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Students Visit Colombia on Latin America Research Trip

Students in Plaza Bolivar group photo

During the 2023 spring break, 16 Johns Hopkins SAIS students took part in a study trip to Colombia as part of their Latin America Research capstone, visiting the cities of Bogota and Medellin, March 18-26, 2023. The trip gave the students an in-depth look at contemporary issues facing Colombia, such as migration, economic development, climate change, internal security, and the peace process aimed at mitigating long-running armed conflicts in the South American nation.

Under the leadership of Jim Marckwardt, adjunct lecturer and candidate in the Doctor of International Affairs program at SAIS, the students met with Colombian academics, diplomats, and representatives from the public and private sectors.

This was an incredibly rewarding opportunity to step outside of the classroom, and I hope to stay engaged with these themes after graduation

Zachary Cohen
Marckwardt and the students first went to Bogota, Colombia’s capital city, where they met with government officials, among them finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, who offered his reflections on Colombia’s energy transition and the economic impact of migration. James Story, the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, who is currently based in Bogota, shared candid reflections about migration and conflict in the region.

The group also met with Alvaro Uribe, a former president of Colombia, who offered his perspectives as an influential figure in the country’s politics and on his tenure as president (2002-2010). After leaving the presidency, Uribe served in the Colombian Senate until 2020.

Meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela

Meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela

The SAIS delegation was welcomed by SAIS alumni in Bogota, including Francisco J. Coy, vice minister of foreign affairs, and Sergio Guzman, chief executive officer of Colombia Risk Analysis. “The support of our SAIS alumni was pivotal in enriching the academic experience and the overall success of this study trip,” Marckwardt said. “We deeply appreciate all the help they provided us in setting up meetings and organizing an alumni get-together, in addition to other forms of support."

In Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, the study group met with delegations from Ruta N, a public-private partnership that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, and Empresas Publicas de Medellin, a state-owned utility company. These meetings allowed the students to dig deeper into the climate-related challenges Colombia is facing, and the creative ways these organizations are working on them.

Participating students shared posts on social media on what the study trip meant to them. “This was an incredibly rewarding opportunity to step outside of the classroom, and I hope to stay engaged with these themes after graduation,” said Zachary Cohen.

Marckwardt concluded: “This research seminar focused on Latin America gave the students an opportunity to enhance their research skills, deepen their knowledge of Colombia, and build camaraderie amongst one another."

Students in Plaza Bolivar

Students in Plaza Bolivar

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