Nathalie Cely Suárez, ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, visited UMass Boston on Tuesday to speak to community members and students from the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development as part of SGISD’s Innovation Speaker Series.
Ecuador, a nation of about 16 million on the western coast of South America, has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade, transitioning from a low-income to a high-middle-income economy.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to know it’s true,” Suárez told the capacity crowd gathered in the Campus Center.
Ecuador has grown primarily on the basis of education reform, smarter use of residents’ talents, and responsible capitalization on the nation’s rainforest biodiversity.
Valerie Karr, an assistant professor of international development in SGISD, teaches the Innovation Seminar, a class that examines different scenarios of development in order to learn from them.
“Ambassador Suárez and Ecuador have done the most progressive development in the last 10 years of probably any country in the world,” said Karr. “We look at them as a case study.”
Education reform in Ecuador has included an increased focus on STEM-related fields, efforts to ensure that colleges are aware of the demands of the private sector, and programs that send students abroad to attend foreign schools.
UMass Boston biology student Joshua Aguirre, a native of Ecuador, is a participant in one of those programs. He intends to return to his home country after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees abroad. Aguirre said he learned about the talk through Twitter and was excited to listen to Suárez speak and take a picture with her.
The Innovative Speaker series exposes SGISD students to innovative leaders relevant to their interests. Earlier this semester, UMass Boston hosted Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo of USAID and World Bank. The series will continue in the spring.
“It’s a dual purpose,” Karr said of the series. “I have the speakers come because they have a wealth of knowledge to share, but there are tremendous relationships and programs that can be built through them.”