Alumni Q&A: Olga Maria Beeck (F'81) on her time at SFS and the new Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation

Olga Maria Beeck graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 1981 and currently serves as a member of the SFS Board of Visitors.  Georgetown University’s new Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation was recently launched through the generosity of Olga Maria and her husband Alberto.  It was created to inspire and prepare students, faculty and global leaders with the necessary skills to generate and innovate solution-based social change here and across the globe. It will promote collaborative spaces for fostering innovation and provide experiential opportunities to pragmatically impact the social sector.
 
Why did you come to SFS originally?
 
I was born in Cuba in the year of the revolution.  At the age of 4, after a few years in Miami, my family moved to Puerto Rico. While it was a welcoming and wonderful place to grow up, the island was small and I always felt there was so much of the world out there that I wanted to learn about.  Searching for colleges, I came across the School of Foreign Service.  It was the only place I wanted to be at. Thankfully I was accepted to the Class of ‘81.
 
Do you have any recollections of professors or mentors who made particular impact on you?
 
All of us have very fond memories of Father Zrinyi who was strict but warm in his own wonderful way.  I also remember Professor Dobriansky who introduced me to Economics for the first time, clearly making an impact on me.  Jean Max Giueu, my wonderful French teacher, Luis Aguilar, a fellow Cuban, who understood us Latins and with whom we spent many an afternoon at the Tombs discussing Latin America's problems and other not so important issues.  Adhip Chaudhury taught Multinational Corporations and was also a favorite. I found this course fascinating and intriguing because I could not make up my mind if these giant corporations were aiding or hampering the growth of emerging countries.  Professor Moran is still discussing this issue in his class on “Winners and Losers in the Global Economy” today.  I also remember fondly Professor Ronald Wolfe, who taught Intensive Arabic, a class I attended every morning at 8:00 for an entire year.  I was always in awe of his incredible ability to teach a language so well given that was not his native tongue. And I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Heather O'Neill my professor of Microeconomic Theory for taking pity on me while I struggled through this course, the most challenging during my time at SFS.
  
What was your most memorable time -- or favorite experience -- while at SFS?
 
My favorite memory is convincing Dean Peter Krogh that because I was the only Latin American student of Arabic at the University (and in the interest of promoting cross cultural ties, a subject so dear to him), I was obligated to attend the summer program in Jordan offered to the students in the Arabic Studies program, which I was not a part of.  My parents could not believe my audacity but agreed to let me go.
 
I also had the opportunity to participate in a summer long, total immersion program at the Summer Institute for Portuguese.  This program was very strong and in one summer brought my Portuguese to where I was able to comfortably work in the language at my first job at Chase Manhattan Bank.  I have very fond memories of this summer.
 
How did SFS prepare you to be cast into the role as founder of this new center and how did your interest in development economics lead to the creation of the center?
 
SFS gave me a broad view of the world and an understanding of the economies, the cultures, and the languages and of relationships between governments.  But besides the academics, the School of Foreign Service as part of Georgetown University, taught me how to look at the world as one, a place where we are all responsible for the well being of the other.  The new center that we are founding hopes to contribute in a meaningful way towards fulfilling this responsibility.