Lafuente Gathers Tools for Social Justice
Ana-Maria Lafuente had two goals when she was looking at different undergraduate programs: To study abroad and to major in international studies. Both goals took her to UST.
The stellar Study Abroad Program in the Center for International Studies that enabled her to study a semester in Italy and a semester in France in 2005 inspired her to go to graduate school and specialize in International Law.
And she’ll do just that this fall in the nation’s capital at the American University Washington College of Law, where the International Law program is ranked No. 7 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. She plans to specialize in International Law and work in the private sector, conducting business transactions. But, more importantly to her, she’ll be able to do pro bono work on the side, representing victims of human trafficking.
“I want to help people, but what does that mean?” Lafuente said. “It doesn’t really mean anything unless you have the tools first.
“Victims of human trafficking are unseen victims. People who are victims of war and famine, you can find them and point your finger at them,” she said. “But victims of human trafficking are hidden away, and it is harder to help them.”
The Center for International Studies prides itself on its interdisciplinary focus and the preparation its programs afford to students for graduate school. This year, CIS students have been accepted throughout the country to law, public policy and business programs.
“Each one of the professors at the Center is outstanding,” Lafuente said. “They have a passion for what they teach, which is palpable in all of the classes.”
Lafuente took four courses under Dr. Linda Pett-Conklin, associate professor of geography, who said Lafuente’s curiosity about diverse subjects and her tenacity will serve her well in law school.
“She doesn’t give up,” Pett-Conklin said. “She is very focused.”
And Lafuente was quick to help fellow students when they were preparing Power Point presentations for an Urban Geography class, Pett-Conklin said. “She provided a lot of good, solid help and advice.”
When she graduates and goes on to study law at a nationally recognized university, it will be the realization of her parents’ dream, Lafuente said.
Both doctors in Costa Rica, her parents “got up the nerve to move to another country, and they’re seeing all their hard work come to fruition.”
She was almost 4-years-old when her family moved to Houston so her father could specialize in cardiovascular and transplant surgery – and so their children would have an easier time pursuing their dreams.
While she was studying abroad, she focused on the history and workings of the European Union, the idea of breaking down trade barriers, how laws work and who makes them, Lafuente said.
She realized that, through law, she would be able to effect real change and do her part to stop human trafficking.
“I’m from a Hispanic family, and you definitely see that here in Houston,” she said. “But this certainly isn’t the only place where this problem exists.”
During a class called Intercultural Issues, Pett-Conklin said, Lafuente quickly grasped the essence of the subject. “She was one of the more outstanding students in terms of understanding all the concepts about culture,” she said. “I predict that she will do very well at American University's law program, and that she will become a leader among her peers.”