Name: Laura Villa
HKS Degree Program: MPA2
Policy Area Studied: Democracy, Politics, and Institutions
HKS Graduation Year: 2013
Undergraduate School(s): Universidad de los Andes (Bogota, Colombia) and Universidad Externado de Colombia (Bogota, Colombia)
Current Position and Employer: Advisor to the President at Banco Agrario de Colombia
Part 2 – Personal History
I was born and raised in Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia. I am the second of three children, and even though there is no history of political or policy-making involvement in my family, I felt a strong desire to work in the public sector since I was very young, a calling I like to say. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do exactly; I just knew I wanted to work in the Government.
That desire made me decide to move to Bogota after graduating from high school - a decision not very common in Colombia, where you usually stay living with your parents and studying in your home city – to enter the most prestigious college and pursue an economics major, after all, most of the technocrats in Colombia had graduated from the same college.
During college, year after year, the decision to enter the public service was clearer; when looking for an internship I only considered ministries and public agencies and ended up interning at the Ministry of Finance for a whole year. After graduation I started working at the Ministry of National Defense and after a while came back to the Ministry of Finance.
After three years working in the National Government where I had the possibility to hear all major discussions on fiscal and tax policy, I decided I wanted to get ready to play a more active role in the policy-making decision process. An MPA was the tool I needed to accomplish my new goal. I decided to apply to my dream program at HKS; all the effort during the application process and the seemingly endless wait for the admission decision was worth it.
After a wonderful two years in Cambridge I came back to Colombia and am working for the National Government again.
Part 3 – Additional Questions
What sparked your interest in HKS?
There were too many things I found interesting about HKS and the MPA2 program. The flexibility the program offers was the main driver to choose it; the fact that I could ‘design’ my own program was something I really liked.
The diverse composition of the MPA class, the quality of the professors, and the offer of courses, conferences, and activities covering almost every possible area of interest was another characteristic I loved about HKS when researching schools and programs.
At the end, HKS had the perfect combination of academic, extracurricular, and social components. The school offered me everything I wanted.
What did you enjoy most during your time at HKS?
To tell you the truth, the simplest moments were those I enjoyed the most. I remember countless conversations at the forum, every time with new people. Whereas we were talking about an assignment, a conference we have attended, a party we were planning, or simply the situation of one other’s country, these moments provided me with new knowledge and perspective.
The diversity within student body made those moments even better. There is not a single conversation in which I didn’t learn something new. At HKS, the learning experience goes beyond the classroom, and that I something I really enjoyed and appreciated.
Reflecting back upon your time as a student, would you have done anything different while at HKS?
The two years I spent at Harvard are definitely the best two years in my life. When I look back, there are no regrets, and only happy memories come up. However, I wish I had been more involved with the school centers, which provide endless possibilities to expand the learning process. The experience could only have been richer if I had made the time to get involved with one of the centers.
In your view, what type of person will benefit from an HKS education?
The main driver of all HKS students is the love for the public service. We all have asked ourselves what we can do to make this world a better place.
HKS provides an environment that constantly pushes intellectual boundaries, where you can find people with very different backgrounds and diverse takes in important issues. If you are someone who enjoy meaningful discussions, willing to challenge paradigms, passionate about public service, and a realistic dreamer; HKS is the place for you.