Andress Appolon (BHA '02) spent her childhood summers enjoying the sunshine of Haiti, her mother's native land.
In the wake of last year's devastating earthquake, she is working to help the people rebuild.
Appolon and her family helped coordinate a team of U.S. physician volunteers with a regional hospital, and then provided months of housing for the doctors at their nearby home.
Appolon also strongly supports the Haitian Education Leadership Program, a local university scholarship program.
To Appolon, the key word is 'local.'
"I'm really trying to promote the idea of investing in Haitians and not just in Haiti," she explained. "I work with locally-run, locally-operated organizations. It's important to build capacity on the ground in terms of human resources, continuity and longevity."
Even prior to last year's earthquake, Appolon was helping the nation to 'build locally.'
While working there for USAID in 2004, she was tapped to identify a worthy project, only to see outside funding diverted at the last minute.
But Appolon was determined to see things through. She helped raise enough community money to co-found L'Ecole Bon Samaritan, an elementary school now educating 120 children.
Appolon is currently VP of Public Finance at Siebert Brandford Shank, a top minority-owned municipal securities firm. She also serves on Carnegie Mellon University's Board of Trustees.
"I was able to marry drama and international relations," she noted. "It wasn't a dual degree — it was an actual interdisciplinary degree that respected and honored their intersection. CMU was one of the only places you could do that."
In fact, Appolon believes the university's interdisciplinary environment has allowed her to succeed in a variety of diverse areas.
"The environment at CMU is extremely conducive to allowing you to explore your interests fully," she said. "I had a tremendous amount of support and encouragement to build and develop my own curriculum."
That environment pays dividends in the future says Appolon.
"When you step out into the real world, you have an incredible lens to recognize both opportunity and opportunities to mix disciplines," she said.
She added, "The university gave me the ability to be very bold in my choices. I think that anything I've achieved outside in my life really has to do with the confidence Carnegie Mellon allowed me to build."
Pictured:A Haitian family sets up camp along with thousands of other earthquake survivors in the Del Mas section of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 21, 2010. Department of Defense photo by Fred W. Baker III