Alum-spiration: “We want to create spaces for alumni to meet, share, learn and network”

New York Alumni Chapter Lead Juan Cuéllar Torres speaks about the benefits of becoming involved in the Hertie School’s alumni network.

Juan Cuéllar Torres is a 2015 graduate of our Master of Public Policy programme. For the past four years, he has been the legal adviser at the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations in New York. As such, he represents Colombia in a variety of negotiations related to public international law, international criminal law, international trade law and oceans and law of the sea. Juan also works as a personal and professional development coach, which he began shortly after graduating from the Hertie School. Before coming to Berlin, Juan worked as a consultant for PwC in Bogota and volunteered as a History teacher in a programme for underprivileged families, where his interest in public policy was born.

Why is staying in touch with the Hertie network a priority for you?

While studying at Hertie, I had the opportunity to meet very interesting and engaging people, many of whom became friends. I am certain that it is through relations (with people, things and experiences) that we grow and learn as human beings. You could say, therefore, that I found in Hertie a community of people and experiences that offered many opportunities for me to develop and help others do so as well. For this reason, keeping in touch with the Hertie network is an excellent way for me to continue to grow and support others at the same time.

As a Chapter Lead what is your role, and what are your main responsibilities?

As a Chapter Lead, I am responsible for developing and fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and the alumni to support an active engagement for the common good. I see my role as a facilitator: bringing together ideas and people that foster engagement and possible synergies for strengthening existing projects or creating new ones. As Hertie is still a relatively young school, we are in the process of building a strong and engaged alumni community and I am excited to be able to be part of this process.

What is your goal for your chapter?

With my chapter co-leads, we are engaged in creating spaces for alumni to meet, share, learn and network through the organization of events, roundtables and discussions. Our intent is to allow alumni to easily reach out to one another and help them feel that we make part of a bigger community that is willing to help each other and promote the Hertie School and its mission. This sense of belonging is necessary. For this reason, I see my role as Chapter Lead as a promoter of a sense of belonging to the Hertie community.

What is a memorable conversation or connection that was made at a recent event?

Even though it was not the most recent, I want to highlight a conversation I had with Henrik Enderlein during his visit to the New York Chapter in October last year. He had been my professor of Economics during my first semester at Hertie in 2013, but I had not had the chance to speak to him outside of the classroom. Apart from being a great teacher, he is a kind, empathic and approachable man. Knowing this motivated me to work with even more commitment towards the chapter, as I appreciated working for a school that supports this type of leader. As for a more recent event, the New York Chapter organized a virtual discussion about the US Presidential results with the Washington D.C. Chapter, led by Martin Roeck. It was a pleasure to work both with Martin and Riefqah Jappie (Hertie NYC Alumni Chapter co-lead) and I hope that these kind of inter-chapter events continue to happen. Such events bring together alumni from different chapters and allow our network to become much richer.

What would you say to recent alumni who are hesitant to get involved? How have you benefitted from your involvement in your Chapter Lead?

I’d say that if they find it beneficial to be part of a network that will help them advance professionally and personally, discuss policy and foreign affairs issues with other well-prepared professionals and are interested in having an active engagement for the common good, getting involved with the chapter will be of great benefit. The more opportunities we have at hand, the more chances we have of advancing towards where we want to go. Getting involved with a chapter is an opportunity to do that.

You can find a list of our Alumni Chapters here.

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Views expressed by the author/interviewee may not necessarily reflect the views and values of the Hertie School.