A Healthy Outlook
Keren Herrán tried to look at COVID-19 as an opportunity. In the spring of 2020, internships and summer jobs were evaporating day by day, largely because of the pandemic. But she didn’t want to sit still during the summer between her junior and senior years at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Luckily, her brother forwarded her an application for the World Trade Center Institute’s (WTCI) Global Pathways for Students fellowship program, open to college students pursuing a career in global business. They meet with global executives in the Mid-Atlantic so they can learn about global business and make connections with potential employers, get tips on how to apply for jobs and more.
“This is the perfect time to be preparing for your next step,” said Herrán, a resident of Maryland. “I thought, ok this is great, because when you think about it, it’s good to know a little bit of everything. That way you can collaborate with people better.”
The program is built to help students stand out in today’s competitive job market. For Herrán, that meant learning how to streamline her LinkedIn page to stand out among other graduate school applicants at a time when applications were surging. And though she may have joined the program to broaden her horizons, as a public health student, one speaker in particular stood out – Dr. Leslie Mancuso, the president and CEO of international nonprofit health organization Jhpiego.
“I actually had never heard of Jhpiego before,” Herrán said. “I read the mission statement of the organization and saw that it aligned with public health and my interests and I thought ‘Wow, this is great.’ Then I looked up Dr. Mancuso’s biography and I thought, ‘Wow, I want to be just like her!’”
Not only did Herrán meet Dr. Mancuso that summer, she also connected with program founder Dr. James Albrecht. He regularly attends the sessions with the fellows, even when they are virtual (which was the case for her 2020 cohort). He held a question and answer session with all of the fellows and made a note to connect with Herrán. That connection blossomed into a strong mentorship that has helped open doors for her.
“The mentorship connection that I gained through Dr. Albrecht has been so valuable. After the program, we emailed back and forth. He invited me to meet with him and talk about career planning, how to make sure I don’t get distracted by the noise of what other people might tell me to do and keep that balance of thinking with the end in mind.”
That relationship continues today. Herrán has invited Dr. Albrecht to her upcoming wedding. She was able to remind him of the date when they re-connected at the 2022 Maryland International Business Leadership Awards in April, where Herrán told her story to an audience of 250 people and introduced Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who presented the Governor’s International Leadership Award to Dr. Mancuso.
“It was definitely an honor,” said Herrán after the event. “And for Governor Hogan to, after my speech, say we need more young leaders like me, that was very humbling. It was truly an honor to meet him, to be chosen to be the person to introduce him.”
The leadership awards event also allowed Herrán to meet one-on-one with Dr. Mancuso for the first time and to exchange business cards with her, a moment Herrán describes as “a dream come true.”
WTCI’s college fellowship program helped open doors for Herrán and she isn’t shy about saying so. She has encouraged friends to apply for the program and has seen others excel the same way she has. A friend she encouraged recently landed an internship through a WTCI connection.
Today, Herrán is a PhD candidate and Presidential Scholar at the University of South Carolina. She may be the youngest member of her cohort, but throughout her educational journey she has already spent time in Italy, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Panama and Ecuador. Within Ecuador she is currently co-leading a bilateral team developing a web application for sexual health education for the rural indigenous community of Cotacachi. Promoting public health is not always glamorous work, but the response she received from Governor Hogan, Dr. Mancuso and all of the other business leaders at the awards ceremony served as a reinforcement of her chosen path.
“Hard work pays off,” Herrán said. “Excellence demands sacrifice, and attending the event was a confirmation of that and to keep going forward. It was really a full circle moment. My parents came here with nothing but their Christ-centered faith. They worked really hard so that my brother and I could pursue our dreams. It was a great celebration of just how far myself and my family have come and how bright the future is.”