Nelly Vinueza López (’96, Ecuador)
Even as a teenager Nelly was a numbers person. Recognizing the impact of agriculture in the Ecuadorian economy, she had her sights set on studying agribusiness. However, one number—the cost of a college education—wasn’t adding up.
“If I hadn’t received a scholarship to study at EARTH, I would never have been able to continue my studies,” remarks Nelly. Deeply grateful for the scholarship provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Nelly believes it is her responsibility to give back by fulfilling the EARTH mission every day through her work, and by actively supporting her alma mater through involvement in the alumni association, and in fundraising and admissions initiatives.
Nelly is currently the Technical General Coordinator of PRO ECUADOR, the Institute for the Promotion of Exports and Investments of the Ministry of International Trade in Ecuador. She oversees a team of approximately 150 people, providing resources, training, connections, and support to help Ecuadorian businesses export their products and expand into new external markets. Approximately 83 percent of the more than 1,000 businesses they serve are Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME’s). A recent external evaluation of PRO ECUADOR attributed 15 percent of Ecuador’s non-petroleum export earnings to the Institute’s programs.
Through her current position, Nelly acts as a liaison between potential investors and local partners. “I love my work. I feel like we’re making a real impact in Ecuador; we are meeting the basic needs of Ecuadorian businesses and are building a more competitive country,” she explains.
Nelly has ample prior experience to tap into for this role. After graduating from EARTH she spent eight years abroad, during which she earned an MBA and worked on projects helping small farmers develop commercial products for external markets for PROCOMER (the Costa Rican exportation promoter), the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GTZ), and the Inter-American Development Bank. Back in Ecuador, she held several leadership positions at private sector conglomerates and the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, before joining PRO ECUADOR in 2013.
“EARTH’s mission is to prepare leaders to return to their countries to generate change, and in my field I am doing this. Beyond the academic knowledge, which has been important in my career, the values that EARTH inculcated have been fundamental in my day-to-day,” emphasizes Nelly. In the agribusiness sector, she adds that PRO ECUADOR only supports sustainable projects and companies that meet social obligations and environmental regulations, and guarantee food security.
Nelly is one of several EARTH graduates in Guayaquil who have made a mark as leaders in the country’s private and public sectors. And she notes that wherever they go, they are always mentioning their EARTH experience.
“EARTH made me dream about what we can achieve together from different sectors and different communities. EARTH graduates have an enormous impact and reach, and it’s precisely the commitment from organizations like the Kellogg Foundation that is fundamental to preparing new leaders who can contribute to the development of their communities, countries, and sectors.”