Get to know six leaders of change

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: December 4th, 2013

Rafael dos Santos SilvaRafael dos Santos Silva

from Brazil

What is the best advice you’ve received from a professor?
I was in my first year at EARTH and struggling to learn Spanish, among other difficulties, when a member of the faculty talked with me and his words helped me a lot. He said, “Rafael, you must persevere, you must have faith, you have to look further and never be satisfied with what you have already accomplished. Always strive to be excellent and to be the change that’s needed, because that is where you can really make a difference, and that is what an EARTH student is supposed to do.”

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m excited to go back home and work in rural extension in the region of Marañón, Brazil. My community cultivates a lot of grains, sugar cane and soybeans, and my aunts and uncles are rice farmers. Many small producers do not have the ability to fully develop their projects, so my idea is to work with these people who possess so much potential, and help them to improve. I want to apply what I’ve learned at EARTH in my community and convey to everyone how important it is to protect the environment.

Julio Gomez PalacioJulio Gomez Palacio

from Colombia

What do you think is the value of the practical experience you gained at EARTH?
I think personally that when someone actually does things, it’s the best way to learn. It’s not just about taking theoretical classes, which is also very important, but using that theory in real life is fundamental.

What are your plans after graduation?
My goal for the future is to start a company for small coffee producers. Previously, Colombia was the biggest coffee exporter but now we are in a crisis. The farmers are paid only about 10% of the price that their coffee is sold at, and with that they don’t make enough money to live. My family and my region depend on coffee, and so I want to form a farmers cooperative that will fight for 30-40% of what the coffee is sold at, to give those producers a better life.


Sharmely Hilares VargasSharmely Hilares Vargas

from Peru

What have you learned at EARTH?
When I arrived I was just 17 years old, and I knew very little about agriculture. Here at EARTH I have learned a lot about patience and tolerance, and especially about being open to new things, how to generate new ideas and that special entrepreneurial emphasis that we get at EARTH. I’ve matured a lot, even my parents have noticed.

What plans do you have after graduation?
In reality, I have many options to look into after I graduate. My region is located in the Amazon and there are so many opportunities to have your own business, but first I have to work to save some investment capital. I could work with my dad, who has a cattle business. His current system is very rustic; he only feeds the animals on pasture grass and doesn’t work with supplements or concentrates. For what he knows, it works well, but I’ve seen that I can get great results with trying new things, and I hope I can grow his business.

There is also a Peruvian EARTH graduate who has started his own fruit packing plant with small producers in the area and doing research in chestnuts, so that could also be a good option to work with him.

Karina Poveda CotoKarina Poveda Coto

from Costa Rica
During the graduation ceremony, the University awarded Karina the 2013 EARTH Prize in recognition of her academic excellence, values, and social and environmental commitment.

Tell us about your graduation project.
I did my graduation project together with my classmate Marybell Muñoz, and we worked in an indigenous community in the Sixaola area in the Caribbean. They don’t have running water or electricity, the children don’t have access to school and they live in a remote village in the middle of a banana plantation. Basically, they have a lot of problems. There are 52 families, in total between 240 and 300 people. The process was initially one of empowerment; we wanted them to feel capable of generating change and organizing themselves. This is something that is achieved in the long term, and they still have a long way to go. Right now, the hope is that they continue to feel empowered and they start some more concrete projects to improve the conditions in which they live. It’s always difficult to measure the impact that you have on a person or a community, but we’ve seen a man who doesn’t know how to read or write who is now able to organize groups of people and lead discussions. For us, that was the best gift that our project gave us.

What plans do you have after graduation?
For now I feel that with the tools and information I have received at EARTH that it’s necessary to go out and start doing things. Hopefully it will be in the area of community development, which has been the emphasis I’ve chosen during all four years at EARTH. My idea is to look for funds and get financing from a non-profit or another organization so that the project in Sixaola can grow and involve many more people.


