Ambassador Corps Fellow Feature: Grecia De La O Abarca


I learned to confront my fears and to ask all the difficult, yet necessary questions.”

Recently returned Ambassador Corps Fellow Grecia De La O Abarca checked in to tell us all about her summer experience in Chile. Below she shares insight from her fellowship and updates us about the knowledge and skills she is bringing back with her:


Full Name:  Grecia Paola De La O Abarca      Citizenship: Mexican
Middlebury College 2017   Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow  UWC – USA’13

Dream Occupation or Job Title:
Executive Director at a socially responsible organization/company in Mexico or Latin America.

Why did you decide to join the Ambassador Corps (AC) program? What were you hoping to get out of the experience?

The Ambassador Corps program initially caught my attention because of its “authenticity”. I didn’t want to have a traditional internship experience and I knew that being part of the AC Program would give me a broader set of skills and experiences that would transcend one summer. Indeed, I left Chile with a large community of correspondences and colleagues who have taught me much more than I could have learned on my own. I really liked the global leadership focus that this program pursues; in particular its emphasis on working closely with the host organizations while simultaneously immersing into the local culture.

How would you describe your AC experience to a stranger?

For 10 weeks over the summer, I worked with the UN Global Compact in Chile. Our mission was to design a Social Responsibility course that will be taught as part of the general educational program for students at the Chilean university, Andres Bello. I was working with amazing and very distinguished people,  starting with Ms. Margarita Ducci, Executive Director of Global Compact Chile; Maria Isabel Muñoz, graduate professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso; and Mabel Tatiana Cortes, professor and designer of the online course platform. I was amazed at how fast and how much I could learn in one day. Each day I learned something new. It wasn’t easy; it was an accelerated and challenging job. The difference between the AC experience and another undergraduate internship is that I wasn’t just an intern for the organization, I was a part of the Global Compact team and I had important responsibilities. At first I was apprehensive and unsure of whether or not I could handle the responsibility but my goal was to cope as best as possible and learn as much as I could from the experience….and I’m happy to report that in the end, that is just what I did.

What was a typical day like during your AC fellowship? 

My days at the office were busy and challenging. Each day was different in terms of activities; some days I had to attend events with my boss and other days I would focus on research in the library. I had weekly meetings with my colleagues where we discussed the material and resources we wanted to include in the program. There were some periods where I worked only with professors for a full day. On these days, our meetings were quite intense, starting at 10am and finishing at 6pm. We reached a point where we knew each other well enough that we could feel when it was time to break until the following day. Once home and after family dinner, I would sometimes explore the city, but usually opted to catch up on much-needed rest.

Were there any surprises or unforeseen benefits that emerged? What were some of your biggest obstacles during the experience – professional or personal?GreciaAction1Final

The biggest surprise was difficulty with the language. Although Spanish is my native language, it still found it very difficult to understand the Chilean accent and some local words. This difficulty was completely unexpected and I hadn’t prepared for the weeks that it took to adjust. My host family and co-workers were very understanding and helped me as much as they could. Oftentimes I had to translate the Chilean expressions to “standard Spanish” in order to better understand the connotation. My host family went as far as to provide Chilean Spanish lessons every night. Not only did I learn more about Chile’s history and culture, but it also allowed me to reconnect with my host family daily and share news from that day. With such inclusion and sensitivity to my needs, my hosts truly made me feel like part of the family.

At work I was basically immersed into a new world. I was learning a lot about Social responsibility: starting at the individual level, passing through its impact in organizations and culminating with State intervention and the International Organizations that promote it. My focus was mainly on the Sustainable Development Goals, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Policy. I gained a deeper understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) even before they have been approved internationally. I was pleasantly surprised that my boss took me to important and transcendental meetings. Two events stand out in particular: one where the Minister of Chancellery spoke about the priorities for Chile in terms of the SDG; and another with a panel discussion about the Papal encyclical that criticizes human effects on the planet and how we are working to address it. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to attend such events not only for my internship purposes but also as an enriching learning experience.

Describe someone you met during the program that had a major impact on your experience.

One of the professors in my team who later became one of my mentors was Professor María Isabel Muñoz. She was undoubtedly the person who had the biggest impact on my experience. I met her the first day I got to Global Compact and to be honest, I was really intimidated by her. I felt inferior to her and nervous to think we were expected to work together for the following 10 weeks. As I asked myself how I would get through, the answer came to me: ask for help. I learned to confront my fears and to ask all the difficult, yet necessary questions. To my relief, Professor Muñoz showed humility and enthusiasm to work with me from the very first day. She answered every questions with a big smile on her face. She told me once “information has been given to us with the purpose to be shared. You cannot keep information for yourself that would make you feel superior to others. Why would only you have it then?” This sticks with me to this day and I am proud to call her my mentor.

Describe the AC experience in 5 words. GreciaShot1Final

  1. Eye-opening
  2. Challenging
  3. Encouraging
  4. Realistic
  5. Rewarding

What’s next for you?

