Laspau’s Inaugural Higher Education Summit of the Americas kicks off in Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, COLOMBIA November 16, 2018- Laspau, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Harvard University, has launched the inaugural Higher Education Summit of the Americas, which is being held November 16th and 17th, 2018 in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Summit has convened over 100 leaders from government, business and higher education across 14 countries to re-envision the role of the university in Latin America and the Caribbean and advance its relevance and impact in 21st-century society. These leaders include university presidents and vice presidents, government ministers and secretaries and business leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Through this milestone event, Laspau is harnessing the collective knowledge of leaders across the region as well as bridging collaboration across government, business and higher education sectors. Over the next two days, leaders will be discussing societal challenges in relation to academic research, international trends, and system-wide practices for cultivating innovation ecosystems and knowledge-based societies.

The summit includes sessions including Defining Excellence: The Role of Higher Education Quality in a

Competitive EnvironmentThe Hemispheric University: Global Engagement in an Era of Retrenchment, and Crises and Opportunities: Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Laspau’s Executive Director, Angélica Natera, commented, “We are very excited to see this unique event coming to fruition and grateful for the opportunity to exchange ideas with leaders from across the Americas who are working to make higher education stronger on a daily basis. We see this event as the start of an ongoing dialogue that will have an impact for years to come.”

Over the past 50 years, Laspau has collaborated closely with governments, foundations, nonprofits and educational institutions across the Americas. The organization currently manages several longstanding scholarship programs for partners such as the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State, the Organization of American States, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, among others. Additionally, over the past ten years, Laspau has helped hundreds of universities across the region to improve their quality and effectiveness by connecting them with the latest knowledge and pioneering faculty in the field through programs to strengthen teaching and learning, enhance the quality and impact of education, and promote innovation and academic leadership. The Higher Education Summit of the Americas represents the nexus of these areas of work and seeks to further strengthen and promote meaningful collaboration across higher education, business and governments throughout the Americas.

At the conclusion of the Summit a compilation of innovative ideas, practical actions, and proposals obtained from the various sessions will be published for the good of the entire region.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education (View Welcome Message:
  • Julio Frenk, President, University of Miami (View Welcome Message:
  • Alberto Bustamante, Director of Education Industry for Latin America and the Caribbean, Microsoft Edward Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering, MIT
  • María Marta Ferreyra, Senior Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank
  • Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University
  • Eric Mazur, Dean of Applied Physics, Harvard University
  • Richard K. Miller, President of Olin College
  • Jamil Salmi, Tertiary Education Expert
  • Cecilia María Vélez, President of Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano


This event is by invitation only. Additional information can be found on the event website at

About Laspau

Laspau is a nonprofit organization affiliated with Harvard University that enhances higher educational quality, opportunity and impact throughout the Americas. For over fifty years we have been building a human network, connecting individuals and institutions with opportunities, through admissions testing, scholarship management, university development and alliance building.

Connecting over 1,000 institutions, 18,000 scholars and 5,000 educators, we create opportunity and drive innovation. By bridging high-quality institutions and building communities of effective faculty who instruct ever-growing numbers of students, our network expands, opening up cutting-edge opportunities. This echoing impact works to achieve our vision of fostering knowledge-based, inclusive societies throughout the Western Hemisphere.


Programa STEM-Costa Rica

Culminó con éxito el Programa de STEM-Costa Rica implementado por SINAES y Laspau, el cual reunió a 150 profesores de 14 universidades en Costa Rica. 

Fulbright Scholar Jorge Caraballo is Finding New Ways to Tell Important Stories

Fulbright Scholar Jorge Caraballo of Colombia is studying Digital Journalism at Northeastern University.

When Jorge Caraballo was in his first year of college at Universidad de Antioquia in his native Colombia, he imagined himself in the future as a lawyer, a “serious” profession that he felt would keep him close to his real passions of literature and the human experience. After a few months, it became clear to him that the field was simply not for him, “My backpack was not loaded with law textbooks but with the books of García Márquez, Kafka, and Borges.” His discontent Caraballo set off looking for a profession that allowed him to pursue his true passions. Lucky for him, he found it just a few buildings away in the School of Journalism. “It was kind of a revelation when I understood that being a journalist meant that I could go deep in whatever topic I wanted or that I could read any book and story, if after doing that I was able to communicate why was it meaningful to me. From the beginning, I assumed Journalism both as a pleasure and a social responsibility” Caraballo shares.

His passion for storytelling led him to pursue a Fulbright scholarship for graduate studies at Northeastern University. His current academic work focuses on how digital tools and multimedia storytelling can improve the way journalists inform and engage with communities. For Caraballo, this is not a purely academic pursuit.

