Angelo Rivero Santos, Ph.D.
Angelo Rivero-Santos, Ph.D. was born and primarily raised in Venezuela. He currently serves the Georgetown community as a Professor and Academic Advisor to the M.A. program in Latin American Studies. His work in academia intersects with various other factors of his values and prior work experiences as an educator and Venezuelan diplomat. Dr. Rivero-Santos went into detail on these intersections of his life in a recent interview with BSFS fellow, Rocío Mondragón Reyes (SFS'19, Culture and Politics Major, Portuguese Minor).
Is there a particular experience or person in your life that was crucial for the trajectory of your career?
“Nosotros somos todos productos de una construcción social.”
We are all the product of a social construction.
Dr. Rivero-Santos emphasized that we cannot exist, let alone succeed, on our own. His parents and grandparents shaped him during his early years, teaching him through their words and actions the importance of persevering. This lesson in perseverance he also learned outside his childhood home, in spaces he frequented on a daily basis: school and the baseball field. Dr. Rivero-Santos’s interactions with his peers and teammates challenged him to apply the perseverance that his family valued in different ways. Thus, the summation of his interactions with a variety of people and experiences is what engraved in him how to persevere, especially when faced with uncertainty and the unknown.
Which facet of your identity do you see as most definitive in your life, particularly in regards to its role and influence in shaping your career?
“Por primera vez entendí que era también latinoamericano.”
For the first time, I came to understand that I was also Latin American.
When Dr. Rivero-Santos was seventeen-years-old, he moved to the United States and began to navigate the world as an international student. For the first time, he began to understand that he did not only exist in the world as venezolano, but also as latinoamericano within the fabric of US society. This newfound perspective became his lodestone and helped him navigate his studies at The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. To this day this realization of his identity remains key to shaping his approach to scholarly and other professional endeavors.
Since moving to the United States, Dr. Rivero-Santos has observed the complex sociopolitical dynamics of the country, particularly in regards to its relationship with América Latina y el Caribe, the one “outside” the US borders and the one “inside” the US. With this lens he came to also see himself as a “ciudadano del mundo”—a citizen of the world. In his words, “mi perspectiva de mi, mi país y del mundo cambió” - his perspective of himself, his country, and the world changed. This change in perspective shaped his vision as a diplomat and his awareness with which he functions in relation to different communities.
What advice would you give to students? Specifically considering we are constantly encouraged to obtain a degree and then change the world, only to find that this journey is often harder than it may seem within the walls of a classroom.
“Entender que somos agentes de cambio, aun cuando sea en diferentes ámbitos.”
Understanding that we are agents of change, even in different environments.
Dr. Rivero-Santos emphasizes that we are all agents of change. He now applies this understanding of himself to his work as a professor, as a former diplomat, and as former member of CASA, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for Latino and immigrant communities in the DMV area. At CASA, he served as the founding Director of its Leadership Academy.
Dr. Rivero-Santos’s past work with immigrant youth through CASA and his experience of a decade of work with students at Georgetown both require the ability to ask and be asked hard questions. These experiences have shaped his belief that engaging in open and respectful dialogue allows us to tap into our individual potential as agents of change. To understand ourselves—to find ourselves—he reiterated the need to engage with others in ways that seek out the similarities among our differences. For him, this is a key attribute of diplomats and educators. He summed this up by stating, “el estudiante no se puede aislar.” Students cannot isolate themselves. The intersections in Dr. Rivero-Santos’s life remind us that we never stop being students and that in this role as students we must cultivate respect for diversity and dialogue. “No es fácil.” It is not easy. But this understanding of our selves is part of the foundation for our journey towards creating “un mundo mejor”—a better world.
Monica Arruda de almeida, Ph.D.
Monica Arruda de Almeida, Ph.D. arrived in the U.S. in 1994 in Brazil. Before pursuing her academic career, she was a journalist in Rio de Janeiro and then the United States. Dr. Arruda de Almeida was recently interviewed by BSFS fellow, Rocío Mondragón Reyes (SFS'19, Culture and Politics Major, Portuguese Minor).
