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Marcela Rentería

Executive Director, Regional Office, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Harvard University

When I first came to Chile, in 2002, I began the most fascinating journey of my professional life.

After three years working in the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in Cambridge, I was asked to be part of a pioneering project: to open Harvard’s first university-wide office in the world: it would be based at the end of South America, Chile.

It was an exciting challenge: thousands of kilometers away from the centennial red bricks of Harvard yard, the Chilean office would assume the mission of connecting and engaging Harvard faculty and students to learn and create knowledge around Chile and its neighboring countries, working with local talent and institutions in a fascinating and diverse landscape.

Our work and presence in Santiago has contributed to transform Harvard into a pioneering Global University, and it has served as a model for the creation of 19 international centers.

Why Chile? That’s been a question I’ve faced since day one (although much less frequently throughout the years). Its commitment to democracy, the stability of its institutions and the presence of some of the most prestigious Latin American universities were among the reasons that bring us here. Over time, we’ve discovered in Chile some of our best allies in the pursuit of innovative knowledge.

During the last 15 years, we have seen Harvard and Chilean academics working together and deepening our knowledge in such relevant areas as astronomy, economy, early childhood education, disaster recovery, public health and environmental issues.

What a better way to celebrate the 15 years of our office than by collecting and sharing the stories of Harvard professors in their own words? The idea of this E-book was born when I met journalist Paula Molina in Santiago. We were some of the very few women at an international conference about the economy.

She introduced herself to me as a happy Nieman Fellow who was just returning from Harvard.

The Nieman fellowship welcomes some of the world’s most accomplished and promising journalists to Harvard for a year, and it’s recognized as a life-transforming experience. Paula mentioned to me that after her amazing experience, she wanted to give something back to Harvard.

That’s how we began an ongoing conversation about a project around the uniqueness of Chile and the way the country has served as an intellectual lab for many Harvard academics and students.

It has been more than three winters and summers of working together with Paula to produce this E-book. We are more than grateful to the Harvard professors who participated in the long conversations that form the base of these stories written by her.

I think they reflect very well the value of having a Harvard office in Santiago. I want to thank Paula for her generosity in sharing this E-book with us. The testimonies collected by her serve as an inspiration for continuing our work and for building new bridges between Harvard and the region.

The Regional Office and its impact is an outstanding example of Harvard´s globalization in the 21st century.

As Director of the DRCLAS Regional Office in Chile, it has been a privilege to support the development of an independent project like this e-book, in which the author reflects part of the extensive work that we have supported and accomplished as an office. It is not an easy task to summarize our history in Chile since it has involved so many academics and researchers, both from Harvard and other institutions. Giving the vast number of individuals that could be featured in this type of project, I intend to encourage Paula to continue telling the stories of other Harvard affiliates to include more unique experiences and highlight their accomplishments in Chile, and possibly other parts of the Region.