“Colombia has one of the longest civil wars in the world, and for the past five years has been in a process of healing wounds and finding peace… I want to contribute to that process, and I think that nonfiction storytelling can be an effective strategy to build peace. Stories can help to expand a person’s range of emotions and make her or him feel what others are feeling. In a polarized society, doing that in the right way can have an enormous impact.”

He sees his studies at Northeastern are critical to his future plans of returning to Colombia to participate in efforts to improve social cohesion creating a digital medium that informs and engage Colombians and help them recognize themselves after a long armed conflict.

Throughout his program, Laspau’s help has been essential. “Laspau’s biggest contribution has been that it has done all what’s possible to keep my attention on what’s important –my studies and cultural exchange– and it has helped me to easily navigate all the formalities of being an international student in the U.S.”

After completing his program, Caraballo hopes to spend a year working in a media company in the US in order to learn from the tradition of strong journalism in the country and focus on issues he’s passionate about: social justice, race, inequality, arts and culture. Once he returns to Colombia, it seems clear that he will bring a wealth of new skills and knowledge from his experiences both in and outside of the classroom.

Yves Vilton is making healthcare in Haiti safer

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_padding_divider][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Yves Vilton is a Fulbright scholar with a degree in Regulatory and Clinical Research from Regis College. While at Regis College, he participated in the Regis College Haiti Project to help relief efforts in his home country of Haiti. Today, Vilton is the Senior Technical Advisor in the Management Services for the Health Department at the State University of Haiti.

“Today is the best day of my life,” Fulbright Scholar, Yves Vilton, announces while standing on the front lawn of Regis College’s campus. Dressed in his graduation robes, Vilton can’t help but smile. “Today is the best day of my life because today I get my diploma.”

Born in rural Haiti to a large family of twelve children, Vilton learned early on that education was the answer to achieving a successful future.

“With education, everything is possible,” Vilton states, a mantra he learned from his mother.

Despite being unable to read, and despite her family’s limited access to educational resources, Vilton’s mother encouraged all of her children to learn how to read and to pursue a higher level education. Fueled by his mother’s determination, Vilton, at the young age of ten, left his childhood home to attend school in Haiti’s capital. While in school, Vilton did not let any obstacle keep him from enhancing his knowledge, sometimes even resorting to the light of a candle to read his textbooks when he could no longer afford to pay the electricity bill.

Vilton would go on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Studies from the State University of Haiti. In the years that followed, Vilton taught at his alma mater, worked as the Health and Supply Chain Manager for Catholic Relief Services, the Head of the Pharmacy Department at the State University of Haiti and as a Pharmacist for a World Health Organization project.

But Vilton wanted to do more.

In 2010, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake that contributed to the country’s pre-existing poverty and caused a massive death toll. Vilton, saddened by the lack of resources and national assistance, decided that he needed to take action and help the people of his country.

“Stop everything,” Vilton told himself. “Stop your job, stop your work and now go get more knowledge, then go back to try and change the system… I need to have a better education to help my people, to be able to help my country.”

Vilton approached the Dean from the State University of Haiti and asked how he may be able to further his education in Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research in the United States. The Dean directed Vilton to Laspau. After being granted the scholarship, Laspau matched Vilton with the Regulatory and Clinical Research Management Program at Regis College in Massachusetts, where he received a full waiver of tuition.

“I need to have a better education to help my people, to be able to help my country.”

Although far from home, Vilton was still able to help his country by participating in the Regis College Haiti Project, a program in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Health, the nonprofit Partners in Health, and with private and public nursing school leaders in Haiti, that trains nurses and aims to advance nursing education in Haiti.

“Laspau and Fulbright want you to do your best, to use all the potential you have,” Vilton explains as fellow graduates walk across the lawn behind him. “They want you to learn from a big university, a prestigious university here in the United Sates and they want you to do the best that you can and go back. And I promise, I will go back and do my best to use what I have learned.”

Today, Vilton is doing just that. As Senior Technical Advisor in the Management Sciences for Health Department at the State University of Haiti, Vilton manages the family planning project of Supply Chain Management Systems (SCMS) by providing technical expertise and leadership.

Watch our interview with Yves Vilton


Ciências sem Fronteiras scholar João Seixas de Medeiros is engineering the ships of future

João Seixas de Medeiros is a Ciências sem Fronteiras scholar and a PhD candidate currently studying ocean engineering at MIT. His most recent project focuses on unconventional ship design and wave energy extraction.

