By Rafael Monge MC/MPA 2024

Every journey starts somewhere. For Mason Fellows in the Mid-Career MPA Program, it begins long before coming to Harvard Kennedy School.

Rafael Monge holding up his nametag as he introduces himself at the front of a classroom
Rafael Monge introducing himself to the Mason Fellow cohort during the first day of Mason Fall Launch.

I am a Mason Fellow from Costa Rica, where I spent the last nine years working at the Ministry of Environment and Energy. I began my career as an adviser to the minister’s office and later became the Director of the National Center of Geoenvironmental Information. Through this work, I found a deep sense of purpose in advancing science-based environmental policies. I was particularly proud to represent Costa Rica on the global stage at international forums including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Group on Earth Observations.

Like many of students, I came to HKS thinking I knew where my career was headed. Little did I know, my experience here would expand my horizons beyond my wildest expectations.

I remain determined to make an impact on how the world is dealing with climate change and sustainability issues, but thanks to HKS, I have been able to rethink how I approach the climate crisis. I’ve taken Professor Dan Schrag’s class IGA-402, “Confronting Climate Change;” joined the Climate Leaders Program; and regularly attend a range of academic and social events within the Harvard and MIT communities. I’m now focusing on how AI and remote sensing data can improve decision-making in the countries of the Global South.

Mason Fellows gather around the Embrace statue in Boston Common
Mason Fellows gather around the Embrace statue in Boston Common. 

In addition to expanding my career horizons, I’ve found a community among the Mason Fellows here at HKS. During the Mason Fall Launch this August, we participated in simulation exercises that allowed us to apply and refine our analytical and communication skills in the context of real-life case scenarios. This active learning experience not only deepened our understanding but also fostered a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie within the Mason Fellow community.

Thanks to the Mason Program, I have formed strong bonds with people from many backgrounds and cultures who have had incredible journeys. They have become my friends and allies—my friend Patrycja, for example, is a social entrepreneur from Poland who has become my study partner at the HKS Library. The connections you form within the Mason cohort are, in my opinion, the most significant aspect of the experience.

As part of the Mason Fellow experience, you also attend special seminars and co-curriculular activities. Among the lecturers who have impressed me the most are Jacinda Ardern, the former prime minister of New Zealand; Daniel Noboa MC/MPA 2020, the recently elected president of Ecuador; and Professor Julie Battilana. Where else can you interact with former heads of state and political candidates, along with prestigious faculty?

The Mason Fellow journey is all about transformation and seizing opportunities. In this program, you’ll be part of a vibrant community that comes together to learn, grow, and build lifelong connections. You’ll experience a wide range of opportunities, learn to focus on new possibilities in meaningful ways, and prepare to make a positive impact on the world.

Mason Fellows gather for a photo

Photos courtesy of Rafael Monge

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