Gabriela Polo

Master of Sustainable Development Practice (MDP) Alumna, 2016.

October 3, 2018

Gabriela graduated from the University of Florida in 2016 with a Master’s in Sustainable Development Practice and a Certificate in Tropical Conservation and Development from the Center for Latin American Studies. Gabriela currently works as the Coordinator of the Fish Forever Program Implementation, Mesoamerican Reef, at Rare, a conservation organization based in the United States. Below is our interview with Gabriela.

Can you tell us about your current position and how it relates to your degree?

I currently work for Rare, a global non-profit that applies the latest in behavioral science to solve some of the today’s greatest conservation challenges. Its mission is to inspire change so people and nature thrive. I support the implementation of Rare’s sustainable fisheries program in Mesoamerica. The program’s goal is to revitalize oceans and coastal communities, by empowering the latter with control over their local waters. I’m lucky to get to apply the learning I gained— both in the field and in the classroom— every day.

What motivated you to pursue a degree in Sustainable Development Practice?

I decided to pursue a degree in Sustainable Development Practice because I wanted to bridge the gap between theory and practice as I helped tackle the tough challenges of today. I was active in research throughout my undergraduate career, an as important as critical thinking is, without action, we’ll get nowhere.

What aspect of your career have you enjoyed the most?

The aspect of my career I’ve enjoyed the most is witnessing the impact of my work. Witnessing people change their behaviors and improve their lives as a result of something you helped bring to life, is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have as a development professional. 

How did your MDP degree and the Center help you prepare for your career?

In addition to giving me the skills and tools necessary to be a successful and dynamic development practitioner, it gave me access to an incredible network of renowned and experienced faculty and alumni that have helped me thrive and advance my career goals.

What advice do you have for current students at the Center for Latin American Studies?

Make the most out of your time at UF! Take advantage of every single resource that the Center and the University offers— get involved in research projects, take courses that challenges you, travel to the field to put what you learn into practice, engage with faculty, and leverage the university’s wide alumni and practitioner network. All the resources needed to achieve your dream career are right at your fingertips, so use them! If you’ve found your passion, pursue it and get people—friends, family, faculty, advisors— invested in your success.

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