"I stand for healthier and stronger communities. I want to help build a safer society so that people have secure spaces where they can flourish.”
Quauhtli Olivieri Herrera is a dedicated advocate for justice and security in public policy. With a personality focused on compassion and a fervent commitment to justice, Quauhtli uses the policy knowledge he learned at Sanford to protect and promote others.
Beyond his professional achievements, Quauhtli has a heart for the community. His involvement with the Duke Hispanic/Latino Alumni Association (DUHLA), serving on its national board, showcases his dedication to uplifting marginalized communities.
Additionally, Quauhtli's leadership as the DUHLA representative on the DukeDC Regional Board exemplifies his passion for fostering unity and progress.
His gratitude for Duke and Sanford is evident as he looks to his professional and personal network and continues to advise current Sanford students.
“If there's one thing that I've learned since coming out of Duke and going through the pandemic is that putting energy and effort into building a community is one of the most important things we can do. Careers and work are important for sure, but when everything else falls apart, your community, the strength of your community, and the bonds you have with other people are what keep you going,” says Quauhtli.
He encourages current students to pursue those connections whenever possible here at Sanford.
“I think our joint and shared experiences, through Sanford and Duke, and whether they are alumni from other Duke schools, graduate programs, undergrads - even those shared experiences, is an opportunity to build a lasting community. I think the shared Duke experience is a great avenue and medium to begin forging those links with other people.”
Quauhtli’s unwavering dedication to justice and tireless efforts in the fight against human trafficking and violent extremism make him a true champion of the purpose of Sanford. With every step he has taken since Duke, he has left a lasting impact on society and ignited hope for a brighter, more just future.
As Quauhtli reflects on his journey, he emphasizes the importance of education, community, and perseverance. He encourages students to pursue their dreams and always maintain their goals, even facing challenges.
Quauhtli understands that progress might not always be linear, but with dedication and a contingency plan, one can overcome obstacles and create positive change.
"Just remember that things don't happen continuously sometimes. So, make sure you're ready to have a contingency plan. Plan A will take a while. It won't be immediate, so build plan B and plan C before you graduate.”
HELPING OTHERS IS A FAMILY TRADITION
Quauhtli grew up in a family focused on others.
“My parents were both preachers, so I learned a lot watching them preach to us as kids. That’s why I think that I stand for strong communities. There's nothing wrong with focusing on ourselves, our struggles, our challenges, and the things that are important to me - my career and my home. It takes going the extra mile or the extra 10 miles to focus on my neighbor, my peers, the stranger across the road,” he explains.
Quauhtli pursued a Master's in Public Policy (MPP) at Sanford. His specialization in National Security Policy and concurrent certificate in International Development Policy laid the foundation for his impactful career.
But Quauhtli's journey was about more than just gaining knowledge for himself. He believed in applying real solutions to real-world problems, which became evident in his fight for justice.
POLICY IN ACTION IN COUNTER-TERRORISM
Again, his time at Sanford empowered his career.
“What I learned at Sanford, what I learned at Duke - I think about it every day. I go back to some of those classes with Tom Taylor and Doug Brook, and David Schanzer, who were some of my national security mentors at Duke, because I do feel like I applied the lessons from those classes, if not every day, then quite regularly,” he recalls.
In his current role, Quauhtli protects others through policy and action.
"The highlight of my career has been my recent six-month deployment abroad. I am an ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) Officer, more specifically, an officer in the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). So, my specialization is counterterrorism, and throughout my deployment, I am able to support the whole of the government's efforts against terrorism abroad."
Just as his parents took pride in helping others, Quauhtli now expresses tremendous fulfillment in helping protect his country's citizens.
"I really enjoy the work that we do at NCTC because our job is to build layers of resilience and protection for the homeland, to be more proactive in identifying threats to the homeland. I'm proud to serve them because that's the job. So, I am very proud of my time abroad and my deployment in support of U.S. priorities. I'm proud of the work I do every day.”
Amidst it all, public policy has always been the constant.
"Public policy is important, but it is not just important to be grounded on the right values and principles but to make sure that we are responsibly using those resources that the American people give us,” he explains.
Ultimately, Quauhtli doesn’t see his job as protecting global interests but rather the individuals and communities he loves.
His passion for justice and his desire to build stronger communities continue to guide Quauhtli's path, leaving a legacy of inspiration for future Sanford students. As a true trailblazer in the fight for justice, Quauhtli embodies the spirit of change and hope that Sanford's faculty, students, and staff share.
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