Jose Reynaldo Reyes ContrerasJose Reynaldo Reyes Contreras

from Colombia

What does your family think about the education you’ve received at EARTH?
During all of my years here at the University, my family has been fascinated by my experience. At first, they were concerned about how things would be in Costa Rica, who would I be with, how I would feel, all those kinds of things. When I went back to Colombia, I told them about the whole academic model, what the University is based on, how they treated us and how the professors acted in front of the students and they were so pleased with what they heard. As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and now that I am about to finish, my family is so happy because I am the first college graduate in my family and it is very important to them.

What plans do you have after graduation?
After graduation I’m going to Colombia because I already have a job waiting for me with the same company that I did my internship, Catatumbo Rubber Company in my state of Tibú. I really liked the job I did there with African oil palm crops and rubber trees. I also worked with small producers, giving them technical assistance. My region has been hit hard by drug wars and delinquency because it’s an area that produces a lot of cocaine. One of the objectives of cultivating African oil palm is to replace the coca crops with these kinds of alternatives, which are less dangerous and more profitable for the producers. I think that with no cocaine, there won’t be any war. I want that for my region.

Eddie Ochoa MorenoEddie Ochoa Moreno

from Ecuador

Why did you decide to come EARTH and did it meet your expectations?
I always wanted to study agronomy, especially since it’s what my family has been doing for hundreds of years and it’s what they instilled in me. From what I researched before I came, EARTH qualified as one of the best agricultural schools in the world, and I had good recommendations from family members who had studied here before. My expectations were few, really all I wanted to do was learn. EARTH exceeded my expectations enormously; I not only got the knowledge but also the experience that made me a professional and a leader.

What plans do you have after graduation?
I want to go home and work with banana crops. Almost everything that I’ve done in the last four years has been in bananas: my internship, my Graduation Project, my elective classes, everything. My family has a banana farm and most of it is organic, but there has been one field that has been impossible to keep organic. Now it’s my turn to try and fix it. My sister Sofia graduated from EARTH in 2009 and is working with my dad already, so I’ll be working with her as well.


  1. Paula Ochoa says:

    Felicidades Ingenieros, los mejores deseos en esta nueva etapa

  2. Addisu Dulacha says:

    Good results are attained through a hard work. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. We are so proud that your dedication have enabled you to accomplish great things. Congratulations on getting your Bachelor degree!

  3. Ron Calonico says:

    Congrats, and well done to all, bravo, you have passed the first step and opened the door wider to your journey, enjoy the trip…

    Accelerate + Incubate + Educate + Community + Cooperation = Success


  4. Mónica Osorio says:

    Colegas EARTHIANOS, mil felicidades desde Bolivia. No pierdan la fé en ustedes mismos, la perseverancia para seguir sus sueños. Luchen por lograr sus metas y objetivos con todo el bagaje intelectual, cultural, emocional y espiritual que ustedes han logrado, sigan rompiendo esquemas… sigan adelante.

  5. Juan Claudio De Oliva Maya C. says:

    Quiero ser breve y objetivo dentro de lo que siento que puedo compartir con los graduados.

    En base a mi experiencia como graduado emprendedor que inicio una sociedad empresarial durante el último año de la Universidad logrando conseguir grandes inversionistas que confiaron en un proyecto que busca conscientizar a la sociedad sobre la urgencia de migrar hacia modelos de desarrollo sostenible organizacional en países que tienen la oportunidad de desarrollarse de manera alternativa.

    1.- Nunca se dejen intimidar por la opinión de los demás al momento de construir una idea que creen que firmemente puede desarrollarse como una oportunidad de negocios; cuando nos definen los demás nos limitamos a confiar solo en las oportunidades y experiencias que ya están afuera en el mercado y no en las que nosotros podemos construir para una sociedad más justa. Si tu crees firmemente en algo no dejes que nada te impida en intentarlo, tu motor en el emprendimiento se llama pasión.

    2.- Existe una línea de tiempo entre una idea y un hecho, mientras más corta hagas esta brecha más rápido obtendrás resultados para tomar decisiones y seguir adelante, para bien o para mal.

