By Jill Spotz

Ami Figuerrutia ’25 is standing on the Quad. Skillman Library is in the background.

Amira “Ami” Figuerrutia ’25 fell in love with Lafayette before she even stepped foot on campus. Hailing from Santiago, Chile, Figuerrutia’s interactions as a prospective student were virtual, not only because of the pandemic but, logistically, it was just too difficult to visit colleges in the United States.

“I remember participating in a Lafayette virtual tour and mentioned to the tour guide that I was on the debate team in high school,” Figuerrutia explains. “He connected me with the coach of Lafayette’s debate team. They were so enthusiastic about getting me involved. I felt immediately included even before I applied. I thought, ‘Wow I’m not even in the same hemisphere, and I am already able to meet students and learn about opportunities.’”

Figuerrutia was ultimately awarded a Marquis Scholarship to attend Lafayette. Fast forward two and half years later, she has explored every opportunity to grow academically, personally, and professionally. Figuerrutia is majoring in economics, a decision that came about serendipitously through her experience in a 2021 Gateway Career Center Career Tracks program.

“Initially, I thought I was going to double major in international affairs and economics but I didn’t have enough space on my schedule to take all the required classes,” Figuerrutia says. “After participating in Career Tracks and talking with professors, I realized I could use finance to help make the world more equitable. Subsequently, I started to become interested in sustainable finance and impact investing.”

Figuerrutia’s interest is not only finance. In fact, her passion lies at the intersection of two very different and often non intersecting topics: disability rights and sustainable finance. As a student with a disability, Figuerrutia was interested in the topic of neurodiversity even before she arrived at Lafayette. But it wasn’t until her sophomore year that she began to think about how she could study the experience of neurodiverse students on campus. After extensive literature analysis and an independent study to further refine her focus, she was ultimately awarded a Gladstone Whitman ’49 Research Scholarship to pursue this topic further during the summer of 2023. 

With this scholarship, Figuerrutia was able to connect these two topics through participating in an independent study with Caleb Gallemore, associate professor, international affairs, and Michael Kelly, associate professor, economics. “And at that moment, it became clear that I knew what I wanted to do,” Figuerrutia explains. “After an extensive literature review, we started to determine the next steps and answer questions such as, ‘What additional studies are needed? What kind of data and tools am I going to need? Do I need to take econometrics?’”

In her research on existing disability data sources, Figuerrutia simultaneously discovered important data for her research and an amazing opportunity—the Disability Equality Index and the organization Disability:IN. As the leading independent resource for corporate disability inclusion policies and programs, the Disability Equality Index is referenced by a large percentage of Fortune 500 companies. It is also a key component of Figuerrutia’s research. 

“When I was conducting my research as a Whitman Fellow, I not only uncovered this data source that is key to my research but I also learned about an incredible international mentorship program, and I realized that I qualify for it. I applied and was selected!”

As a Next Gen Leader, Figuerrutia is able to take advantage of networking opportunities, career fairs, workshops, and most importantly, she has a personal mentor for six months. Figuerrutia is currently paired with a project manager in CitiBank’s strategic DEI practice for U.S,, Canada, and Brazil. Through her hard work and self-advocacy, Figuerrutia’s opportunity to learn from an industry expert and further explore her intersecting passions for disability rights and finance, quite literally, landed in her lap. 

“Most importantly, at least in my case, something that I wanted from a mentorship program was not only to learn how to navigate the workplace as someone with a disability but also how can I become a better disability champion?” Figuerrutia asks. “I consider myself very privileged in the sense that I am able to communicate clearly. My mentor knows how to be a champion, especially in finance. I also know there are studies out there that suggest neurodiverse employees positively affect productivity as well as other measures. I’m trying to add to that literature to make this topic more known.” 

Ami Figuerrutia ’25 is sitting on a picnic table on the Quad. Pardee Hall is in the background.Figuerrutia is currently pursuing an internship in Washington D.C., at IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) in grants and co-financing. This highly selective opportunity (Figuerrutia was the single candidate selected among a pool of 350 students from undergraduate and graduate schools around the world) began in the spring 2024 semester but was extended through August due to her terrific performance. 

Figuerrutia intends to continue her research this fall, which will ultimately become her honors thesis. She is looking forward to working with Susan Averett, Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics, as her thesis adviser on this project. She is also looking forward to resuming the many clubs and activities she is involved in, including the Model United Nations Club, where she currently serves as the vice president of finance, and the Francophone Club. 

Figuerrutia is excited to begin her senior year, although she has already made quite a mark as a student innovation lead at the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a key contributor to the 2023 RAISE Up Inclusive STEM Retreat at the Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education, and a mentor in the 2023 Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education (LIME) program. Figuerrutia also serves as a resident adviser. Last year, during resident adviser training, she presented her research on the experiences of people with disabilities in higher education, and informed other resident advisers on the resources available for people with disabilities at Lafayette. 

As for life after Lafayette, Figuerrutia hopes for a future career in sustainable finance, a position at a development bank or a financial institution in the private sector, where she hopes to use finance to make the world better. She also will be pursuing a doctorate or graduate degree. 

“When I first came to Lafayette, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but Lafayette had the resources available for me to pursue whatever I wanted. I had so many options; I just had to choose. This is a school where you can explore your passions, whether that is research, scholarship, or your major, and when you are ready to focus, you have the resources to do that too.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Dyer Center, Economics, Featured News, LIME, News and Features, STEM, Student Profiles, Students

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