A Shared Mission
Students Seek to Improve Standards of Living in Paraguay
At first glance, Fordham graduate students Brian McElwain and Carlos Jara De Marco don’t appear to have much in common.
McElwain, the son of college professors, studied psychology and business administration as an undergraduate at Valparaiso University in Indiana, while Jara De Marco earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic University in his native Paraguay.
Both students do, however, share a common thread: They are recipients of prestigious awards that led them to the International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program at Fordham University. And both want to improve the quality of life for the six million residents of Paraguay.
A Peace Corps fellow, McElwain devoted two years of service as an environmental sanitation volunteer in Guarambaré, Paraguay, a rural village where he literally worked in the trenches constructing latrines and other projects to protect sanitary water sources. He also taught English, oral hygiene and disease prevention.
“My experience with the Peace Corps inspired me to pursue international development as a career,” said McElwain, who hopes to work for the U.S. government or a nonprofit organization overseas upon the completion of his degree. “I thought it would be rewarding, but I didn’t anticipate that it would make me change what I want to do with my life, and it did.”
McElwain said his experience in Paraguay enabled him to relate classroom theories to practical, real-world applications, a perspective that will come in handy as he pursues a career in international development.
Rather than working on the front line in a rural community like his classmate, Jara De Marco hopes to contribute to Paraguayan society on a national level. A Fulbright scholar, Jara De Marco enrolled in Fordham’s IPED program to study international development and inspire more academic research on economic development in his native country.
“I will encourage the creation of an independent board at [Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic University] to analyze and give recommendations about critical development issues of Paraguay,” he wrote in his Fulbright proposal. “At the national level, I would like to establish a Center for Strategic Studies and Research to work closely with the Treasury Department and the Central Bank.”
Jara De Marco said he aspires to secure a position at the Ministry of Economics in Paraguay or the World Bank. Both students said Fordham’s location in New York City is ideal for studying international development because of the city’s rich resources—the United Nations and the Federal Reserve, for example. The University’s diverse student population is another asset.
“IPED is like a small island,” said Jara De Marco, who will continue studying economics at Fordham after he completes the IPED program this year. “Half of the students are international and half are from the United States with experience abroad. The classes are enriched because of the students’ different experiences.”
McElwain added that this diversity replicates on a smaller scale what graduates can expect to experience upon graduation as they enter their careers.
“When you’re working in international development or at the U.N., it’s a similar environment.”
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