Adela Hurtado ’17 has forged a unique career that combines her passions for art and the law. This fall, the Miami Beach-born lawyer, animator, and Fordham Law alumna will continue to do just that when she begins studying at Peking University’s Yenching Academy in Beijing, after receiving a coveted placement in its graduate program.
The Yenching Academy offers a fully-funded interdisciplinary Master of Arts in China Studies program for young scholars from around the world. This year, 95 students from 30 different countries will begin their instruction remotely, eventually relocating to Beijing to continue their education on campus.
The students are instructed in English, and each is encouraged to pursue their own academic interests through coursework, independent study, and fieldwork. The program was founded in 2014 to expand international educational engagement with China “beyond the boundaries of traditionally defined humanities and social sciences disciplines.”
Hurtado’s fascination with China began in the 6th grade, when she read the 14th century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (attributed to Luo Guanzhong). Since then, she has studied extensively to further her understanding of the country’s history, laws, and arts. As an undergraduate at New York University, she studied political science and East Asian studies, including studying abroad at East China Normal University.
“I want to bring a more nuanced understanding of China to important discussions,” Hurtado says. “China is not a monolith. I think not a lot of people really understand the intricacies of it, even at the international level, and things are discussed in black or white.”
During college, Hurtado took law firm and non-profit internships that afforded her the opportunity to work on cases of discrimination for race, sex, or pregnancy, and the work gave her a taste for public-interest law. Law “just seemed like a natural fit,” she says, and Fordham, after a campus visit, “felt like home.”
During her Fordham years, she continued her focus on China by studying international, Chinese, public interest, intellectual property, and business law, and by studying abroad in Shanghai at a Chinese law school. During her third year, she worked on a collaborative project with Amnesty International Japan as part of Professor Chi Adanna Mgbako’s International Human Rights Clinic. Not long after graduation, she became a legal fellow at the NGO International Service for Human Rights and helped advocate for human rights defenders at the international level in the United Nations. She then attended the 2019 interdisciplinary Yenching Global Symposium in Beijing.
While on her first visit to China with NYU, Hurtado watched The Making of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which led her to realize she could potentially pursue a career in animation, and during law school, she added to her already-packed schedule by taking animation and film classes at the School of Visual Arts and The Barrow Group. “It was a long three years, but it was a great three years,” she quipped.
The hard work paid off, as she recently made her first short film and got her first animation job as a storyboard artist and animator for an animated children’s musical.
Hurtado recalls reading about the history of Chinese animation, and learning that when the government attempted to put laws in place to promote the industry, some of the new policies wound up causing more harm than good.
“So, I want to explore the dynamic between law and the arts—especially in trying to boost the arts—and how you can apply that to other countries,” she explains. While in China, she has invitations to visit different animation studios to continue to hone her artistic skills.
Her artistic prowess extends beyond animation, as well. En Foco, Inc. is currently showing her photographic series “The Colors of Trujillo,” a poignant testament to the vibrancy of her parents’ Peruvian home town, in an online exhibition.
All of her disparate interests of study might at first seem unconnected, but Hurtado weaves them together almost seamlessly into her professional and academic life.
“I love helping people, whether it’s through law or animation and art. I think both have the potential to uplift people in different ways,” she explains. She believes that law, when combined with social movements or with art, can be incredibly powerful. “That’s part of why I’m exploring that connection in the Yenching program.”