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Fulbrighter Marielos Marin is Helping Central America Prepare for the Effects of Climate Change

Marielos Arlen Marin is a Fulbright scholar currently studying at UMass Amherst. She is very passionate about her role as an urban planner.



Growing up, Fulbright Scholar Marielos Arlen Marin did not ask for a new book or a new bicycle for her birthday. Marin wanted something that most young girls don’t even know exists.

“When I was nine years old, I would tell my mom to get me a PhD; I would tell her I wanted one of those,” Marin shared to a room full of Laspau staff and board members.

Raised in El Salvador by a family of ambitious women including a mother and grandmother who, despite their many hardships, managed to receive college degrees, Marin understood the importance of education in order to achieve her dream of one day becoming a scientist like Marie Curie. Marin experimented with many different fields of science while in school but it wasn’t until she enrolled in a specialized architecture class in college that she found a new dream: to become an urban planner.

“At that moment, everything changed for me,” Marin explained. “After having been an average student for a very long time, I became one of the best students in the class. I was super excited to have found something I loved so much.”

After graduation, Marin assisted Mario Lungo, one of only two urban planners with PhD degrees in El Salvador, before enrolling in the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Guatemala to obtain a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. There Marin would remain for the next five years, first as a student and later as a professor on climate change and land policies.


“Because of this scholarship I am able to call myself ‘a Latin American woman of science.’ I feel that I belong to something bigger than myself.”


While at the Lincoln Institute, Marin pursued an opportunity to present her research at the Lincoln Land Institute. Despite not knowing a word of English, Marin managed to complete the application form with the help of Google Translate. Marin knew that the program wanted all research results to be recorded in Spanish, so she thought nothing of using a translator. The English application was simply a formality. Marin quickly realized her assumption to be a mistake when the president of the research program asked her a question in English.

“I didn’t understand him. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.”

But the moment wasn’t all bad. Anna Sant’Anna, a senior research fellow at the Lincoln Institute and one of the first sociologists to work at the World Bank, overheard the awkward exchange between Marin and the president and decided to take Marin under her wing. Sant’Anna brought Marin to Cambridge to study English.

Once she mastered her English, Marin applied for the Fulbright Faculty Development Program administered by Laspau, a program that allows junior faculty to pursue the advanced degrees they need to bring new knowledge and skills back to their home universities. Marin was granted the scholarship and now studies at UMass Amherst researching the effects of climate change and their relation to urban planning.

“Because of this scholarship I am able to call myself ‘a Latin American woman of science.’ I feel that I belong to something bigger than myself,” Marin shared before ending her presentation. “I pledge before you here that, just like my mother and my grandmother before her, I will continue being persistent, working hard, being courageous, determined and hopeful. I can’t wait to go back and work in my field and enhance my country with my knowledge.”

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Laspau is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with Harvard University. We focus on strengthening higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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