What is your story?
Dr. Arruda de Almeida was raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Due to personal matters, she had to drop out of high school. The professor recalls the uncertainty of not knowing when she would be able to continue her studies. However, she eventually completed high school and went on to pass the Vestibular public university entrance examination. Dr. Arruda has been interested in the field of economics ever since high school. However, she chose to study journalism over economics because the communication studies program offered a schedule that would allow her to work during the day. Dr. Arruda then went to work full-time in order to cover her personal expenses while completing her degree. At age twenty-seven her life took a completely different turn when she came to the United States as a political reporter to cover the 1994 World Cup Games. After the World Cup concluded she was able to stay in the U.S. as a reporter for the entertainment industry.
What are some aspects of your experience participating in UCLA’s Masters and Ph.D. program that continue to impact your career the most?
After a year working in the U.S. as a reporter in the entertainment industry, Dr. Arruda decided to pursue a graduate degree. She applied to the Political Science program at the University of California, Los Angeles, but was denied acceptance. Realizing she did not understand the intricacies of the college acceptance process for U.S. colleges and universities, Dr. Arruda became well acquainted with the system and eventually reapplied. She was accepted to the Political Science program which allowed her to pursue both a masters and a Ph.D. in International Political Economy. Throughout her academic journey at UCLA she saw mentorship from professors as the key that kept her going, despite the long work days and rigorous academics. These mentors became parent figures and continue to support her to this day. Their support helped her succeed despite not coming from an academic background. Dr. Arruda shared that her mother only received elementary level schooling and her father was a high school graduate. However, her love of learning, instilled in her by her father, who was a proud seller of the Encyclopedia Britannica, blossomed under the mentorship of her UCLA professors.
How would you explain the connection between your background in International Political Economy degree and your current career as a professor, especially teaching courses like Latin American Economic Development?
Dr. Arruda’s career as a reporter during Brazil's financial economic crisis in the 90's was an experience that further prompted her to pursue a graduate degree in economics. She had seen how economic reforms at the time were grounded in ideology rather than facts. Her experience living through times of economic crisis and her keen interest in economic theory now propels her to teach economics. She began working at Georgetown in the fall of 2009 and previously taught at UCLA from 2005-2008. Dr. Arruda sees it as her purpose to bridge the gap between the complexity of economics and people who are not particularly engaged with the subject. Having lived through the consequences of living under leaders who don’t take the time to understand economic theory and who implement policies based on ideology, she considers her work preparing future policy-makers and academics to be an important mission. Dr. Arruda aims to develop individuals who can make informed decisions at both the individual level and at the national or international level when they eventually take on leadership roles.
As college students we are told this is a crucial time in our development—is there a particular experience or set of experiences from your college and graduate school years which helped determine your life’s trajectory?
The research and the hands-on experiences Dr. Arruda was exposed to throughout college, her graduate and Ph.D. studies allowed her to discover and further develop her love for learning new things. Within the world of academia, she experienced the freedom to pursue her intellectual interests and continue learning. Dr. Arruda quickly discovered that she really enjoys the intellectual freedom that universities offer, as opposed to working for a think tank or a multilateral organization. In academia, she believes that one is not as bound to the political or parochial interests that are sometimes present within those institutions.
Dr. Arruda was also enriched by her experience in the field of journalism, which taught her to use jargon purposefully, a skill that has continued to prove useful in her academic writing. In order to effectively communicate her research, she has to constantly ensure any jargon used in her writing is used purposefully and clearly. She enjoys exploring ideas within an academic environment that supports intellectual freedom. However, the skills she obtained as a journalist, including effective communication strategies, clearly remain key to her current endeavors.
Eric Salgado is a graduate student in the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), studying for his Master’s degree in Latin American Studies. As a 2015 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellow, Eric has received internship opportunities, funding for graduate study, and ultimately a position as a U.S. Diplomat with the State Department. During his time at SFS, Eric has interned with the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. He shared his experiences with current BSFS fellow Mary Breen (SFS’19, Science Technology and International Affairs Major).