For the past year, Ciências sem Fronteiras scholar and PhD candidate, João Seixas de Medeiros, has been studying ocean engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The main focus of his research centers around unconventional ship design and wave energy extraction. Currently, Seixas de Medeiros, along with his research team of students, are constructing a small, remote-controlled boat that can minimize the resistance of waves, and handle heavy weight. Their machine has proven steady in wavelike conditions and speedy in still water conditions.

The project, initiated by Seixas de Medeiros’s advisor and funded by the MIT robotics team, requires a ton of time, energy, and team collaboration. Throughout the project’s implementation Seixas de Medeiros has discovered the importance of working with people from fields beyond just engineering to produce a successful product.

Closing the learning gap in Uruguay with Fulbrighter Nicolas Albertoni Gómez

Nicolas Albertoni Gómez is a Fulbright scholar  who recently graduated from the Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is very passionate about his home country, Uruguay, and is committed to creating socio-economic change when he returns after graduation.

“A lot of people ask: why did you got to the United States to study Latin America?” Fulbright scholar, Nicolas Albertoni Gómez, shares. “I respond to them: going away gives you perspective.”
Currently a student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Albertoni is working towards a master’s degree in Latin American Studies with a Certificate in International Business Diplomacy, in hopes of one day closing the socio-economic divide in his home country of Uruguay. It’s a goal that he has been pursing for many years, through both education and volunteer work.

After graduating with a degree in international business from the Universidad Católica del Uruguay, Albertoni decided to take some time before pursuing a higher degree to gain firsthand experience, believing that he must first learn what tools are needed to end poverty in Uruguay before going back to school. He participated in a catholic missionary in Uruguay, traveling to rural areas to help those in need (Learn more about this Jesuits missionary in Uruguay visit:, and later went to work as a high school teacher in one of Uruguay’s poorest neighborhoods.

“It was about a one-hour bus trip from home to my work,” Albertoni explains. As he traveled, farther away from developed communities and closer to neglected ones, Albertoni began to realize the true source of his country’s poverty: a lack of socio-economic integration. Due to these communities’ isolation, many people do not see the social divisions and therefore are unaware that there is even an issue.
“It’s so important for people to work together, to integrate, in order to end social challenges,” Albertoni states.

“The most important thing about Laspau is that you gain a network. We are a group of people trying to change the world.

Upon this realization, Albertoni applied for the Fulbright scholarship and, after being selected, began to apply for universities in the United States with the help of Laspau. He felt it important to gain an international perspective, to see how other countries handle social and economic issues similar to those he had witnessed in Uruguay. By attending Georgetown University, Albertoni is gaining, not only the tools needed to address the socio-economic divide in Uruguay, but also a network of like-minded individuals.

“The most important thing about Laspau is that you gain a network. We are a group of people trying to change the world,” Albertoni emphasizes. He also emphasizes a shared Jesuit mission among him and his fellow students: a passion for others.

“There is this idea that if you are in academia, you are not involved in the real world. That is not true. You need more concepts to understand the real world. You need the tools to solve real world problems… Being at Georgetown has really solidified my Jesuit perspective of the world of working for others. I really think that all I do is for others… My education is not to put in books; it’s to put in life.”

Although still in school, Albertoni has already been making an impact in Uruguay. Three years ago, he and a group of friends started “Enseña Uruguay,” an organization committed to closing the learning gap by improving education in schools throughout Uruguay. Since its establishment, the organization has grown to be one of the most important NGOs in Uruguay and is part of the world network Teach for All.
“It’s something I’m very proud of and am trying to actively involved in,” Albertoni says.

Scholar Photos-24But Albertoni isn’t stopping there. He will soon be moving to California to earn a PhD in political science and international relations from University of Southern California. From there, Albertoni hopes to return to the Catholic University to work as a professor. He also has as an ultimate goal entering into politics. He believes that by combining academia with public policies, he will be able to make real social change in Uruguay.
When asked what advice he would give to other ambitious students looking to improve their countries, Albertoni answered, “we should not talk about social problems, but work in order to solve them. If I do not have the necessary tools to do this, I will create my own. For this, we need to dream big and internationally so you can create your own tools.”

Fulbrighter Federico Moreno is helping grow technology-based businesses in Colombia

Federico Moreno Vasquez is a former Fulbright scholar. He studied technology management at the University of Minnesota, and had many memorable experiences while there. Today, he is a business consultant for his own entrepreneurial venture, one that provides professional advisory for small business based in his home country of Colombia.

“I can clearly remember the first time I held a heavy cellphone in my hand… or the first time I was able to browse a website when the internet first came to my city,” Fulbright scholar and recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Federico Moreno Vasquez, recalls. “This caused such an impact on me that from early high school I was sure that I wanted to explore information technologies… I knew that the 21st century was going to be the Communications Century, and I wanted to be part of that boom.”

