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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Graduate student awarded diplomacy to enact change


Courtesy of Robert Alvarez

UA graduate student Robert Alvarez is one of 24 students from several hundred applicants chosen for Humanity in Action. Alvarez will travel to South America to instill change for humanitarian causes.

A humanitarian and now soon-to-be diplomat, Robert Alvarez, is nothing short of a model citizen. As a UA graduate student pursuing a dual masters degree in both public administration and Latin American studies, he also dedicates his life to making global change.

In February, Alvarez was awarded the prestigious Humanity in Action Diplomacy and Diversity Fellowship, one of only 24 graduate students selected from seven countries.

Humanity in Action is an international, educational organization that aims to promote human rights by establishing and educating young student leaders in projects that work toward diversity and justice around the world.

Selected from a pool of over 400 applicants from around the world, Alvarez, along with the other fellows chosen, will have the opportunity to explore issues of diversity, diplomacy and pluralism with leaders and experts across the globe.

In a statement announcing the fellowship recipients, Judith Goldstein, executive director and founder of Humanity in Action, spoke about the diversity that this pool of fellows will bring.

“The Fellows are demonstrated leaders with a strong commitment to international concerns with a broad array of talents, experiences and interests,” Goldstein said. “This class brings great diversity to what is sure to be an innovative, fascinating and engaging program.”

While working for change is nothing new to Alvarez, he had not always imagined his life as it is today. In his teens, Alvarez was involved with gang-related activity and was faced with two life paths.

“In my head, I had two narratives,” he said. “One path, I saw myself in juvie. On the other, I had the dream of playing football for a university.”

From the streets, Alvarez was recruited on a football scholarship to play for Northern Arizona University.

He said he spent the beginning of his undergraduate career playing football at NAU where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He explained football was able to save him and help him reach his goals.

After graduating from NAU, Alvarez joined the Peace Corps and was sent to El Salvador, where he served for three years. Over his three-year service, he said he discovered that helping others was his passion and realized that international relations was the path on which he belonged.

Upon his return from the Peace Corps service, Alvarez said he worked with at-risk youth and immigrant students in San Diego until he had applied to graduate school at the UA.

His UA academic adviser, Marcela Vasquez-Leon, described him as a hardworking student and passionate individual who loves to help others.

“He is really willing to fight for people’s rights and is overall very passionate,” Vasquez-Leon said.

Fighting for the rights of others is exactly what Alvarez said he hopes to do this year. He will not only be involved with the HIA Diplomacy Fellowship, but also, in December, he said he plans on traveling to Brazil for graduate research on the economy in Fortaleza following the FIFA World Cup.

“There are a lot of people living in poverty, which in itself creates these spaces of high vulnerability,” he said. “In addition, it is also the premiere sex tourism capital in the world, child sex tourism.”

Looking at the rates of travel and income made, he plans on examining the effects the soccer tournament had on the city in terms of efficacy of the investments made and the problem of human trafficking.

He said, after his long career in diplomacy, he plans on giving back to the community that raised him. Alvarez said he stays grounded by looking back on these relationships he has made and is thankful for the people he has met and lessons he has learned.

“Even through accomplishments and everything, it’s the relationships and people,” Alvarez said. “That’s where I get my motivation to move forward. I’m thankful for how rich I have been able to live my life because of all the amazing people I have met.”


Follow Lauren Renteria on Twitter.

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