most of the material you're learning in the classroom. These things will serve you in whatever you choose to do in life. If you're living "on purpose" you'll be much more effective at whatever you're trying to accomplish.