This desire to pursue a career in information technology was only solidified while taking classes in telecommunications engineering at the Universidad de Medellín in his home country of Colombia.

“I was very excited [about] all the interesting courses I could take to understand the science behind technology, the way technology operates, and how it improves people’s lives. I felt I was about to get into one of the most exotic and mysterious areas,” Vasquez explains.
Unsurprisingly, four years’ worth of classes at the Universidad of Medellin was not enough to satisfy Vasquez; he wanted more. After graduating with a degree in telecommunications engineering, Vasquez decided to apply for a Fulbright scholarship administered by Laspau. He was soon accepted to the University of Minnesota to pursue a master’s of science in the management of technology. There, not only did Vasquez learn how to navigate the turbulence of today’s technology business world, gain leadership skills, and explore business strategies to increase the competitiveness of Colombian companies in the information technologies sector, but he also had the chance to take part in many of the remarkable opportunities available to the University’s students.

“It couldn’t be better for me: getting to know a genius of one of the most successful products in the world giving a lecture in product development and innovation in the heart of Minnesota.”

“During our visit to Singapore we went to BOEING,” Vasquez shares of his International Management of Technology class trip to south Asia to visit different public and private sector companies and agencies. “There, they had a Flight Services Office where they had flight simulators to train pilots on the southeast hub. It was a great experience to learn about their strategies of BOEING in Asia and their business strategies in Singapore.”
Vasquez even had the opportunity to try a hand at one of the flight simulators.

“I was about to crash the plane I was driving when they were showing us the technology they use to train pilots,” Vasquez laughs. “I had never flown a plane before!”

However, an even more memorable experience for Vasquez was his opportunity to meet Dr. Arthur Fry, the creator of the 3M Post-IT note.
“It couldn’t be better for me: getting to know a genius of one of the most successful products in the world giving a lecture in product development and innovation in the heart of Minnesota.”

While Vasquez loved his time at the University of Minnesota and the experiences he had while a student, he makes sure to emphasize that his academic opportunities are not solely for his self-improvement, but for the improvement of his country.
“I believe that Colombia has a lot of potential to improve and technology deployment is an important pillar in that process. Colombia lacks professionals who are able to approach these opportunities, and I wanted to give it a try by studying a master’s degree abroad that could help me get specialized knowledge [to bring] back to Colombia,” Vasquez explains.

“I believe that Colombia has a lot of potential to improve and technology deployment is an important pillar in that process. Colombia lacks professionals who are able to approach these opportunities, and I wanted to give it a try by studying a master’s degree abroad that could help me get specialized knowledge [to bring] back to Colombia.”

Today, just a few months after graduation, Vasquez has returned to Colombia and is doing his part to help grow technology based businesses at home by working as a business consultant for his own entrepreneurial venture, one that provides professional advisory to micro businesses.
“Make the most of EVERY single day in your experience abroad because later on you will value the importance of that experience for your professional, personal, and academic life,” Vasquez advises future Fulbright scholars. “Do not waste any day without doing something new, insightful or amazing. And more important, for each of those days when you will be learning incredible things and living amazing experiences, think about how you will be able to apply it in your home country when you return.”

Science without Borders Scholar Diogo Castilho’s Path from the Brazilian Airforce to MIT

Diogo Castilho is a Science without Borders scholar pursuing a doctoral degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in aeronautics and astronautics.

Castilho,Diogo_webfeaturedNow entering his second year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Science without Borders scholar, Diogo Castilho, is continuing his education in the field of aeronautics and astronautics, an area of interest that he has held since childhood.

“My childhood dream was to become a fighter pilot,” Castilho shares. “I was a teenager spending most of my free time on flight simulators. During weekends, I used to construct my own R/C planes. In science fairs I knew always what I wanted to present and it was always related to aviation.”
As soon as he could, Castilho entered the Air Force Academy where he graduated as an officer of the Brazilian Air Force. But Castilho did not stop there. He continued studying by taking specialization courses in electronic warfare, safety and flight testing, and on top of all this, while working as an instructor for the test pilot school, Castilho earned a master’s in business administration and a master’s in science from the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica.

Wanting to gain a deeper understanding of systems engineering concepts to make modern system, such as planes and cars, safer and more intuitive, Castilho decided to apply for a Science without Borders scholarship administered by Laspau. Not long after, Castilho was admitted to MIT, a place, Castilho emphasizes, that in just two years, has already provided him with some invaluable experiences.

“MIT provides us the opportunity to work with remarkable people from many different places. What we learn goes much further than language and technical knowledge. We see the small details that define different cultures.”

