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2011-12 Humphrey Fellow Profiled in Spring 2012 Perspectives

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Isabel Arias Larsson
(2011-12 Humphrey Fellow)


Isabel Arias Larsson
2011-12 Humphrey Fellow

As a child, Isabel Arias Larsson of Quito, Ecuador, liked to watch military-themed American movies. She loved seeing jets soar in "Top Gun" and attorneys spar in "A Few Good Men." So when an uncle suggested she join the Ecuadorian Air Force, Arias Larsson, then a recent college graduate with a law degree, jumped at the chance. Once she was hired, she went through a process of medical, physical, and psychological qualification testing, then nine months of training in military school, emerging as an Air Force lieutenant.

During her 10-year Air Force career, she's served as a public defender or legal advisor in three departments: Chief of the Legal Department, Ministry of Defense, and the General Inspector. That hard work has paid off. She was promoted to captain and is due to rise to the rank of major in 2013.

Hard work is a natural for Arias Larsson. During college, she juggled studies and long hours on the job. A typical day included classes in the morning, five hours of paid work in the afternoon, and homework at night. "I like to work and study," she says. "If I do only one thing, I will not be happy."

Arias Larsson, a Humphrey Fellow at the Law School, will soon be happy again. During fall semester, she simply took classes. But this semester, she's hunkered down with course work and internships at the Ecuador Consulate and at the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) University in Quantico, Va. At USMC University, she plans to draft a document outlining how the Ecuadorian military can address human rights and leadership concerns. "I've always wanted to do good things for my country and my people," she says.

During her stay in the Twin Cities, Arias Larsson has discovered the joys of the Minnesota State Fair and the St. Paul Winter Carnival; she marvels at the butter and ice sculptures. Although she longs to see her 6-year-old son more often (he remained in Quito with her parents), she enjoys Minnesota, finding it reminiscent of part of her heritage. Her mother hails from Stockholm and met her father while working in Ecuador. Says Arias Larsson, "I feel like I'm in Sweden here."