Fulbright Scholar is on a Path to Change the World of Impossibilities for People with Disabilities

Fulbright scholar Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro is changing the world for people with disabilities through his pioneering work. He earned a master’s degree through a Laspau-administered Fulbright Program in international business from the Florida International University (FIU). Today, Betancourt is a professor at the Universidad de La Sabana in his native Colombia, CEO-Founder of NKLUSVLIFE, and a member of a large network of institutions that promote inclusion such as Fulbright Colombia and Saldarriaga Concha Foundation.

Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro has a vision of changing the world for people with disabilities. He is working with local governments and businesses to create more accessible facilities for individuals using wheelchairs, and has proved that there are economic benefits to creating a more inclusive community, especially in places like restaurants, public malls, bars, pubs, universities and even sports arenas.

Betancourt, who lives in Bogota, Colombia, knows firsthand the challenges of living with a disability. He has an incomplete spinal cord injury C4/C5 which happened in 2003 during his senior year in high school on a trip with his classmates. “I dove into the pool and broke my neck, after hitting my head at the bottom of the pool. When I woke up I was already in the hospital. During the last month or two of my rehab sessions, I asked myself, “What am I going to do with my life now?”

Because he has always been a disciplined and erudite student, Juan decided to continue his education after high school graduation. He pursued undergraduate studies in international business at the Universidad de La Sabana, one of the top universities in Bogotá, and coincidentally, located right next to his rehabilitation facility. Near the end of his undergraduate studies, Betancourt was part of an internship program at Unilever, a global company that produces consumer goods for their supply management team. Betancourt worked in the logistical component for products like Dove and Lipton Tea. Soon after, he worked for several companies as an independent consultant and marketing strategist, including a floral company, which supplies flowers to all Walmart stores in the United States.

“I’m trying to change the way people in Bogotá, Colombia, see people with disabilities. Instead of just seeing a disabled person, I hope they see this person as someone who can bring benefits to companies, communities, and overall be productive in our society.”

As Betancourt succeeded in his professional life, he considered the possibility of going back to school to pursue graduate studies, not in Colombia, but abroad. Betancourt’s closest acquaintances highly encouraged him to take the risk and provided the full support needed for his journey. While working for the floral company, he applied for the Fulbright scholarship program, “I applied first in 2010 when I was finishing my undergraduate studies, but I not was not eligible for the scholarship because at that time, I didn’t have my bachelor’s degree yet. After my undergraduate graduation in 2011, I applied for the second time and received a wonderful news from Fulbright stating that I had been selected to pursue master’s degree in international business at Florida International University.” While at FIU, Betancourt interned with Sony, Latin America for 4 months.

Taking into account that the Fulbright Program requires the scholar to return to his home country upon the academic studies completion and apply the knowledge acquired abroad, Juan Sebastian needed to figure out what to do next when moving back to Colombia. He had two options in mind: apply for a job in Colombia or become an entrepreneur. In May 2015, one month after he returned to Colombia, he founded his own company, NKLUSVLIFE, a company that offers marketing, brand management and consulting to promote a profitable and sustainable business while being inclusive and accessible. As a successful entrepreneur, Betancourt currently balances his work as a professor of emerging markets at the Universidad de La Sabana, the same institution where he pursued his undergraduate studies.

Betancourt has a clear vision for the future and thinks big. He wants to the view of people with disabilities and their potential to contribute to society. In addition to changing the experience of people with disabilities in Colombia, Betancourt is also thinking beyond his own country. “One day, I would like to work with wheelchair sports teams, leagues and national teams to set up their travel plans. When people with disabilities go to other countries to participate in sports and/or vacations, we can inform them about inclusive places and provide logistical advice such as hotels, restaurants and attractions that can comfortably accommodate this particular population. I am very committed to this idea and I know this dream has potential to become true.”

Betancourt fully embraced his Fulbright experience and has advice for scholars and dreamers like him, “It is a once in a lifetime experience and you would be surprised about the level of cultural insight, perspective and general understanding you get from the process. It is a chance as well to be part of something unique where you can apply your recent knowledge and change the world for better. Treasure those moments, experience new things, keep new friends that come to your life and get ready to be ambitious and make the world a better place. Find your purpose in life and contribute for a common goal that transcends in later generations.”