    3.- Los mejores proyectos no vienen acompañados de una buena idea, sino de un corazón apasionado por lo que hace, esto lo entenderán más en tiempos de vacas flacas, porque a una persona racional le cuesta perseverar cuando las condiciones actuales o el status quo no es el deseado. Los inversionistas prefieren una persona comprometida y apasionada que a un gran intelectual.

    4.- La experiencia es un mito, para emprender lo único que necesitas es confiar plenamente en tí, no necesitas ni dinero para empezar un proyecto, solo articular una buena idea con tus conocimientos adquiridos a lo largo de tu vida y no solo en tu experiencia universitaria, usar el poder de tus palabras te abrirá puertas con inversionistas, usar el poder de tu pasión durante el emprendimiento te permitirá forjar una relación a largo plazo con ellos.

    5.- El tiempo es tu mejor aliado cuando aprendes a ser organizado mientras emprendes un proyecto, ganarle al tiempo te permitirá ser mucho más pro activo y mantenerte alejado de un estado de comfort, cuando caes en un estado de comfort es una alerta roja para observar tu vida y tu relación con tus socios.

    6.- Para ser una gran administrador de proyectos no necesitas un MBA , necesitas ser un buen administrador de tu propia vida. Organiza tu tiempo en horas y no en semanas ni meses, así también tendrás tiempo para hacer otras cosas que te gusten que le darán un equilibrio a tu vida.

    7.- No idealices tu vida ni tus proyectos, por lo general son pocas las veces que todo sale como uno lo había esperado, mientras más rápido te adaptes a los cambios, serás un mejor sobreviviente en el mundo de los negocios y del emprendimiento.

    8.- No hagas negocios ni proyectos únicamente por dinero, sino también por la oportunidad de conocer gente valiosa, ricos o pobres, estudiados o no , todos tienen algo que enseñarte y para compartir contigo.

    9.- El éxito de los negocios no se define por los montos ni la cantidad de contratos, tampoco por la calidad técnica de los proyectos, se define por las relaciones humanas y la relación a largo plazo que logres con tus clientes. El mejor cliente no es el que paga más, sino aquel que encontró además de una oportunidad contigo, una valiosa amistad de negocios.

    10.- Puedes ser ingeniero de profesión pero si no eres doctor de tú propia vida, no importará que tanto conocimiento hayas adquirido en las universidades o experiencias laborales, el esclarecimiento no viene del intelecto, viene de la sabiduría. Esto lo comprenderás cuando dejes de ver tu vida como componentes aislados y no como un todo sincronizado.

    11.- El éxito de una persona no se define por los títulos logrados, ni por el cargo de trabajo que tenga en un negocio propio o transnacional, se define por el nivel de coherencia que tiene una persona con respecto a lo que piensa, siente y hace.


    Ing. Juan Claudio De Oliva Maya Cuellar

    CEO & Founder – Greenlook

  6. Julio Rezende says:

    Felicitaciones, lo lograram ahora es trabajar, pero no se olviden de estudiar mas. quando salirem van saber em que área quieren se dedicar por toda su vida. Comparto con Juan Claudio que no dejes sus ideales para hacer los ideales de otros, sepan escuchar pero no se desmotiven, sigan adelante siempre, porque el egresado de EARTH tiene un potencial que en veces nosotros no sabemos. Pero es enorme. Adelante muchachos….

  7. Lechipan says:

    Exactly two years down the line and I still feel it was yesterday the emotion that the graduation brings. The flashback, nostalgic memories of every day at EARTH and of friends and the bigger family. Once you step out of there with the degree at hand, the reality sets. You realize all the talk and hands on experience after all was meant for bigger and diverse things than you thought. Diverse communities, complex government institutions and research institutions. One thing I will assure you is that you are exceptionally trained and uniquely gifted. But a quick reminder. Don’t let this go to your head. Step out there and work. Make the change a reality. Do not be afraid to innovate. Great ideas look silly at infancy. It takes your passion and conviction to make them big. Do not stop reading and sourcing for new ideas.
    Wishing you God’s blessings.

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