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Claudia López, a 2001 graduate of the University of Delaware English Language Institute, went on to become a respected political researcher and senator in her native Colombia before running for Colombian vice president.
Claudia López, a 2001 graduate of the University of Delaware English Language Institute, went on to become a respected political researcher and senator in her native Colombia before running for Colombian vice president.

UD ELI alumna runs for vice president of Colombia

Photo by Courtesy of Claudia López

Already a senator, Claudia López runs on Coalition Colombia ticket

Colombia will hold its presidential election on Sunday, May 27 and the University of Delaware has a connection.

Claudia Lopez arrived at UD in 2001 to learn English at the University’s prestigious English Language Institute. In 2014, she won a seat in the Colombian Senate as a Green Alliance Party candidate. On Sunday, she hopes to become Colombia’s vice president as part of coalition with presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo.

"Claudia was a very determined and hard-working student," said ELI assistant professor Barbara Morris. "It was obvious she was going somewhere.”

When Claudia López Hernández turned 18, she was looking forward to voting in the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia. Before the 1990 elections could take place, however, three presidential candidates were assassinated. Shocked and motivated to change a political system that had been affected by corruption, she joined the Seventh Ballot, a student movement for constitutional reform. Her public life was born.

López continued studying at the Universidad Externado de Colombia, taking jobs as a waitress, receptionist and secretary to put herself through school. Graduating with a degree in finance, government and international relations, López set her sights on obtaining a graduate degree in public administration at an American university, but needed to improve her English.

In January 2001, López arrived in Newark to start at ELI. Though English had never come easy to López, she studied diligently and graduated as co-valedictorian of her ELI class.

“Her sensitive and caring nature became apparent to her teachers not only through class discussions about social issues, but also, to those of us who knew her outside of class, through her relation to her friends,” Morris said.

That caring nature extended to animals, especially a bloodhound named Ramón she raised from a puppy.

“When she called Colombia every few days from Delaware, she could hear Ramón crying at the sound of her voice,” Morris said. “Claudia jumped through all the medical and bureaucratic hoops to bring Ramón to Newark, including making sure he had the human escort required by the airlines, and then moved to pet-friendly Victoria Mews to house him and adopted a second dog to keep him company during the day."

At her graduation, López spoke of her hope to eventually return to Colombia to build the country of her dreams, but that her friends from the ELI would be with her forever.

From Delaware, López headed to Columbia University to study public administration and urban planning, and eventually completed her doctorate in political science from Northwestern University, as a Fulbright scholar.

A respected political researcher, López has written for Colombian news outlets Vanguardia, La Silla Vacía, El Tiempo and Semana. She has served as a consultant to the United Nations and to researchers at Arcoiris Corporation and the Electoral Observation Mission.

Never one afraid to speak out against corruption, she exposed the Colombian national “parapolitics” scandal. Several high-ranking Colombian politicians were convicted for their ties to a paramilitary group responsible for the deaths of thousands of Colombian civilians.


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