A global career path
When Ariel Mota Alves ’20 called the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, with an application question on a graduate school fellowship, he was shocked by who answered the phone.
“I called the scholarship coordinator — his name is Steve Bell — and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Um! Yah! Yah!’ and he told me he was an Ole. It’s crazy!” says Mota Alves.
And Steve Bell ’86 isn’t the only Ole involved with the East-West Center. Coincidentally, the dean of the EWC’s Education Program, Ann Hartman ’89, is an Ole as well.
Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, the East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.
Mota Alves was selected for the East-West Center Graduate Degree Fellowship, which gives him a full scholarship to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. The fellowship also provides opportunities to participate in educational, cultural, residential community building, and leadership development programs at the East-West Center.
Exploring a career in international development
Mota Alves has taken advantage of all that the St. Olaf community has had to offer in his four years to prepare for the career in international development that he will continue to pursue in Hawai‘i this fall.
Growing up in Timor-Leste, a small island nation in the South Pacific, and a graduate of United World College of the Adriatic high school program in northeastern Italy, Mota Alves had his sights set on pursuing a career in international development when he arrived at St. Olaf in the fall of 2016 as a Davis United World College Scholar.
Since then, while pursuing majors in political science and economics, Mota Alves has taken his experiences in the classroom beyond the Hill to gain real-world diplomatic experiences that have propelled him toward this next step at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
In his junior year he participated in St. Olaf’s Global Semester, where he and 19 other Oles traveled from New York City to Egypt, Tanzania, India, China, and Argentina while studying comparative citizenship across borders. While traveling, the cohort was able to get on the ground and get to know people in the communities that they were living.
“What I really liked about Global Semester was that our professor was able to expose us to a lot of community-centered initiatives and projects. Global allowed me to see communities that have started grassroots initiatives that have directly shaped their lives, and that was a very eye-opening and educational experience to see how you can help communities from the bottom,” Mota Alves says. “And that inspires me.”
Global allowed me to see communities that have started grassroots initiatives that have directly shaped their lives, and that was a very eye-opening and educational experience.Ariel Mota Alves ’20
Upon returning from Global Semester, Mota Alves applied for and received a Davis Projects for Peace grant, an award given to students who use creativity and innovation in the development of a project that both promotes peace and addresses the root cause of conflict among groups.
With the grant of $10,000, Mota Alves returned to his home country of Timor-Leste to carry out his project in the summer before his senior year at St. Olaf.
For his project, Mota Alves traveled to five different municipalities in Timor-Leste to visit schools in rural areas that do not often have access to opportunities that people who live in the capital have. He worked with local non-governmental organizations, activists, social workers, and health workers to coordinate a summer camp that focuses on youth empowerment, conflict resolution, and civic engagement.
“The idea is to engage our own people in the conversation of things that impact them through education, provisional jobs, and access to adequate health care because a lot of young people in these rural areas don’t have that,” Mota Alves says.
Mota Alves’ experience on Global Semester and his Davis Project for Peace have been critical to his vocational discernment, which has led him to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa this fall.
“I’m hoping to design policies for underdeveloped countries that need different kinds of policies,” Mota Alves says. “My country is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and I’m interested in going into economic development and the part of politics that designs policies that directly target people who are extremely marginalized to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth. It ties together my experiences from Global and my Davis Project for Peace.”
And his work didn’t stop there. In Interim of his senior year, Mota Alves interned with the Timor-Leste embassy in Washington, D.C., working directly with his home country’s ambassador to the United States. He also served as the vice president of the Student Government Association his senior year, where, as the chair of senate, he launched initiatives to improve access and representation of senate to students.
Finding Ole connections all around the world
Mota Alves is excited to take the next step in his educational journey in the fall at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa as an East-West Center Fellow, where Oles now not only play an active role in participating in the program, but also play an active role in shaping it.
Like Mota Alves, Hartman and Bell’s decision to pursue careers in understanding international relations were shaped by their study-abroad experiences at St. Olaf. Like Mota Alves, Hartman participated in St. Olaf’s renowned Global Semester Program, while Bell participated in St. Olaf’s Term in the Middle East.
“St. Olaf expanded my horizons and helped me to see the world, igniting what would be my life’s work and passion in international education,” Hartman says. “I had the great privilege of doing Global Semester my junior year, and it changed my life. I returned knowing that I need to go back and work overseas.”
“St. Olaf is core to my sense of myself and my life story,” Bell says. “My experiences there gave me the spark, tools, confidence, and path to a meaningful and rewarding career. In this way, working with St. Olaf students of succeeding generations fills me with gratitude and gives me a special feeling inside.”
St. Olaf is core to my sense of myself and my life story. My experiences there gave me the spark, tools, confidence, and path to a meaningful and rewarding career. In this way, working with St. Olaf students of succeeding generations fills me with gratitude and gives me a special feeling inside.Steve Bell ’86, EWC international programs specialist
Bell was delighted to see an Ole’s application come into his inbox this year. “I am confident that the education Ariel will receive as a Graduate Degree Fellow at the EWC will ably and aptly prepare him to achieve his career ambitions of nobly serving his home country of Timor-Leste,” Bell says. “As one of the world’s newest independent countries, the nation and peoples of Timor-Leste have the potential to richly benefit from the leadership training, intercultural programming, and widely applicable insights that Ariel will both receive and develop as a Graduate Degree Fellow at the East-West Center.”
For Hartman, the ties that the three Oles now share with the East-West Center makes near perfect sense. “It made me realize how many synergies there really are between the mission and values of St. Olaf and what we do here,” Hartman says. “I thought it was a perfect fit, and I hope that it will be the beginning of many future students making that connection and benefitting from the funding and unique experience offered at EWC. Commitment to globalism, service, and positive change defines Oles, and it is what we are looking for in the students we select for our program.”
Commitment to globalism, service, and positive change defines Oles, and it is what we are looking for in the students we select for our program.Ann Hartman ’89
As Mota Alves begins this next part of his educational journey amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, Hartmen believes the world needs more students like him to pursue careers in international cooperation. And she believes Oles can be those leaders.
“We need people with St. Olaf values to be part of solving the very real and complex challenges that face our world,” she says. “No longer can these be solved by one nation or within one discipline. They are interdisciplinary and interconnected.”
“What are you waiting for?” Bell adds. “The education you received at St. Olaf has prepared you well, and the world is starving for your service and leadership.”
And Mota Alves is certainly wasting no time in striving to become one of these leaders the world needs.