It’s not all that surprising that Sebastian Herrador ’14 is pursuing a career in international finance. He was born in Mexico, spent his final two years of secondary school in India, then chose a college in the United States that he says spurred him to continue to think globally.
Herrador, who majored in economics and minored in French at Vassar, enrolled this summer in an accelerated, 12-month master’s program in international economics at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He decided to obtain an advanced degree in the field after serving a three-month internship with the Inter-American Development Bank and spending a year analyzing global markets for the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), an American trade organization.
“Our focus at AMT was helping American manufacturing companies improve their marketing intelligence,” Herrador says. “We look at economic indicators to help our companies assess the future of markets around the globe. For example, there are a lot of mixed feelings right now about the future of Chinese manufacturing, whether it will perform the way it was originally forecast.”
One of Herrador’s major projects at AMT was helping to set up satellite offices overseas to allow American companies to test global markets without having to make substantial investments in real estate and support staff. “A lot of small companies might want to investigate international trade, but the financial risk is too high, so AMT has created offices abroad to lend to American companies,” he explains. “Then the company can go to, say, Brazil and test the market without spending a lot of time or money setting up its own office. It enables some companies to try things they would otherwise not have tried, and that can end up creating a lot of jobs.”
Herrador says he’s glad he made the decision to “expand my own horizons” and leave Mexico to spend his last two years of high school halfway around the world. His family had no previous ties to India but when he was awarded a full, two-year scholarship to United World College of India, one of 15 international secondary schools on all five continents run by United World Colleges, he decided to enroll.
When it was time for Herrador to apply to college, one of his teachers recommended Vassar. He says he could not have made a better choice. He majored in economics but also took many political science and language courses. He says the flexible curriculum and the diversity of the students and faculty he met on campus prepared him well for his post-college experiences.
“Vassar helped me become a more well-rounded person; I have a more nuanced perspective about the world than many of the people I’ve met,” he says. “Vassar teaches you not to take sides on an issue until you’ve fully analyzed both sides, to understand where the people on the other side of the issue are coming from, and that’s really helped me in my work since then.
“Vassar gave me a solid foundation, not just in economics but in many other ways as well,” Herrador adds. “We are taught that if things aren’t working out, it doesn’t mean it has to be that way, and a lot of people at Vassar are working to make it a better place. I’ve brought that thinking with me wherever I’ve gone.”
Herrador says his studies in the classroom and his real-world experience working for the manufacturers’ trade association have convinced him that free-trade policies are more beneficial in the long run than protectionist policies. “Competitive trade policies force companies to step up their game, and in the long term that generates more wealth,” he says. “Protectionist policies make it easier for some companies, but the economy is not really moving forward. It’s like not having a challenging professor: maybe the students are happy that it’s easy to get a good grade, but down the road they discover they haven’t learned anything.”