Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Laura Valle-Gutierrez '17, MPA '18

Hometown: Mayagüez, Puerto Rico; Boulder, Colorado

Tell us about your experience prior to the Master of Public Affairs program, and how it led you to the program.

I completed my undergraduate degree [comparative literature] at Brown last May and went straight into the MPA program. I had always planned on law school, but then I took some policy classes and I volunteered with Generation Citizen, an organization that teaches civics in schools. Both experiences really reified my belief that a systems approach is the only way to make lasting change.

Before the MPA program, I was most interested in education, health, and incarceration because those are areas where race-based inequality has a disparate impact. But as graduation got closer, I wasn’t sure if being a lawyer is the systematic solution I want to be a part of. So I started looking into policy programs. Brown's MPA program is the only one that had statistics and economics over the summer. Since I came from comparative literature, I felt I needed an intensive experience building some quantitative skills.

What tools or expertise has the MPA offered you thus far?

What I've really gained is a confidence that I can figure out whatever I need to figure out even if it's something as daunting as coding and using Python [a programming language]. Doing quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis are new tools that the program has given me. They help me learn about issues from an economic framework rather than the theoretical perspective, which I felt more equipped with from my undergraduate experience.

What do you hope to do with your MPA after Brown?

I definitely want to do data analysis and use the skills and methods that I have learned to create policy solutions that are really meaningful. As a Puerto Rican, I am really concerned about how Puerto Rico is being rebuilt. Also, health, education, and incarceration continue to draw me from a social policy perspective.

-Interview by Amalia Perez '18