What sparked your interest in studying Latin America?
I am bicultural. My father is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras and many of my family members have emigrated from Honduras to the United States. I always had that actual connection to the region, but my Honduran heritage was not the most formative part of my life. I decided upon going to college that I wanted to have a deeper connection to the region and bridge the gap that I felt existed between my background and my actual understanding of the region. I continued to study the region because I really fell in love with Latin America’s diversity, history, and culture on a much deeper scale.
Why did you choose Georgetown for your graduate education?
One of my mentors from Fairfield University graduated from Georgetown University with a Masters and PhD. I was really inspired by taking classes from her and learning what she got out of Georgetown. I decided I wanted to replicate that opportunity for myself. In addition to applying to Georgetown after taking a gap year, I also applied for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship. I am so thankful I was able to secure that opportunity, which has given me a definitive path into diplomacy. I do not think there is any better place to study Latin America and foreign policy than here at Georgetown. The incredible faculty have wide-spanning knowledge on the region and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America; it just made perfect sense to choose Georgetown.
What do you hope to get out of your time at CLAS and how do you see that fitting into your career as a U.S. diplomat?
I have worked with graduates from the M.A. program in Latin American Studies at the U.S. embassy in Brazil and at the State Department headquarters in Washington D.C. It has been inspiring to see the caliber of diplomat that they have become. They have come through this program with a certain depth of knowledge and understanding. I think American diplomats can have the reputation of being close-minded and only interested in defending actions that have been controversial in Latin America’s history, and that is not always the case. I think we have acknowledged our complicated relationship with Latin America, and many of us who have come through this program are committed to enhancing relationships between Latin America and the United States. Knowing that I am coming through a program that is going to provide me a deeper understanding of the region and access to strong thinkers and policy makers is invaluable. Being pushed to think beyond limits and typical constraints is definitely going to serve me well once I head into the real world, specifically the diplomatic world.
What is unique about Georgetown’s graduate Latin American Studies program?
The diversity in our group is absolutely amazing, not just culturally but also intellectually. All of us have different ways of thinking and different understandings of the world. I think experiencing that diversity of thought is the best way to come out of an academic program. There are people from many different countries in the region who add great value to the experience here at CLAS. We can study Latin America out of books, but it is important to get the context from the field, to share our ideas, and to come out stronger thinkers and academics.
What is the atmosphere like among the CLAS graduate students?
At the end of the day, what brings us together and makes us a stronger group is our commitment to understanding the region in a deeper way and appreciating the places we are each coming from and the views we bring to the table. The environment is very collegial. I have worked in groups where I do not necessarily agree with someone else’s concepts or understandings, but that is what makes it a rich experience and where you get the most out of it.
How has your coursework impacted your internship experiences?
I am currently staffing the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. The work here in D.C. is different than the work that you would do at an embassy. I think understanding the region and the pertinent issues is important in the role I currently have. One of my tasks is compiling the most important information from the region every day, which requires an understanding of what the hot topics in Latin America are right now and what our foreign policy principals need to know in order to get through their day and brief the Secretary. It is important to be in a program where you are able to recognize what are the most pertinent issues in the region.
As far as the work at the U.S. Embassy in Brazil this summer, that is where I was able to really pull from my experiences in CLAS. When you get a graduate education from Georgetown, you are taught to think critically and analytically. Bringing those skills to my work at the embassy was absolutely necessary. I was working in the Political Section of the US embassy in Brazil during a time of heightened political tension. There was the Zika crisis, the Olympic Games, and the political fallout and impeachment process. Being able to draw from my experience and what I learned from CLAS served me very well while I was at the embassy. The important thing is that at the Center you are learning how to think; you are learning how to reframe your analysis and apply that to the real world, no matter what sector you plan on going into.
What course has stood out to you and why?