One experience in particular stands out in Castilho’s mind when asked about an unforgettable moment during his time thus far at MIT.

“MIT provides us the opportunity to work with remarkable people from many different places. What we learn goes much further than language and technical knowledge. We see the small details that define different cultures.”

“I am a huge fan of the space race,” Castilho explains. “At MIT, I had the opportunity to attend many lectures. One of them was the astronaut Jim Lovell, the commander of the Apollo 13… I watched from the second row of a super packed auditorium and his lecture was memorable.”
Currently, Castilho is spending the summer at MIT, continuing his research with the Systems Engineering Research Lab (SERL) headed by Professor Nancy Leveson. The focus of the lab is on systems safety. Castilho, along with other researchers, studies unsafe scenarios between a systems controller and his or her machine, with the goal of producing new safety requirements and constraints.

As for the future, Castilho maintains his childhood dream of working as a test pilot.“I plan to return to Brazil and keep working on Brazilian Air Force projects until I retire,” Castilho shares.

In addition to continuing his career in flight, Castilho emphasizes his mission to use his current research to help improve aeronautics education in Brazil. He plans to apply the concepts learned at MIT to the Brazilian test flight course and in graduate level courses at ITA.
When asked what advice he would give to future scholars, Castilho responds: “Spend some time to put your paperwork together, aligning your objectives with one of the institution’s labs and hope for the best…If you are not accepted, have in mind that the selection is subjective and don’t give up. If you are accepted, enjoy every minute and every opportunity [during] this important phase.”

Science without Borders Scholar Mayara Conde is making air travel more efficient

Mayara Conde is a CAPES Science without Borders scholar and a current PhD candidate at MIT. She studies air transportation systems in the aeronautics and astronautics department. Her most recent research focuses on creating algorithms to prevent air traffic congestion.

The field of aeronautics and astronautics is one that is both exciting and diverse. While images of airplanes and astronauts are the first to come to mind, aeronautics and astronautics encompasses much more including spacecraft design, and even the creation of algorithms to reduce congestion at airports.

PhotoMayara_smallMayara Conde, a CAPES Science without Borders scholar and a current PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is one of the many people exploring the aeronautics and astronautics field. Conde conducts research at the International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) focusing on the area of air traffic management. At the lab, Conde models and designs control algorithms to improve the efficiency of air traffic operations, saving hurried travelers from flight delays, and the air transportation industry from additional costs.
“My current research uses machine learning techniques to characterize actual flight trajectory patterns in the airspace based on recorded radar tracks in order to identify sources of inefficiency and develop prediction models for air traffic flow management,” Conde explains.

Growing up, Conde always had an interest in architecture, math and physics, leading to her decision to pursue a civil engineering degree at the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica in Brazil. While at ITA, Conde decided to begin a military career along with an engineering career by joining the Brazilian Air Force. Upon graduation, Conde was offered a position as a military instructor at ITA, a role she happily accepted and maintained all while earning a master’s of science in aeronautics infrastructure engineering, also at ITA.

“The PhD was the natural next step in my academic career,” Conde responded when asked about her decision to come to MIT. “My department (at ITA) and I decided that a PhD abroad at a school of excellence with leading-edge research in the area [of aeronautics and astronautics] would be best for my professional development and for the institute and the Air Force in the long-term.”

“There is no such thing as ‘This is not my area; I can’t solve this problem,’ ” Conde shares. “You have to be continuously learning new things and collaborating with people in different domains if you truly want to make an impact.”

The decision was clearly a smart one. Conde has taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to her at MIT. So far, she has learned much about her field, enhanced her technical skills, her communication skills, and has been able to work alongside renowned researchers and students from around the world. She even had the opportunity to go to NASA to present her work.
One particularly memorable experience Conde can recall from her studies at MIT is what she has dubbed her “first flying experience”:

“My advisor is a pilot and he usually rents a small airplane to take students to research meetings… During one of these trips, while coming back from Princeton University, I was sitting next to him in the co-pilot position. Right after we passed through the New York airspace, he decided to give me control of the airplane! I could never imagine that my first flying experience would come as a surprise and that it would be in the most complex airspace in the world!”

Looking towards the future, Conde has plans to return to Brazil to continue working with research and education. She hopes to strengthen her research field with new projects and partnerships, and applying the knowledge she has gained at MIT, to new academic courses.

If there has been one lesson that Conde has learned during her time at MIT, one that she will carry with her beyond graduation day, it is this:
“There is no such thing as ‘This is not my area; I can’t solve this problem,’ ” Conde shares. “You have to be continuously learning new things and collaborating with people in different domains if you truly want to make an impact.”