#Incoming Elliott: Carlos Eduardo Baena

Carlos Eduardo Baena, Master of International Studies, Class of 2022, #IncomingElliott Student

Carlos Eduardo Baena hails from Brasília, Brazil and has a BA in International Relations and MA in International Policy Analysis and Management from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. After graduating from his BA program, Carlos worked for a few years, in an international sales role, for both the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the Rio 2016 Olympics. During his MA, Carlos focused his research on international development, more specifically on South-South Cooperation mechanism between BRICS countries. During this time, he studied abroad in Shanghai, China as part of Fudan University´s Summer BRICS program. Carlos also teaches English to candidates preparing for the diplomatic career entrance exam of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will begin his Master of International Studies at the Elliott School this fall.

Is your grad program related to your undergraduate degree?

My grad program at Elliott is intimately related to my previous MA degree in International Policy Analysis and to my Bachelor´s in International Relations, both completed at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. During my previous studies, I was interested in international development and more specifically in “South-South” Cooperation Development models. In my dissertation, which analyzed social and environmental protection mechanisms within the BRICS´ New Development Bank, I concluded that there were important policy deficiencies in the institution.

Seeing these shortfalls, I decided to look elsewhere for answers to broaden my academic horizons and to deepen my knowledge of International Development by applying for the M.I.S. program at the Elliott School. A step which I perceive to be a natural follow-up to my coursework in Brazil as I could look to examples from other more established models of international development to strengthen development models coming from the so-called Global South.  

What are you most looking forward to about grad school? What are you most nervous about?

What I am most excited about grad school is meeting new colleagues and professors who come from such diverse backgrounds. I am also excited about being in DC, a city where I spent the first few years of my life and haven’t been back for 20 years! One other plus about being at a prestigious institution such as Elliott is that several members of the student body and of the staff have years of experience in international development and in international multilateral institutions, something which I am sure will enrich my research and broaden my understanding of the topic.

I am most nervous, like many international students, about moving abroad. Even though I lived in the US before, this is the first time I’m going as an adult, without parental assistance, and the most mundane things can be vastly different from my home country. Things like renting an apartment, setting bank accounts etc. Also, the initial general culture shock is quite daunting, but in my experience, that “shock” usually wanes after a few months.

What 3 things would you like to be known for after you complete your program?

After completing my program, I would like to be known professionally as a person who has a holistic view of my field, but, at the same time, as someone who has a skill set which allows me to tackle very specific problems. As well as a professional who is flexible and curious enough to always seek to learn more and adapt along with this ever-changing world. And finally, I wish to be known for having an actual positive impact in the world of development cooperation. 

To have this real-world impact, it is essential for me to also make important academic contributions to the field and be a conceptual innovator, creating a new policy language for social and environmental safeguards in international development projects.  

Personally, I hope to be known as someone who has a lot of empathy for others and curiosity for understanding how other people, whether it is someone from a different culture or someone from my own community, sees and functions in the world.

Why did you choose to commit to the Elliott School for your graduate program?

I chose the Elliott School because I saw it as the natural next step in my academic and professional path. Elliott is a place where I will be able to refine my skills in a policy-oriented setting, with a high-quality faculty and graduate program. Its privileged location close to important multilateral development institutions, such as the World Bank, will be an essential asset for my research. A degree from the Elliott School is also key for me to achieve my main professional goal of eventually working at multilateral development institutions, effectively contributing to the betterment of development policy in the Global South. The lessons learned by traditional development institutions on past policy deficiencies are essential to build more efficient and holistic South-South Cooperation models. For these reasons, it was almost impossible for me not to commit to my graduate program at the Elliott School. I believe that Elliott was almost tailor-made for me to build my professional and academic path going forward.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

I generally have mild opinions on food, but I feel that pineapple on pizza is nothing short of a culinary abomination. For one, the supposed pizza from Hawaii was actually created in Canada! Second, the different tastes don’t mix. Pineapple has a sweet and sour kick to it that, in my opinion, does not go well with cheese and tomato sauce. But the worst thing about pineapple is probably the texture. The rough, fibery texture of the fruit does not fit the smoothness of the cheese.

In short, pineapple has no place on the pizza pie! It definitely wasn’t in the original recipe of the dish, which, as legend has it, was first prepared in Naples, Italy in the 19th century for Queen Margherita of Italy. And this unsavory custom of adding pineapple to a pizza is quite similar to another culinary no-no that a lot of my Brazilian compatriots like to indulge in, which is to put tons of ketchup on pizza.


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The #IncomingElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights newly enrolling students to answer common questions posed by prospective and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.