There are two classes that are by far the most exceptional. One of them was Citizen Security & Democracy in Latin America with Dr. John Bailey. It is an exceptional class that really hits on contemporary security issues in the region in an analytical way.
The other class that I am currently in and find extremely applicable to the work that I am and will be doing at the State Department is called International Organizations in Latin America, taught by Dr. Angelo Rivero Santos, who is currently the CLAS Academic Director. It is a fascinating course that touches on some international relations theories and the strengthening of regional organizations in Latin America. Dr. Rivero Santos is absolutely amazing. He has taught me to take a step back and look at the broader picture and analyze trends in the region. This is going to be extremely important for my career when I am writing a cable back to my government describing what is going on and what trends we are observing. The strong suit of Dr. Rivero Santos is that he is both an academic and a practitioner. He was a diplomat for quite a few years, so he bridges the gap between academia and the practical world. That has been absolutely invaluable for me.
What aspects of Georgetown have contributed to your graduate school experience?
There are a couple of things about Georgetown that are its strongest qualities. First, everyone is so intelligent and they bring their experiences and their understandings to class; I do not think you could ask for anything more in a classroom. Even if you do not agree on an issue, facing differing opinions gives you something to ponder and to reflect on, and that is really valuable. The caliber of student at Georgetown is like nothing I have ever seen.
Second, I cannot stress enough the importance of being in D.C. at such a strong institution. The access we have to incredible speakers and incredible academics, as well as the brilliant minds the institution attracts, has strengthened my ability to think and to apply knowledge in internships and ultimately in the professional world. Those two things are transformative.
Naomi Glassman is a graduate student in the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), pursuing her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies and her Juris Doctor (J.D.) at Georgetown University Law Center through a Dual Degree Program. Naomi’s studies concentrate on conflict resolution and human rights. Last summer, she participated in CLAS’s summer immersion program in Bogotá, Colombia. She reflected on her time at the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) with current BSFS fellow Mary Breen (SFS’19, Science Technology and International Affairs Major).
Why did you choose to study Latin America?
It’s been a gradual progression over my life. I went to a Montessori school through eighth grade, where I took Spanish, Japanese, and Latin. I was able to learn Spanish and I later took a trip to Peru in high school. This introduced me to some of the regional issues, language, and culture. Then, I took a Latin American history class my first year at Swarthmore College, and I was really struck by the patterns of history and the role of the United States. I was also fascinated by the way the region functions and the diversity within it. The more classes I took on Latin America the more interest I developed on the subject. I created a Latin American Studies Major at Swarthmore, because at the time they only offered a minor for Latin American Studies. After studying abroad in Ecuador, I decided to focus my academic research on Latin America.
After graduation, I traveled to Peru and worked for an NGO. Unfortunately, I tore my ACL and had to return home. My recuperation coincided with the Ríos Montt trial in Guatemala, which I followed carefully. I began to realize that the intersection between law and politics is really important. The Ríos Montt trial, from a political science and historical perspective, is mostly accepted as genocide; however, the trial applied a legal definition of genocide, which is more precise and harder to prove. The defense lawyers used a variety of unusual legal strategies to postpone the verdict, that made me wonder about the procedural and substantive legal issues. The importance of these legal tools and the interaction between law and politics was why I decided to pursue a joint degree.
Why were you attracted to Georgetown’s graduate program?
I really wanted to take advantage of the connections Washington D.C., and specifically CLAS, offer. Organizations like the Inter-American Commission and many NGOs are based here. I thought a Georgetown education would offer more opportunities than anywhere else.
Are you involved with any campus activities at Georgetown?
On Georgetown’s Law School campus, I’ve been co-president of the International Migrants Bill of Rights. This a law school organization that created a bill of rights for migrants and does advocacy with organizations in D.C., particularly the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Migrants at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I’ve also done a lot of pro-bono work such as translating for asylum cases and completing legal intakes for Bread for the City, which provides legal services to underserved communities in D.C.
