Camila Pazos Fajardo wins Outstanding Young Alumni Award, Laury Cullen wins Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award
March 3, 2021
Each year since 2017, the UF Center of Latin American Studies (LAS) recognizes two notable alumni whose achievements positively reflect the goals, principles, and philosophy of the Center. While both recipients are selected for their service, leadership, and accomplishments in their respective fields, the Outstanding Young Alumni Award shines a light on an LAS alumnus under the age of 40, while the Lifetime Achieve Alumni Award honors an LAS alumnus who graduated 15 years ago or more.
This year’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award winner is Camila Pazos Fajardo, Director of Investment Programs at the global nonprofit Echoing Green. Camila graduated in 2012 with an MA of Sustainable Development Practice and the Tropical Conservation and Development Certificate.
As Director of Investments at Echoing Green, Camila drives the strategy for finding and selecting emerging leaders to join the organization’s community of Fellows, focusing on issues of climate change, education, health, human rights, poverty, and racial justice. Each Fellowship selection cycle sees nearly 3,000 applications from across the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean. Camila leads an inclusive and selective seven-month evaluation process, which results in a recommendation on how to distribute $4 million in funding. Under Camila’s tenure, Echoing Green has invested in organizations such as Emerge Puerto Rico, Urban Oasis, Latin American Leadership Academy, Vida Afrolatina, Low Carbon City, and MicroTERRA.
“I enjoy meeting and learning from people who are doing the work and not just talking the talk. In my role at Echoing Green I am able to learn from social justice leaders from diverse backgrounds who are doing powerful and necessary work.”
Moreover, Camila has increased visibility and resources to Latin American communities through her work on the 2018 Echoing Green conference – the organization’s first to be held in Latin America. The All Fellows Conference took place in Medellín, Colombia, and brought together hundreds of social entrepreneurs, funders, and partners.
Prior to joining Echoing Green, Camila worked at the UF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation supporting Dr. Kristin Joys in running the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability summer program. Camila also supported former UF Faculty member Dr. Richard Rheingans (PHHP) and his research lab doing work on vaccine equity. Her field practicum in 2011 during the MDP program was in Maun, Botswana and focused on past and future development trends in rural Botswana and their impact on community health.
“Once I started the MDP program, I was able to take learnings from social entrepreneurship and think critically about how sustainable development solutions are made accessible to people on the ground.”
Camila’s commitment to empowering transformational leadership in underrepresented communities embodies the spirit of progress, equity, and collaboration that defines the UF Center for Latin American Studies. Congratulations to Camila on her exceptional achievements!
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award winner is Laury Cullen, for his work as a researcher at Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPÊ) in Brazil. Laury graduated in 1997 with an MA of Latin American Studies and the Tropical Conservation and Development Certificate.
Laury’s work with IPÊ predates its official founding, and his contributions helped shape the vision of the organization. Founded by another UF LAS alum, IPÊ develops and disseminates innovative models for biodiversity conservation that promote socio-economic benefits through science, education, and sustainable business. In his role as researcher at IPÊ, Laury puts theory into practice, integrating wildlife and habitats conservation with improvements of social conditions for unprivileged communities.
“I have known Laury for over 30 years and have seen him flourish. He has passion and determination in all he does, and nothing deters him from his mission that binds nature conservation to social improvements.”
Among a career of outstanding achievements, one of Laury’s most notable is his Corridors for Life project, which works to link four forest corridors across fragmented habitats in the Pontal do Paranapanema. When Laury began at IPÊ as an intern, nine-tenths of the Mata Atlantica had been destroyed. Through the work of the project, Laury facilitated reforestation of private lands by training over 300 farming families in agroecological technologies that improve their land and their livelihoods.
Today, the scale of his achievement can be seen from space and via Google Earth, which shows the largest forest corridors planted in Brazil. These corridors, vital to support wildlife migration, total over a million trees that link the state’s two largest regional protected areas: the Black Lion Tamarin Ecological Station and the Morro do Diablo State Park. For the first time in decades, the loss of the Mata Atlantica has reversed, and regrowth has occurred.
Moreover, the families of the Mata Atlantica also benefit from these environmental gains. Laury works alongside these communities to integrate tree planting with improved soil fertility, water protection, and income generation. Now, 15 community-based agroforestry nurseries produce seedlings for reforestation, shifting the definition of natural capital from exploitation to preservation.
Laury’s fundamental methodology of integrating human and natural environmental success reflects the kind of interdisciplinary collaborative strategy that the UF Center for Latin American Studies strives to nurture in all its graduates. Congratulations to Laury on his extraordinary life work!
Recipients are selected by the LAS Alumni Board and typically honored during an in-person reception, which has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.