Ortiz is sure Harris will give him the tools he needs to make a positive impact.
Edoardo Ortiz
Edoardo Ortiz

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Edoardo Ortiz, a member of the Class of 2020 at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, worked part-time with his dad in the family’s San Juan accounting firm and planned on a career with a large international accounting company. But in 2012, while preparing to enroll at the University of Puerto Rico as an accounting major, he found the instability of Puerto Rico’s economy too hard to ignore. 

As Ortiz describes the situation: “From the 1950s to at least the late 1980s, Puerto Rico seemed a shining example of Caribbean development. But those of us born at the end of, or after, that period have known a starkly different reality.” 

Explains Ortiz: “Puerto Rico faces the same challenges of socioeconomic decay that some parts of the U.S. are experiencing, but these problems are compounded by the complex benefits and limitations caused by our island’s current relationship to the United States. The tangible impact this has had on my family and fellow Puerto Ricans made me very interested in finding more effective policy solutions for my homeland very early on in my career.”

So Ortiz decided to expand his course of study to include economics and finance, in addition to accounting. “I wanted to see what role I could play in helping Puerto Rico regain a better economic footing,” he said. “This demanded that I develop an understanding of finance and economics as well as expand my accounting expertise.”

During the next five years, Ortiz studied for his bachelor of business administration degree while holding positions at the local library, the Government Development Bank, and a consulting firm, as well as working with his father’s company, Edwin Ortiz and Associates. 

When Ortiz graduated with honors in 2017, a friend told him about a unique opportunity to continue his education through the HBCU and HSI Bridge Scholarship program offered by the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. 

Bridge Scholarships are merit-based, full-tuition awards created to enable graduating seniors from historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to study for a year at a leading research university. Scholarship recipients may enroll in two courses per quarter, earning a total of 600 units of credit for the academic year.

As an HSI Bridge scholar, Ortiz was encouraged to explore professional graduate school opportunities at the University of Chicago by sampling the coursework and meeting the faculty of the Harris School of Public Policy, among others.

Ortiz says the Bridge Scholarship made an extraordinary difference to his career, future, and self-esteem. It not only provided the financial aid he needed to continue his education at a top school; it also boosted his self-confidence when it came to pursuing a master’s degree in public policy.

“I wish more people from the [Caribbean] islands would take advantage of the Bridge program to learn and to broaden their perspective,” Ortiz says. “I’m very grateful I was able to do so, and I’ll do all I can to encourage others to do the same.”

After considering all of his options, Ortiz decided to pursue his MPP at Harris. “I chose Harris because I wanted an institution that would challenge me to develop a broad skill set of analytical tools with which to work on tangible policy solutions,” Ortiz says. “Harris is known throughout the world as an institution of analytical and quantitative rigor, and I felt it was just what I was looking for.”

Ortiz was just settling in and preparing for his studies in Chicago, accompanied by his father, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. When they realized how bad the storm was going to be, his father decided to fly back immediately.

The devastation caused by Maria made Ortiz even more aware that decisions being made about Puerto Rico’s well-being and growth were taking place more than 1,000 miles off-island, in Washington, D.C. This realization prompted him to consider that the best way to help Puerto Rico might be from the mainland. 

“First, I want to gain some policy design and implementation experience as a consultant, part of a think tank, or in a legislative context,” Ortiz says. “After graduation, I’ll determine from which platforms — on the island, stateside, or in the private or public sector — I can best advocate for and contribute to Puerto Rico.”