Alumni Spotlight

July Alumni Spotlight with Julieth Ortiz, BSPA ‘14

July Alumni Spotlight

International traveler, Cum Laude graduate, volunteer, and holder of numerous awards and recognition, Julieth has forged a rock-solid foundation for her future education, research and career aspirations. We speak about her travels abroad, work in urban development sustainability, and more.

With support from the School of Public Affairs you studied in Mexico and Belgium then did your capstone after spending time in Cuba. How did each of these experiences support your overall education? And more specifically, your capstone?
Both experiences travelling abroad for the first time in my life to Mexico and Belgium were culturally and academically enriching. Nonetheless, what I value the most about these experiences is the degree to which they opened my eyes, showed me a world of opportunities, and taught me how to look at the world through someone else's eyes. This is the most valuable support I could have asked for my overall education.

In regards to my capstone titled Food Import Dependency in Cuba, I must say I was inspired by these academic experiences abroad, but also by hands-on volunteering while travelling. First, through the North American Mobility Program in Mexico City, I explored the field of sustainability depth by taking advantage of courses in English and Spanish, and an internship. This is when I became interested in Cuba, researching cases of food security in Latin America for my class, Contemporary Globalization Issues.

Second, I took a very insightful master's level course on the impact of pesticides in the environment that allowed me to compare the United States to European Union regulations for food production during my semester abroad in Ghent, Belgium. After this, I decided to volunteer at an organic farm in Italy for the summer. Upon my return from Europe, I visited Cuba through a short agro-ecology program where I learned first-hand from different stakeholders about the island's resilient approach to food production. Cuba was a pioneer transitioning to sustainable agriculture and as someone who is passionate about food systems, it was a dream come true, but it was also a process that took more than a year to happen. So, my final capstone thesis examined the out-of-date structures of Cuban governmental institutions, whose policies that once favored the development of sustainable agriculture are currently limiting the full potential of domestic food production. Lastly, I proposed more decentralized urban production in cities as a likely solution to mitigate food production insufficiencies.

Overall, travelling has had a deep personal and career-oriented purpose for me, and I feel fortunate to have met people and learn practices that changed me and inspired me around the world.

Congratulations on being offered a fellowship at the University of California in Berkeley! Will you be looking for a graduate assistant position there? What do you hope to accomplish in that role?
I am so happy I was offered the UCConnect Fellowship! More than financial support to get started with graduate school, I see this fellowship as an exciting opportunity to grow professionally. I will explore the transportation planning field, which has always been one of my interests, by completing a specialization and producing a professional report. I hope to combine the fellowship requirements with my interests in environmental sustainability.

I am currently exploring opportunities for graduate research and instructor positions. I’d like to be able to collaborate with major food-related initiatives and/or transportation projects in Latin America. I’m considering the Berkeley Food Institute as well as the Center for Healthy Communities and faculty’s researching these subjects. In general, I feel optimistic about the opportunities that might come!

What are your long-term career aspirations? How do you feel the School of Public Affairs has contributed to them thus far?
My long-term career aspirations are to contribute to building sustainability among cities in developing countries, especially in Latin America, and to increase social inclusion through urban planning that promotes healthier quality of lives, increasing food access, education and safety. This also includes planning good quality public transportation system designed for those whohave to move through all these infrastructures, us!

Danish urbanist Gehl said in one of his latest TedTalks that “first we form cities, and then cities form us.” So, I believe that inclusive policy making can really make a difference to transform fast developing cities into integrative, sustainable and livable places where we can live without having to leave.

Thanks to the School of Public Affairs, my career aspirations have become more focused. The School provided me with the flexibility I needed to explore myself and learn while building a career that integrated interdisciplinary studies in city planning, concepts of sustainability and the environment. The school administrators and professors at Baruch as well as the universities where I studied abroad, all supported me along my journey.