I’m going back to Middlebury College for my last 2 years of undergraduate studies. This experience has impacted my vision of what I want to do with in my life, especially why, where and for whom I want to work in the future. This was my first time in South America. From this summer, I kept two distinct memories with me: one of the warm people, and the other of the current issues that still need attention. I know without a doubt now that I want to continue contributing to Latin America in any way possible. I encourage others to focus their skills to help Latin American countries as well. There is still much to be done, and it is never too late to start.  No contribution is too small.

Read more about Grecia:  Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow Profile

Learn more about her host organization: Global Compact Chile (Red Pacto Global Chile)

Are you the next Ambassador Corps Fellow? Inquire about next year’s Ambassador Corps Program and join the new cohort! Want to partner with Ambassador Corps and source talent for a fellowship in your impact company? Send a partner inquiry to

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FMS Alumni Present Emerge Salvador: Supporting Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil


Current Frontier Market Scouts Fellow, Yuniya Khan and FMS Alumna, Nyia Hawkins are collaborating on a new and exciting project: Emerge Salvador. The project’s mission is to “facilitate the emergence of Afro-Brazilians as successful entrepreneurs, leaders and agents of change in Salvador.” Salvador, the third-largest city and first capital of Brazil, is proud to be the “heart and home of Afro-Brazilian culture”. However, with high unemployment and inadequate opportunities for Afro-Brazilians, many courageously choose to become entrepreneurs. Their big ideas and big dreams have enabled them to create big impact in a growing city and Emerge Salvador intends to showcase their stories and highlight their efforts for the global community. Visit their campaign page for more details.

“The way forward, though littered with obstacles,
is a path many [Afro-Brazilians] are eager to travel”


-Yuniya Khan

Emerge Salvador is grateful for it’s many supporters and encourages you to help support their efforts. The following video outlines in greater details the inspiration and need for this project in Salvador.

With support, Emerge Salvador will help these entrepreneurs create greater impact and serve as role models for fellow Afro-Brazilians. Yuniya outlines the concise project goals as follows:

Over a period of four months (Sept. to Dec.), we will engage in the following activities:

Create a Bilingual Website Featuring Short Films, Blogs and Photography  Share the stories of hardworking Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs through film, photography, and written narratives. These stories will be posted on our website ( – still under construction) in Portuguese and English.

Partner with Local Nonprofit Instituto Mídia Étnica to Create a Co-working Space Dedicated to Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs  Help create and manage Salvador’s first co-working space dedicated to Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs, in partnership with Instituto Mídia Étnica. This co-working space will provide participating entrepreneurs with office space and equipment, and also opportunities to collaborate with and learn from others. We will also provide classes, workshops, speaker series, etc. to help promote growth and expansion.

Support Emerge Salvador Today!

Commercializing Impact Investment Colloquium With Sonal Shah and Amit Sharma


On Thursday, April 9th, MIIS and CSIL welcomed Sonal Shah, the Executive Director of Georgetown’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation as well as Amit Sharma, founder of Empowerment Capital. Sonal, with Amit as the moderator for the lecture, came to speak with students and community members about the policy framework of impact investment as well as debate with millennials about the role of impact investment in the future.


Sonal challenged millennials to think about how money today in invested, especially in the world of philanthropy and in the creation of foundations. Millennials need to start questioning where the money of high net worth individuals and companies is being spent – “If we don’t start asking those questions why should they care?”

Amit ended the conversation speaking about his belief that every player in the development field has a role to play in ending poverty by engaging people at the bottom of the pyramid – “its an amazing lucrative space…and I mean lucrative in every sense of the word”…. But, he cautions, that we need to shift they way in which we think about development and the impact space – “We think about (development) as ‘how can we solve their problems’ instead of making capital available to people so that they can solve their own problems.”

Arijit Sen, IEP Student interested in teaming up with others to participate! March 25th Deadline to Apply!

The following is a letter from Net Impact Director of Partner Programs Greg Francis. Please reach out to Arijit Sen if you are interested in teaming up with other MIIS students in this effort. 

Creative IdeationThank you again for your interest in the Energy Ambassador program we are running in partnership with PG&E. Given your interest in this program, I wanted to let you know about another event we’re running with PG&E – our Ideation Lab. This event will be held on Friday, April 10th, in PG&E’s corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

The Ideation lab is a high-energy, one-day design thinking workshop in which students work in teams to develop new solutions to one of PG&E’s current business challenges. The challenge this year is focused on how small and medium business owners can help create a more sustainable future for energy in California – precisely the same audience for the Energy Ambassador program!

