Bustamante used his Harris toolkit to make the pivot from law to consulting for social impact organizations.
Headshot of Manuel Bustamante
Manuel Bustamante

"I practiced law for more than four years after graduating with my law degree from Universidad de Los Andes in 2014," said Manuel Bustamante, MPP'20. "While I was always interested in politics and policy in Colombia, over the years my interests began to shift from public law and taxation issues to international transactions."

Prior to applying to Harris, Bustamante took a course with The Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies James Robinson in Colombia. "Robinson told me about Harris and The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts and recommended I apply," Bustamante said. "I started reading faculty research and visited Professor Chris Blattman’s blog. The emphasis on analytics cemented that Harris was the ideal place for me.”

In 2018, Bustamante joined the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program at Harris as a Pearson Fellow and pursued certificates in International Policy and Development and Global Conflict Studies.

“Experiences open doors for you to grow as a professional,” Bustamante said. “So I intentionally sought to gain diverse and challenging professional experiences during my time at Harris."

For example, while at Harris, Bustamante participated in Policy Labs, an experiential learning opportunity where students apply the theories they learn in the class towards challenges facing client organizations. “Policy Labs initially sparked my interest in consulting. Having that framework when trying to solve problems was something I realized I wanted to work on after I graduated from Harris,” said Bustamante.

Bustamante also participated in the Social New Venture Challenge, run by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth in partnership with the Polsky Center. He was also a representative of the Colombians at UChicago student organization.

After interning in South Africa and Ethiopia as an Open Society fellow, Bustamante said he “started to think more like a consultant,” with a strategic focus on developing clear frameworks for problem-solving. He also applied these frameworks to the impact investing space, when working for 60 Decibels (part of the Acumen fund), and as a graduate consultant for IDinsight.

After graduating from Harris in 2020, Bustamante joined a consulting organization in Colombia called Impact Social Consulting as its social impact lead. The organization provides pro-bono consulting services to NGOs. He also started teaching an undergraduate public policy course at his alma mater, drawing inspiration from what he learned at Harris. “Something that I like about teaching is that I can help students apply that evidence-based framework to their professional goals and experiences,” said Bustamante.

Now a senior associate at Innovations for Poverty Action’s Right-Fit Evidence Unit, Bustamante consults social impact organizations to scale programs. "My Harris experience really helped me find my career path," he said. "At Harris, I was able to explore a broad range of interests in a low-risk environment and really discover what I wanted to do after I graduated. I encourage Harris students—and those who are considering applying—to experiment with different areas of interest and see what speaks to them the most. The academics and the career service support at Harris will provide you with the tools to reach your goals."