Since coming to Georgetown, what internships have enhanced your studies?
After my first year at Georgetown Law School, I had an internship in Chile that I arranged through the Law Center’s International Internship Program. It was with the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, which is the human rights organization connected to the Catholic Church during the dictatorship. I was working with the Universidad Alberto Hurtado, which was doing an interdisciplinary investigation on the documents filed in the Vicaría. I contributed to the investigation’s efforts and wrote a paper on the application of international human rights treaties during the Chilean dictatorship.
This past summer, I was in Bogotá with CLAS’ Colombia program. I worked with the Consejo de Estado, which is the highest administrative court. I helped them with an investigation on the role of administrative justices in post conflict. This spring, I will intern with the Department of International Law at the Organization of American States (OAS).
What do you think Georgetown’s Masters in Latin American Studies program uniquely offers its graduate students?
CLAS definitely uses its connections with many institutions in D.C. to organize really cool events and bring in prestigious speakers. It also attracts interesting people; a great array of professors and students with a variety of interests. The diversity of the student body has also shaped my experience here at Georgetown.
What event at CLAS is most memorable to you so far?
I really enjoyed the event with Ambassador Pinzón. It was interesting to get yet another perspective on the peace process, partly because I was so connected to it. Each of us in Colombia, because of the institutions we were working with, had a very different perspective. Ambassador Pinzón presented what the Colombian government was thinking a couple of months later, which was particularly interesting in light of the second peace accord discussions. Ambassador Pinzón was able to present the post-referendum context of the issue.
How would you describe the community within CLAS both among graduate students and with professors?
It’s a pretty collaborative environment and I respect all of my classmates. There have been papers where my friend and I are doing something similar, so we’ll share sources and talk things through. That’s been really helpful. I’ve also formed strong connections with some of my CLAS professors on main campus. I find the professors at CLAS very accessible and interested in us as people.
Is there a course or professor in CLAS that had a significant impact on your time here?
I took Professor Kapiszewski’s course, Constitutions, Courts, and Rights in New Democracies. That was really important for me, because it’s more connected to what I’m interested in—the intersection of law and politics. It revealed to me that although law and politics are really connected, the academics on both sides work in parallel. There’s not much interconnection, so it made me really aware of this gap that I’m hoping to fill.
Professor Chernick was one of the reasons I came to Georgetown originally. Taking the class called Peace Processes/Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Latin America and participating in the Colombia Program cemented my awareness of what is going on in Colombia now. It also reinforced my interest in the events there, especially the legal issues involving transitional justice and rule of law.
How has your coursework impacted your internship experiences?
By taking Professor Chernick’s class before I went to Colombia, I was very prepared and informed. It provided me a framework but also prepared me to be open to different perspectives. In terms of research capabilities, writing skills, and interactions, CLAS course definitely prepared me well.
What do you hope to get out of your experience at CLAS and how do you see that fitting into your future career?
I’m interested in the way that international law is incorporated into domestic systems in Latin America, known as domestic court applications, which has been the bulk of my research recently. CLAS is helping provide the political, social, and economic context. Lawyers have a tendency to think only about the law, but CLAS is about remembering the people. All laws create consequences and the decisions that courts make affect people. That’s really what CLAS has helped with, since there is a huge focus on the people of Latin America. We look at institutions, laws, and historical trends, but it’s really about who lives there, the people, and their struggles. I think that’s going to be the focus that I will carry with me through my legal pursuits.
Do you have an advice for undergraduate students who may be interested in Latin American Studies?
Do what really interests you. That’s how I ended up in Latin America. When I was doing some of my research projects, I remember how excited I was to get new books in the library about Latin America. I think it has gone well because I really care about it and am interested in it.
Specifically, CLAS offers many connections. Most of the interesting institutions focused on Latin America have offices in D.C. and sponsor many events, which I have been able to attend.
It’s also about what part of Latin America interests you. Every graduate program has different focuses. The Colombia program was one big reason that I came to CLAS. It was definitely worth it.