This event will give you the opportunity to:

  • Be part of a collaborative and innovative event that confronts real-time issues
  • Get an inside look at customer engagement strategies from the perspective of a corporate leader in the energy efficiency space
  • Work closely with like-minded students from your university or from other universities
  • Learn and apply design-thinking principles to a key environmental challenge
  • Network directly with PG&E employees, including experts from the Corporate Sustainability, Customer Energy Efficiency and Marketing teams

During the Ideation Lab, we also plan to give recognition to students who have completed audits for the Energy Ambassador program and may ask them to serve as user experts on the design teams.

Students can apply individually, or join as a team – just indicate the names of desired team members in the registration form.

If you’re interested, apply soon! Our application deadline is Wednesday, March 25 and spaces are limited! Apply Now.

-Greg Francis

Director of Partner Programs | Net Impact

MIIS Hult Prize Team Heads to Boston

hultpic1Laura Benoit (MPA), Derek Musial (MBA), and Jeanette Pelizzon (MPA) will be
representing the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey competing in
this years Hult Prize regional finals to be held in Boston, MA on March 13th and 14th.
The team of MIIS graduate students have created an innovative social enterprise that
aims to solve this years Hult Prize challenge, posed by former President Bill Clinton, of
providing quality early education to ten million children under age six in urban slums by

The team competed at the Hult Prize @ MIIS campus competition held in November in
Irvine auditorium where they presented the first iteration of their idea to a panel of five
local judges. After receiving valuable feedback from the judges, the team went back to
the drawing board; almost completely revamping their initial idea to submit to the
general application for the Boston regionals. Chosen from over 20,000 applicants the
teams idea, dubbed TucánTu, is now one step closer to winning USD 1 Million in seed
capital. “We have put a lot of time and energy into better understanding the needs of
young children and how to best address them in a sustainable manner in the urban
slum,” says Pelizzon. Together the team has over eight years of experience working in
health, gender equity, agriculture, economic empowerment and education across three
continents. This real world experience, combined with the classroom theory provided by
MIIS has given these students the tools they need to holistically tackle the problem
presented. “We are working to address some of the world’s most complex issues
through social entrepreneurship and building upon assets and opportunities that already
exist but need to be strengthened and combined to increase impact,” says Benoit, a
second year MPA student.

The team has worked to incorporate knowledge through an emergent process during which
the idea has evolved through research and conversations with experts in the field including
a primary school teacher turned principal from Mexico City, and Steve Hollingworth CEO of
Freedom From Hunger to strengthen their idea. To gain a better understanding of the target
population the team hosted a design thinking sessions with their peers. On-going support
from the newly formed Center for Social Impact Learning has allowed the team the additional
resources they have needed in their bid for the USD 1 million prize.

Mark your calendars for CSIL’s official launch March 25th!

Mark your calendars for CSIL’s official launch March 25th!

Join us for the official launch of the Center for Social Impact Learning on March 25th in Monterey, California!

The all-day event will kick-off with brunch and a Pop-up Market Shop showcasing social entrepreneurs and local craft businesses. Afternoon programming will include the Cordes Impact Forum, a curated session featuring leaders and experts from the field of impact investing and social innovation.

Guests will learn about CSIL and its expanding collaborations with MIIS, Middlebury College, and the larger community.

Plan to network with people in beautiful Monterey, meet students, and hear about our programs and partnerships. All those inspired by social innovation and impact-fueled business are encouraged to join in the celebration.

We hope to see you there!

Register and view the full agenda at Eventbrite.

An Inspired Week at CSIL: Millennial Thought Leader David Hopkins 11/19 and CSIL Open House 11/20

Millennial thought leader to speak at MIIS on November 20 at 6pm in MG102 for the CSIL Impact Pioneers Speaker Series.
Millennial thought leader to speak at MIIS on November 19 at 12pm in McGowan 99 for the CSIL Impact Pioneers Speaker Series.

CSIL officially moved into McGowan Suite 220 at the end of August, 2014. Since then, we’ve been building our team, innovating programs such as the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) & Ambassador Corps, growing our network, and ultimately planting the seeds for a solid organizational culture committed to impact-driven business, social innovation, and entrepreneurship beyond the profit imperative. It’s time to share the ideas, the people, and the “flavor” of who we are and what we do. In the spirit of sharing and collaboration, we invite our local community of staff, students, and faculty at the Monterey Institute to an action-packed CSIL Community Open House on November 20. Below is the action-packed plan, stay tuned for details!

Impact Pioneers Speaker Series Feature, Wednesday, November 19

The Power of Purpose: How to Make Money and a Difference

12-1:30pm, McGowan 99

A dynamic discussion led by David Hopkins, social innovator and thought leader for the millennial generation.

RSVP is required via:

CSIL Open House Day, Thursday, November 20 ~ 

Investing for Environmental, Social and Financial Return

12:15-1:45pm, Morse A101

A lunch session with Cordes Foundation Portfolio Director Eric Stephenson

RSVP Required:

CSIL Open House

3-5pm, McGowan 220

Step into the CSIL suite and meet the new team and special guests. Official toast will be held at 4pm. 

 Questions or feedback? Contact:

Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.