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Home > For Students > MPA/MPP Alumni > Alumni in South America

Olga Corrales

Searching for Sustainable Solutions

ppp Job Title:
General Manager

Model Forest Regional Network

MPP; International Development and Environment; 1992
Duke University

Home Country:
Costa Rica

What do you enjoy about your job? What aspects of your job are the most exciting or interesting?
My job is about connecting and supporting positive initiatives called model forests (MF). A MF is a process where adversaries have turned into collaborators. Often from a conflict around the use of a natural resource (water, mines, oil or forests), an agreement on the sustainable use of the resources by diverse actors becomes a MF. To support these initiatives, and to bring to international dialogue positive examples based on participatory governance, is as exciting as it is urgent, in a moment of history where polarized visions are prevalent and bad news abounds. Every new day I am inspired by MFs.

Why did you choose to pursue an MPA/MPP degree?
I was already a lawyer. I knew that I wanted to focus my life on sustainable solutions to social and environmental challenges. An MPP would allow me to handle diverse tools that enable a constructive and rigorous dialogue on these solutions. It would also provide elements to evaluate options from various perspectives, and allow me to participate in a multidisciplinary approach to these options, which is indispensable in my field.

How did you select your graduate school?
I selected Duke based on: 1. Flexibility. It allowed me to take classes in the School of Environment, of Business and Law School. 2. Methodology. I already new that case-study based learning was especially suiting to my personality. 3. Size. Coming from a small country, I new I would feel more comfortable in a smaller school. 4. Links to my region. I was aware that Duke had ties with the Organization of Tropical Studies. 5. Environment. Coming from the tropics, I new that a rough winter would be less enjoyable. I was also aware of the green Research Triangle area, and I knew that being close to nature would suit me well. 6. Financing. I was able to secure partial financing, and a research-assistant position that enabled my MPP. That and the good will of my advisor, was key in my choice.

How do you feel your MPA/MPP is helping you to make a difference?
During my post as an environmental specialist for the World Bank, I faced resistance from the Honduran water authorities to increase water fees. We carried out a study of the willingness to pay in the poorest areas, and provided the water authority with hard information documenting that the urban poor, not connected to the water service, were paying for lesser quality water, many times more than the richer consumers connected to the service. During my post as program officer for the environment at the United Nations Development Program, I was faced with opposition by the organized melon producers resisting the signature of a methyl bromide phase out project (an ozone depleting substance); by the environment community pointing their finger at them; and by polarized visions between the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment. In a meeting with the country’s President, I was able to analyze economic information from the point of view of the producers, and to project the country’s commitments and rate of consumption in the international context. This provided elements for all the parts to reach an agreement on the schedule of compliance, and enabled the commitment of the country with the Montreal Protocol.

How would you characterize your personality?
* Team worker * Good under pressure * Compassionate * Creative * Persistent * Committed * Flexible * Curious * Diplomatic * Driven *

Contact Olga Corrales with questions regarding her graduate experience:
Email Olga

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