Name: Marcelo José Castillo Rivas
Graduate program: Economics
Year: Second year Ph.D.
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Marcelo’s service in the U.S. Army National Guard has been one of many personal changes; it led him to pledge allegiance to two countries. He is using the character development, self-discipline and perseverance he’s learned in the military to help him on the road toward his Ph.D.
“The level of pride my stepfather and brother took while being in the military inspired me to join the U.S. Army at the age of 17. I never thought about going into the military in Colombia. I really liked what I saw here. There were a lot of challenges like learning to set aside your own needs for the good of others.”
“In the military, you learned to submit to your authorities. It is your duty. You don’t have enough information to determine what the best for the troop is at the time, so you follow orders. You don’t slack off. You don’t talk back. This changed the way I approached my professors. I listen to them, because I know they have paid their dues already.”
“There is a pride in the accomplishment that I have seen here in the U.S. The U.S. has done a lot of pretty important things . . . It has an important role in the world.”
“I use my memories from the army to strengthen myself. I ask myself, ‘How does this compare to something I’ve done before? Is it really hard? No — it’s pretty easy.’ Then I do it. It may not be pleasant, but it could be worse, so I do it.”
“I am interested in helping South America. I would be passionate about working for the government or for an international organization so that I can do research in areas directly affecting foreign or domestic policies.”
“My policy: Be really efficient. Work really, really hard, then rest, as opposed to spending 12 hours at work but working only six. That is mediocre. Even if I am not the smartest guy I can work pretty hard. Work hard up front. After that, have fun, travel and see friends.”
By Fabiola Rojas
Published November 1, 2011
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