Read more stories about Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro!

Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities by wheel-life.org
Mobility: an Nklusion subject by Solkes
Millennials que dejan huella by El Tiempo

Learn more about NKLUSVLIFE!

Website: www.nklusvlife.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NKLUSVLIFE/ 

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nklusvlife/ 


Fulbright Scholar Writes Film Narratives to Showcase Current Civic-Related Trends and Impact

Mayra Daniela Linares-Rodríguez, former Fulbright scholar from Mexico received her master’s degree in film and media arts at American University and a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Querétaro. Today, she works at the Mexico-US Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange/ Fulbright García Robles (COMEXUS) as an Outreach Coordinator.

Linares-Rodríguez has always had a great passion for seeing the world through images, whether it was through sketching, storyboarding, or coloring: all these kinds of visual content influenced Linares-Rodríguez’s interest for photography and filmmaking. Even though her interest started in her childhood, Linares-Rodríguez devoted this passion through academia and pursued graduate studies in Film & Video at American University, and this was made possible thanks to the Fulbright Garcia-Robles scholarship program.

While pursuing her studies in the U.S. capital, Linares-Rodríguez had the opportunity to intern at the National Public Radio (NPR), a renowned American media organization where she focused on stories related to trends in education. This fusion between her academic and professional experiences gave Linares-Rodríguez a new perspective; a combination of applying theoretical and practical forms of visual communication,

Referring to her experience in the United States, she says “I grew in terms of work ethic, focus, and skills. I believe I had the time to focus on and apply the theory of narrative through a visual medium. I was also involved in a myriad of film projects that allowed me to gain the necessary skills to run a crew and bring written projects to life on screen. Lastly, I think that working and studying in D.C. allowed me to grasp a sense of efficiency. In such a high-pressure, fast-paced environment, people have a different sense of time.”

Recently returned to her native Mexico, Linares-Rodríguez is working at the Fulbright Commission, the same agency that funded her graduate studies in the United States. Her work revolves around finding ways to write successful stories of grantees and use them to promote the scholarship opportunities as well as recruit potential candidates who their dream to study abroad was once Linares-Rodríguez’s dream. “Many of these stories are expressed through images. I use photos and movies to highlight different programs, current and former scholars.”

Linares-Rodríguez explains that the opportunity to be a scholar of such an eminent binational program allowed her to give back to both funding governments through her role. “It is so delightful to see followers coming from outside of Mexico City. So my hope is that through my photos I can share the idea of ​​ more inclusive tertiary educational opportunities in remote areas.”

There is always room to dream big and for Linares-Rodríguez her dreams and plans are endless, and she is accomplishing them day-by-day. Currently, she is involved in the feminist and film community of Mexico City to advocate for women’s rights. “While in Mexico, and fortunately, with a steady job, I want to use my free time to follow this path.”

Linares-Rodríguez strongly believes in leadership as a “must-have” quality that should be applied to all sorts of scenarios: at school, at work, or in personal life. “You have to take initiative to find solutions. Few people are going to help you if you don’t have at least some things figured out first. So, with that comes asking questions and you can’t be afraid to look like a fool sometimes and ask obvious questions.” As a strong supporter for educational rights, Linares-Rodríguez’s persistence and energy will surely serve as an inspiration to future Fulbrighters and all those seeking educational opportunities.

Learn more about Mayra Daniela Linares-Rodríguez:

Statement on Recent Natural Disasters in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, September 20, 2017- Laspau is fortunate to work with an amazing community of talented individuals and institutions across the Americas. Over the past month, natural disasters such as hurricanes in the Caribbean and the southern United States and the earthquakes in Mexico have taken a heavy toll on many of our colleagues and friends. We have been deeply saddened to learn of the destruction, injury and loss of life suffered by residents in Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of the United States. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by these disasters.

We encourage anyone interested in helping to donate to established organizations such as those found and rated on Charity Navigator: