Natalia Hermida-Cepeda, MA COEX'19 (Colombia)

Natalia Hermida-Cepeda
Natalia Hermida-Cepeda, MA COEX'19 (Colombia)

“I come from a country where there was war for 52 years,” says Natalia Hermida-Cepeda, whose father was murdered as part of the ongoing conflict in Colombia when she was young. “But the way my mother raised me motivated me not to hate others. She made me see the other side of the story, instead of just war and conflict.”

She joined Model UN as a teenager and realized that diplomacy was the path she wanted for her future. After completing her university studies in international law and history, Hermida-Cepeda spent four years in Egypt working with a United Nations-affiliated NGO teaching young children, then worked as a Colombian consular officer for three years in Lebanon.

Hermida-Cepeda was drawn to the way Brandeis integrates Jewish ethics and values into its degree programs, given the strong Jewish roots in her home town of Barranquilla. At Heller, the real-world experiences of her professors have inspired her to find new solutions to ongoing conflicts.

“I’m really, really happy here, with how much I’m learning and seeing everything from other perspectives,” she says. “My professors are convinced there’s a resolution for everything. A lot of us came from war zones, where people just gave up. They show us different ways to do things and what’s possible.”

After completing the COEX program, Hermida-Cepeda plans to continue her diplomatic service in the Middle East, focusing on improving the lives of vulnerable children throughout the region.

“My dream has always been UNICEF,” she says. “I want to do multilateral diplomacy with children. I think children are the future. I believe they can change everything.”