"I am pursuing my MPA because I want to be able to combine my social work skills and policy skills to create and advocate for more inclusive policies, especially for women of color."
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Policy interests: Education Reform, Social Inequality, Human Rights
Consultancy: Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative
You hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master of social work. Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Public Affairs, and why did you choose Brown?
I am pursuing my MPA because I want to be able to combine my social work skills and policy skills to create and advocate for more inclusive policies, especially for women of color. I chose Brown because the accelerated one-year program would help me quickly gain and refine the policy skills that I need when entering the workforce and to accomplish my goals.
As a social worker, I have hands-on experience and knowledge of the impact policies have on different communities. One example is my experience interning in Denver’s Human Rights Community Partnerships (HRCP) office. Working in HRCP’s immigrant and refugee department, I learned about notario fraud. Notario fraud is when individuals falsely represent themselves as qualified to offer legal advice or services concerning immigration or other matters of law. It leads to many immigrants being victimized (e.g. criminal liability, denied legal residency, deportation). I never knew that notario fraud existed and my department fought this by increasing access to legal resources for this community.
What skills did you develop during the summer sessions and how do you see yourself using those skills in your career?
I developed economic analysis, program evaluation, and statistical skills that I did not have before entering this program. I believe I will use program evaluation and economic analysis to determine the effectiveness of social programs and policies. Once I graduate, I would like to be involved in policy advocacy work with community organizations or nonprofits. I am still trying to figure out if I want to pursue my advocacy work in education or cultural policy, but I have no preference in what city I do this work in.
What elective did you choose to complement your core courses this fall?
One of the electives I took this fall is “Legacies of Inequality: The U.S. and Beyond.” I wanted to learn more about the history and how the present structure of inequalities influences and shapes the world that we are living in today. A topic area that struck me was segregation and the formation of ghettos. The policy of redlining has had dramatic effects on this country, especially for black and brown families. It has been a great class for me to attain more of an understanding of how these inequalities impact the effectiveness of policies.
You have joined the diversity and inclusion committee at the Watson Institute. What would you like to contribute to Watson and the broader Brown community?
I would like to improve the experience of students of color who enter the MPA program. I want to provide students an open space to discuss concerns they are having with coursework or in life. I’d like to advocate for more diversity and inclusion workshops and perhaps a diversity and privilege class that all MPA students take, since many of us are going to be working with a variety of different communities.
Many students of color have experiences different from their white peers, which can create a disconnect with the program, faculty, staff, and other graduate students. I have had the experience of being the only Black woman in a room, trying to navigate my feelings of unworthiness. I have experienced microaggressive actions towards me that I occasionally internalized. I want students to feel empowered to express their views and unique voice. That comes from really having a strong support system that reassures you that you are deserving of every opportunity.
COVID-19 has forced a lot of the classroom experience online. What silver lining have you found amongst the challenges of pursuing a degree during the pandemic?
The silver lining for me is that COVID pushed me to interact and get to know my cohort in a different way. I have relationships and connections with people that I probably would not have pursued without being in the middle of a pandemic. I definitely was more motivated to connect with people, since we were not having a typical classroom experience. It has made our cohort more resilient.
What advice would you give other young professionals entering the program?
Take advantage of all the opportunities that this program and Brown offers. Ask questions and schedule times to talk to the academic advisors, faculty, and administration. Also remember to breathe and not be overly self-critical about mistakes. Mistakes are just a part of the process!