The SIGnboard: SIG Snapshot
HLAAF—Harvard Latin American Alumni and Friends—launched its Facebook page in March 2013, hosted its first official alumni reception that May, launched its official website (www.harvardlatinamerica.org) this past June, and in October helped sponsor the first Latin America Career Fair at Harvard. That event—run by HLAAF, the Office of Career Services, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the Harvard-affiliated Academic and Professional Programs for the Americas (LASPAU)—drew 120 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as LASPAU fellows and a mix of employers ranging from U.S. and Latin-American companies to nonprofit groups, reports HLAAF president María Carla Chicuen ’10.
The officers of this Harvard Alumni Association Shared Interest Group (SIG) hope to make the fair an annual event. It’s part of their goal of building networks for the University’s Latin American community: “all alumni/ae, students, faculty, and staff with an academic, professional, or personal interest in the rich cultural heritage and socio-economic and political reality of Latin America.” Their own roots in Cuba, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Jamaica, and the United States strengthen their efforts to help Harvard recruit student applicants from Latin America, just as their own experiences help them foster connections between international students and alumni and their Latino counterparts. HLAAF is now collaborating with several undergraduate groups, including Harvard Model United Nations Latin America (on conferences in the region) and HOLA, the Harvard Organization for Latin America (on videos featuring current Latin American students providing information to prospective applicants).
HLAAF’s origin dates to a 2009 meeting of Latin American Harvard Club leaders and other regional alumni. The discussions convinced Teresita Alvarez-Bjelland ’76, M.B.A. ’79, that year’s HAA president, and Manuel Montori, M.B.A. ’93 (HLAAF’s founding president), of the benefits of a SIG linking the region’s disparate alumni organizations. Today the group has more than 1,200 members in the United States and Latin America.
Developing the SIG, Chicuen says, “has required intense dedication from our board members, all alumni or student volunteers located in different cities and countries. It’s been immensely rewarding to see HLAAF grow from a dream to unite Harvard’s Latin American community into tangible initiatives: helping us establish professional and personal connections among Hispanic alumni, support Latin American students on campus, and facilitate collaboration between Latin American alumni clubs and the University. We’re glad students constantly reach out to us for help—whether to recruit conference speakers, or seek advice about study abroad. We also provide a way to organize alumni communities too small to form an official club, like our chapters in Punta del Este, Paraguay, and Jamaica. All these constituencies are coming together virtually through our presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and the new AlumniMagnet website. We cherish the opportunity to remain connected and give back to our alma mater!”
For a complete list of SIGS, visit http://alumni.harvard.edu/ haa/clubs-sigs/sigs-directory.