Humphrey Fellowship: A Transformational Experience

By Manuel Laredo, MSU Humphrey Fellow

My name is Manuel Laredo and I am a social entrepreneur from Bolivia. In past years, I created a circular economy company that uses the rubber of scrap tires to produce safety flooring for recreational areas. With this project, we have reused 1,200 tons of tires, which is equivalent to 300,000 tires, while at the same time increasing the quality of life for 500,000 users in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Panama. For this work, I was featured as one of 2019's Meaningful Business 100 by the British digital magazine HOTTOPICS, along with CEOs of Unilever and Natura and other business leaders who are successfully combining profit and purpose to help achieve the UN sustainable development goals.

Currently, I am a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at Michigan State University in the area of economic development. The Humphrey fellowship program is a Fulbright exchange program funded by the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Department of State and implemented by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The program competitively selects and brings accomplished mid-career professionals from developing countries to the United States for a year of graduate level study and related professional experiences. Its aim is to place Fellows at U.S. universities based on their field of interest in order to foster knowledge, mutual understanding, and a basis for long-lasting relationships between citizens of the United States and their professional counterparts in other countries.

Through this program, I have had many opportunities. First, I was invited to participate in the Domicology (study of the structural lifecycle) committee in the Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) led by Dr. LaMore. More recently, I was invited to the Extended Product Responsibility (EPR) committee, also at the CCED.

During my time in these committees, I became aware of the sustainable and circular vision that is embraced by the Center. But the thing that impressed me more was the way that the Center works to make the university solve real problems by analyzing real necessities of the community. It is for this reason that I decided to conduct my professional internship in the Center, where I am doing a description of the circular economy of scrap tires in Michigan using the butterfly methodology of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The most important things that I learned during my time in the Center were about leadership and engagement. Every meeting, every conversation gave me the opportunity to learn about skills that will help me to connect my work with the community when I return to my country. I am very grateful to the people of the center for sharing with me a little of their passion to connect the university with the community.

At this time, I have been in the Lansing area for nine months, but I am not alone in this adventure. I am here with my family who have had the opportunity to visit several areas around the country, enjoy the snow, and have social meetings with local people and feel the warm and kindly soul of the people of Michigan. Also, I have learned about the resilience of my oldest daughter who has attended a new school in a different language.

I am very grateful to the U.S. Department of State, the Institute of International Education, and Michigan State University for giving me this transformational opportunity that will make me a better professional but more importantly, a better person.

Back to Article list