As they prepare to pursue their dreams after graduation, the Program in International and Comparative studies would like to celebrate some of our graduating seniors.

This week, meet Armando Otero IV. Otero is a PICS senior studying security norms and cooperation, as well as majoring in anthropology.

Otero, a diplomat in the making, approaches his studies with a focus on the peacemaking process. “I walked into the major wanting to understand the way in which security norms and cooperation can…  [help us] achieve peaceful resolutions.” International studies, Otero described, is dependent on people –– how we communicate, feel, act and think. Anthropology, Otero offered, is the perfect complement, “What better way [to study conflict resolution] than with the study of people?”

For Otero, the interdisciplinary approach of PICS is what makes the program shine. “I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody [in PICS] who studies something remotely the same.” From the classes to the students, flexibility and range offer a global-experience from the comfort of Ann Arbor.

“I come from a very small country,” Otero said of his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. “I’ve always had the dream of exploring what’s out there [in the world]... my desire and passion to engage with the world... has been a dream for a very, very long time.” A keen student with an eye on the horizon, Otero is currently considering graduate programs, law school and even a gap year abroad, to explore or volunteer.

A dedication to helping others is evident in Otero’s dreams for the future: “I hope to join the diplomatic corps… [to go] wherever I’m needed.” But if given the choice, Otero admitted, “I'd like to become an ambassador… to aid in the de-escalation of armed conflict.” In a sobering moment, Otero reflected “war is a very big reality in our lives… how can I make sure I can stop conflict, stop violence?” More importantly, he added, “[how can we] ensure [that] resolution…  is sustainable, achievable and long lasting.”

Otero’s ambitions are grand, “I don’t think that’s something I’ll ever achieve by myself,” he readily admitted. “That’s where the anthropology side comes in,” with people working together, Otero pointed out. “[But] even if I can’t do it [myself], it will start somewhere… I’ll live knowing I contributed to the completion of that goal –– my mind is not on whether I will achieve that goal [of peace-making], but how I will contribute to it.”

Aside from his studies, Otero is president of Sigma Iota Rho, the Honor Society for International Studies. “I love it, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Otero gushed, “I was able to meet people just like me –– who are passionate about the world… and want to make their voice heard.” The fraternity discusses developments around the world, offers a space for mentorship and help with academics, networking and developing a sense of community. “People join SIR because they want to find a community of people… who can sit down… and discuss their passions.”

When he’s not hitting the books, Otero enjoys exploring Ann Arbor. His recommendation? Hola Seoul, home to “the greatest piece of chicken I’ve ever had.” Now back on campus, Otero is also excited to try new things, “I just joined the fencing club… and I have to say, I’m not half bad!”

For other students –– inside and outside of PICS, Otero offered a few kernels of wisdom: “I do find myself trying to catch up with time lost [to covid-19]... But I know that I can’t bite off more than I can chew,” it’s important to “stay balanced… to grab as much as I can while still recognizing my limits.”