2019 Masters Argentina: 200 Argentine students, 30 speakers, and a challenge
By Claudia Poclaba, MPA ’20 (Cornell Institute for Public Affairs)
and Emerging Markets Institute Fellow
In mid-April, Georgetown University hosted the fourth annual, three-day Masters Argentina Conference in Washington, D.C. Organized by Argentine students pursuing a master’s degree at universities such as Cornell, Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, NYU, and more, the conference aimed to create a space for debate related to Argentina’s future and development. Masters Argentina promotes networking among not only students, but also politicians and business representatives who participate each year.
Spending three days with representative from the largest companies in Argentina
Masters Argentina has long attracted the most important Argentine companies to speak with students about their career paths and the future of the country. Fernando Oris de Rosa, Argentina’s ambassador to the United States, delivered the opening remarks about Argentina’s future at the embassy, referring to his audience as the future leaders of the country. The event enjoyed the presence of Alejandro Finocchiaro, national minister of education; Marina Díaz Ibarra, managing partner of North America at Wolox; Mariano Otero, regional manager for Latin America at Uber; and Laura Jaitman, G20 finance deputy, among others. The sponsors present included managers, partners, and directors from Bain&Company, McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Beccar Varela (one of the top law firms in Argentina), and Talenters (a recruiting company).
The welcome cocktail event in the embassy was a tremendous opportunity, especially for first-year master’s degree program students like myself. I had the chance to meet peers from distinguished universities in the United States and Europe, speak with the president of YPF (Argentina’s largest energy firm), and organize a challenge on education-focused NGOs in Argentina.
For the full day of talks, the conference had two breaks and a lunch, networking opportunities with speakers or sponsors, and even time with peers from similar fields. As part of the sponsor team, I was in charge of receiving their representatives and speakers. The issues discussed were timely, circling back to gender equality, for instance, as a recurrent theme after Marina Diaz Ibarra from Wolox brought the issue to the fore. The president from YPF and Aerolineas Argentina (the national airline) encouraged attendees to one day return to their country to bolster its development.
Many of us were touched by the words of these speakers, especially as Argentina faces one of its worst financial crises. The day was closed by the minister of defense and security of Argentina, Patricia Bullrich. She encouraged students not to forget that they could always be part of the generation altering the country’s future.
A challenge for education in Argentina
A few weeks before the event, I was called to organize an activity with social impact. I worked with Federico Eisner, director at Bain & Company in the Buenos Aires office. As an alumnus of Teach for Argentina, I, along with Federico, who is a board member at Teach for Argentina, decided to organize the activity around education issues in Argentina. The NGO Argentinos por la Educación (Argentines for Education) was the beneficiary of the challenge.
The challenge consisted of 14 questions about broadband in schools, school dropout, budget for education, and teacher’s wages. Two days earlier, students received an email with information about the NGO and its website in preparation for the challenge. The attendees drew on the Argentinos por la Educación website and the its published data. The contest included three questions about user experience with the web to ensure feedback for the NGO.
Thirty-three teams (almost 150 people) participated, including the minister of defense and security of Argentina and the minister of finance of Buenos Aires Province. The students and speakers were involved in the activity and discussed Argentina´s challenges in education moving forward. Some participants were not aware of some facts that the challenge highlighted; they were surprised to learn, for instance, that every hour, seven children drop out of high school in the country. Argentinos por la Educación is the first nongovernmental organization that works to make all its official data about education available online.
The future of Masters Argentina
For the last day, selected speakers participated in a private meeting with students. The idea was to host small meetings and also an open space for free conversation. The former minister of economy drew much interest from students around the state of the economy in Argentina. I was in two meetings, one with an entrepreneur who designed shelters with 3D printers to respond to humanitarian crises, as well as Nicolás Garcia Mayor, a professor from Singularity University, who as an angel investor and founded his own consulting company called Surfing Tsunamis.
After the talks, we convened at the Car Barn, a space for graduate students in Georgetown, where we had a traditional Argentine barbecue and discussed the next edition of Master Argentina, which will be hosted most likely at Columbia University.
These events help create a sense of community for Argentine students in the United States and also encouraged them to give back to their country. My attendance of the conference was thanks to the generous funding of a Johnson alum.
About Claudia Poclaba, MPA ’20 and Emerging Markets Institute Fellow
Claudia Poclaba is a student in the Master of Public Administration program in the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, College of Human Ecology, and an Emerging Markets Institute fellow. She is a Fulbright and World Bank scholar from Argentina. Until recently, she was the communication planning coordinator of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Public Infrastructure and Housing of Argentina, in which she had the opportunity to lead the communication board of the last national legislative elections. In 2013, she was a member of Teach for Argentina, and in 2015, she became a coach of 18 Teach for Argentina’s Corp members and was accountable for the members’ class impact evaluation.