“After a few years inside the bureaucracy, I realised that some things needed to be changed."

After ten years in Colombian politics, Jaime Hernandez decided that it was time to step back and take a break in order to design a rigorous and feasible political policy for his country. In September he enrolled in the one-year Master’s programme in Public Affairs at the Sciences Po campus in Paris.

At just 32 years old, you’ve already had a rather impressive career in politics in Colombia. Can you recount the main stages of your career to date?

My political career began in 2005, when I enlisted in a Liberal youth group which offered me the possibility of being elected to go to the National Liberal Congress. I wasn't elected that year, but I met a lot of people and created my own movement called "Los Nuevos Liberales". Not only did "Los Nuevos Liberales" get elected but I was also elected to the National Liberal Youth Executive Committee. At the age of 23 I was the youngest ever national youth secretary. After a two-year term, I was appointed National Political Coordinator for Rafael Pardo's Liberal Presidential Campaign. In that same year I ran for congress in Bolivar, my regional department. I was then appointed political adviser by Senator Juan Fernando Cristo, aiding with the drafting and approval of the Victims Law, the backbone of the present Peace Treaty. I then went on to be Juan Carlos Gossain's Campaign Chief for the governorship of Bolivar and I then worked in Bolivar for a year as High Political Advisor and was temporarily appointed Mayor of the town of Villanueva. In 2013, I was sworn in as Private Secretary to the Presidency of Colombia's Senate, and I was subsequently appointed Chief of Cabinet at the Ministry of Interior in 2016.

Despite this extensive experience, you decided to take a break and go back to university. Why?

I love my work and I am very grateful for all the opportunities I've been given, but three main reasons motivated me to take a year off to study at Sciences Po.
Firstly, the world is moving at an incredible speed and it is important to be informed about the best the world can offer in public service. If I want to be a successful public servant I need to be better informed, and Sciences Po has the most to offer me.
Secondly, after a few years of working inside the bureaucracy, I realised that some things are not right and need to be changed. I believe this change will come from the outside, offering citizens better ways to manage public services and giving them choice. During this year at Sciences Po, I'm not only becoming increasingly well informed, but I'm also getting motivated, to be able to go back and offer Colombia what I believe to be a better set of rules for the public sector.
Last of all, I have many ideas, ideas mostly based on the use of education for improving our living standards in the long term, and it is hard to develop these ideas in the middle of the storm. This year I have the time and tools to develop a political policy that is rigorously studied, and not improvised as is the case for most of what I've seen in Colombia.

What do you expect from this year of study at Sciences Po? Which skills do you need to develop?

I expect, and so far my expectations have largely been fulfilled, to meet people who I can learn from, understand other systems and cultures, broaden my knowledge of the world and further my academic wisdom. The varied nationalities of my classmates and their incredible intelligence have definitely offered me this.

In your cover letter applying to the MPA at Sciences Po, you said that you were planning to return to Colombian politics after your year at Sciences Po. What exactly drives your passion for politics? What would you like to achieve?

I believe I answered most of this question in question 2. But more to the point, I have a strong belief in the capacity of human beings to better ourselves. All humans are basically a product of the information and experiences they received while growing up; that makes the difference between a productive citizen and one that is not; between a civilized citizen and an uncivilized one; between a rich and a poor citizen; and even between an emotionally stable and unstable citizen. There are no magical policies for success, but if we offer children a better environment and improved education, they will grow up to be a better generation than we are, asking for better public services and servants.I believe empowering the people with information will create a positive cycle that can eventually correct the things I strongly disagree with that have driven the development of Colombia for centuries: inequality, exclusion, and corruption. I believe this is something worth working for, and this is why I'm preparing to once again take an active role in Colombian politics.

Related links

Learn more about one-year Master's programmes at Sciences Po

“The future is being built today”

“The future is being built today”

Fitiavana Andry from Madagascar wants to play a part in her country's future. Fitiavana belongs to the first cohort of Sciences Po - MasterCard Foundation scholars, a programme that supports committed students from Africa.

More
ADMISSIONS REPORT 2017: SCIENCES PO’S ATTRACTIVENESS CONFIRMED

ADMISSIONS REPORT 2017: SCIENCES PO’S ATTRACTIVENESS CONFIRMED

The 2017 admissions report confirms Sciences Po’s attractiveness, with nearly 17,000 candidates in total and international students in particular applying in increasing numbers. The success of our Master’s programmes is also underscored with a 6 percent rise in applications to our seven graduate schools.

More
Artillerie: discover our future campus!

Artillerie: discover our future campus!

A new chapter in Sciences Po’s history is beginning. The redevelopment project chosen for the Artillerie site acquired in late 2016 has been unveiled: it is the work of the team led by Sogelym Dixence with architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Beyond the architectural challenge of transforming a seventeenth-century novitiate into a sustainable, innovative university campus, this plan represents a complete renewal of Sciences Po after 150 years of existence.

More
Summer School: Applications are open

Summer School: Applications are open

The Summer School is an opportunity for students from around the world to discover Sciences Po over the course of a summer on our Paris and Reims campuses.  Here’s what you need to know before starting your application!

More
“To be a PhD student is to be at the heart of knowledge production”

“To be a PhD student is to be at the heart of knowledge production”

Of Sciences Po’s seven graduate schools, the Doctoral School has a unique status. This school awards both Master’s and doctoral degrees, and supports aspiring researchers at the beginning of their research careers in law, economics, history, political science and sociology. At the Research Forum – an annual event for students that promotes careers in research – the Doctoral School’s new dean Pierre François, a researcher at the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations, sat down for an interview.

More
Poor indicators make poor policy

Poor indicators make poor policy

In his new book Measuring Tomorrow: Accounting for Well-Being, Resilience, and Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century, OCFE* researcher Eloi Laurent challenges existing economic indicators and invites us to rethink the economy from top to bottom. We asked Dr Laurent more.

More
“Data doesn’t lie”

“Data doesn’t lie”

From 29 November to 2 December 2017, the Sciences Po Medialab held a “data sprint”: four days of collaboration between researchers, developers, journalists and designers to analyse data from the 2017 French presidential campaign. Simon Rogers, Data editor at Google and former editor of The Guardian's “Datablog”, explains why data is so useful for political analysis.

More
All you need to know about undergraduate applications

All you need to know about undergraduate applications

International students with a secondary education (French Baccalauréat or foreign equivalent) can apply to the Sciences Po Undergraduate College for the 2018 intake. To help you with your application, the Sciences Po Admissions team has selected some of  the most frequently asked questions from international undergraduate applicants. You will find the answers below.

More
7 reasons to choose a one-year Master’s at Sciences Po

7 reasons to choose a one-year Master’s at Sciences Po

Sciences Po in Paris offers one-year Master’s programmes for young professionals who want to fast-track their career. Each of these intensive programmes is taught in English in Paris. Discover seven of the many reasons young professionals from all over the world choose Sciences Po to take their expertise to the next level.

More