Alumna Takes Sustainable Development Degree to El Salvador

by |April 29, 2014

 

Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development alumna, Hannah Perls, takes her degree to El Salvador, where she is responsible for program development at Foundation Cristosal, a non-profit human rights NGO.

Hannah Perls with Chencho Alas, the Director of the Mesoamerican Peace Foundation, with whom she recently went to Honduras to observe some Appreciative Inquiry trainings he conducted with the LIBRE political party.

Hannah Perls with Chencho Alas, the Director of the Mesoamerican Peace Foundation, with whom she recently went to Honduras to observe some Appreciative Inquiry trainings he conducted with the LIBRE political party.

What is your current job?

I am currently employed with Foundation Cristosal, a non-profit NGO based in San Salvador, El Salvador that focuses on peace, justice and reconciliation. Foundation Cristosal human rights and community development organization with Anglican roots that addresses the structural aspects of society which perpetuate underdevelopment and poverty. Foundation Cristosal aims to empower Salvadorans with the resources and skills necessary to improve their quality of life and enable them to act for justice and democracy in their communities.

At Foundation Cristosal, I am responsible for program development, including developing social business models, research initiatives to measure program impact, and broadening our networks in North America.

How did you find your current position and what advice would you pass on to those currently entering the workforce?

A good friend and old employer in Boston connected me with Foundation Cristosal’s Executive Director to learn more about the rights-based approach to development.

In getting my job at Foundation Cristosal, I found the best strategy was to be persistent- follow up, follow up, follow up!

Cristosal Exec Director, Noah Bullock, Human Rights lawyer, José López, and representatives from the urban slum community of La Anemona.

Cristosal Exec Director, Noah Bullock, Human Rights lawyer, José López, and representatives from the urban slum community of La Anemona.

What do you enjoy the most and what do you find the most challenging in your current position?

I love the opportunity to use large-scale systems thinking and apply it in a case-by-case basis to our community work here in El Salvador. My favorite part of the day is working with our incredible staff of lawyers and development professionals in a casual but driven and inspiring environment. The most challenging part is consistently being humbled, learning to be flexible, and to recognize failure as a learning opportunity and a sign of growth.

Are you able to utilize any skills and knowledge from the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development in your day-to-day activities?  

The Program requirements prepared me, through projects, papers, and presentations on a wide variety of subject matter.

The Program allowed me to analyze development issues from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. The diversity in courses offered, and the rigorous standards prepared me well to perform effectively in many different areas, ranging from economics to sociology, to scientific research.

Having this knowledge in many fields helps me daily in tackling new subjects and in diversifying Foundation Cristosal’s program offerings and connections.

El Carmen is one of the Cristosal  partner communities 2 hours outside of San Salvador, where Cristosal is working on creating a legalized community water association to manage distribution, system metering and maintenance.

El Carmen is one of the Cristosal partner communities 2 hours outside of San Salvador, where Cristosal is working on creating a legalized community water association to manage distribution, system metering and maintenance.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding in the interaction between natural and social systems, offered through the Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the Sustainable Development major and special concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.

To learn more about the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, please visit our website or contact Jessica Sotomayor, Program Manager at jsotomayor@ei.columbia.edu.


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