Alumni Spotlight: Felipe Félix Méndez ’22

Felipe Félix Méndez was recently named a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China where he hopes to identify opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships between countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia.


Panama City, Panama


International and Public Affairs

Felipe Félix Méndez, a 2022 graduate of Watson's International and Public Affairs (IAPA) concentration was recently named a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He was one of only 150 individuals chosen from a pool of 4,200 applicants. The ninth cohort of Schwarzman Scholars will spend a year in China, beginning in August 2024, studying for a Master of Global Affairs from Tsinghua University, a prestigious program designed to prepare the next generation of global leaders. 

"I'm thrilled to be joining the extraordinarily diverse and vibrant Schwarzman Scholars community," said Félix Méndez. "This is an important milestone, and I believe it will propel my career towards a global impact."

The Panama City native is currently an assistant director at the Atlantic Council's nonpartisan Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center (AALAC), based in Washington, DC. Félix Méndez's research at AALAC demonstrates why and how Latin America and the Caribbean can advance solutions to global issues by leveraging partnerships with other nations.

Given his professional experience and academic focus on Latin America and the Caribbean while at Brown, Félix Méndez considers this master's program an ideal opportunity to expand his expertise to other parts of the world. He also hopes to find ways for Latin American and Caribbean countries to advance mutually beneficial development partnerships with China and other Asian countries. 

With diverse interests, including international development, education and media, Félix Méndez said, "This year will allow me to explore my interests and decide on next steps while benefitting from the insights and advice of mentors and peers from a wide range of cultural and industry backgrounds." 

“ I see my thesis as the beginning of a life-long project. I will continue to deepen my understanding of these problems and advocate for solutions to be implemented. ”

Felipe Félix Méndez IAPA Class of 2022

Before coming to Brown, Félix Méndez witnessed stark economic disparities in Panama, even as the country then had the fastest-growing economy in Latin America. With that awareness, he pursued a double concentration in International and Public Affairs and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. "I saw a dire need for a better approach to policy, ushered by a new generation of leaders armed with a rigorous education and idealistic pragmatism," said Félix Méndez. "I came across the Development Studies concentration at Brown [a precursor to IAPA] and was fascinated by its interdisciplinary approach to questions of prosperity." 

Félix Méndez's honors thesis, "Panama 2050: A Development Policy Report," was grounded in his desire to apply academic rigor to understanding Panama's most pressing socioeconomic and institutional challenges and to identify strategies to address those problems. "After completing my thesis, I briefed several senior Panamanian officials on my proposed roadmap of solutions," said Félix Méndez. "I see my thesis as the beginning of a life-long project. I will continue to deepen my understanding of these problems and advocate for solutions to be implemented," he said.

Félix Méndez expressed gratitude for the exceptional mentors and professors he had at Brown as well as the friendships he developed with fellow students. "Brown gave me the freedom to pursue my intellectual interests, new and longstanding alike, as well as the guidance to do so in considerable depth," he said. Félix Méndez cited two specific courses, The Rise of China and Economic Development of India and China, for giving him "the historical and analytical foundation" to understand some of the issues he will be engaging with over the next year.

After graduating from Brown, Félix Méndez co-founded CareerBridge, a nonprofit organization providing free career advice services to under-served university students in Panama and Peru. "The crisis unraveled by the COVID-19 pandemic reversed 15 years of progress in curbing youth unemployment in Panama, exacerbating barriers to social mobility," said Félix Méndez, who serves as the organization's director of strategic development. 

"While most of Panama's employment challenges — such as declining participation rates and persistently high informality — require deep structural change, we realized that we could make a difference in many people's lives by improving access to essential career resources," said Félix Méndez. "That inspired us to create a mentoring program encompassing sessions on goal-setting, resume writing, outreach to potential employers and job interviews." 

As for future career goals, Félix Méndez said, "No matter where my career takes me next, this year will be pivotal in evaluating paths to effect meaningful change in Panama and Latin America."