Save the Date – Nov. 9 for Our 15th Anniversary

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On November 9, 2017, friends and supporters, alums, faculty and currents students will celebrate the Leo T. McCarthy Center and 15 years of training a new generation of ethical leaders. It’s an evening of recognizing the vision and legacy of co-founder Leo McCarthy, former San Francisco legislator, California Speaker of the Assembly and Lieutenant Governor.

We’ll mark this milestone by celebrating the continuation of Leo McCarthy’s values of service for the common good through the current programs of the McCarthy Center with students who have participated locally and internationally through the Privett Global Scholars, USF in D.C., McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento, Advocates  Community Engagement and our graduate degree programs in Urban and Public Affairs.

The night will begin with a reception followed by the presentation of the inaugural Leo T. McCarthy Award, to be given to the The Honorable Art Agnos, former San Francisco mayor, assembly member and regional head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

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Today more than ever, the world needs future leaders who think critically and respond compassionately. Join us in preparing the next generation of ethical leaders and the programs that serve them—by becoming a sponsor or attending. Visit http://rsvp.usfca.edu/mccarthy-sponsorship-2017 or email Leslie Lombre, Associate Director at  llombre@usfca.edu or call (415) 422-2983.

Save The Date

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On My First Year Of Grad School

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Jessica Lindquist, M.A., Public Affairs ’18

Last July I left my cushy job as an executive assistant at a financial technology company in Mid-Market to try something scary and exciting: graduate school.  I had been accepted into the Master of Public Affairs program at the University of San Francisco.  At my core, I knew it was time to take some risks and pursue the public policy career I had always dreamed about.

The first week of orientation was a whirlwind and admittedly I had a few moments of doubt, which I later realized is a classic stage of starting grad school. I found myself in a classroom of strangers feeling anxious about what the fall semester would bring. Yet, after a few weeks into the program, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I had adjusted to back to student life.

My favorite class of the semester was Applied American Politics taught by Professor Brian Weiner. Our small seminar provided us the space to have intense discussions, applying classic political literature to current events. The 2016 presidential campaign was a subject that we covered substantially in class and Professor Weiner wanted to afford us the opportunity to campaign in Nevada, the closest swing state to California. With a lot of time and coordination on his part, Professor Weiner was able to secure enough funding for anyone in the class who wanted to make the trip to Reno.

On an October afternoon I boarded a Greyhound bus with five of my classmates to persuade Nevadans to vote for the Hillary Clinton. Over the course of the weekend we door knocked in wet weather and unabashedly phone banked strangers. Many of the voters we spoke to were still undecided and it was insightful to talk through some of their concerns about the two candidates. Aside from the incredible campaign experience, the trip also turned my five classmates into five close friends. We spent time talking politics late into the night, swapped stories from the past, and discussed our dreams for the future. The bonds I made during the trip became even stronger when we were back in class.

A few weeks later on election night I watched in horror as Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania turned red. I woke up November 9th puffy eyed and feeling absolutely distraught. My only solace was knowing that later in the day I would go to class and be able to commiserate with my fellow classmates, who I knew were equally devastated about the election results. Together we tried to process the fact that Donald Trump would become the forty-fifth president of our country. In the days and weeks that followed, my closest support group became my academic community .  

Winter break provided an opportunity to reset and reflect. I had time to think about the direction I wanted to take my graduate career. Over the last semester I noticed I kept being drawn to policy topics that were related to how our financial system negatively impacted the lives of low-income consumers. I had a revelation that I wanted to focus on consumer financial protection policy.  I finally had clarity about my policy interests, which gave me direction and purpose.

A few days before spring semester, I traveled to D.C. to attend the Women’s March. The day after the inauguration, I joined hundreds of thousands of people to protest the hateful and discriminatory values of the Trump Administration. The energy in the city was electric and as I marched alongside a few of my friends I began to feel resilient.  I saw so many different walks of life join together in solidarity for a common cause.  At the risk of sounding trite, it was one of most beautiful experiences I have had in my life and it made me feel recommitted to use my voice to stand up for justice and equality.

Spring semester felt different in several ways. I had more confidence as a student and I knew what level of effort was required to get the most out of my classes. The coursework was incredibly demanding and I spent even more time studying. However, each of my professors was incredibly supportive and made themselves available whenever I reached out to them with questions or guidance.

Urban Public Finance was a class that I looked forward to every single week. Ed Harrington was the San Francisco Controller for twenty years and he has an impressive level of knowledge about the inner workings of City Hall. He brought in many guest speakers from the City that spoke to our class on a range of topics including local budgets, economic development and municipal debt. Not only were the speakers experts in their field, they had an obvious deep commitment to public service.  After discussing career prospects with Ed, I became very interested in working at City Hall in the future.

By the middle of the semester my cohort began looking for internships.  Having a full coursework load, working part time, and trying to secure an internship placement all at the same time was daunting. However, my program made sure I felt supported throughout the entire process. Kevin Hickey, one of our faculty members, used his expansive network to connect me to my top choices. Our program manager, Kresten Froistad-Martin, provided coaching on how to navigate the interviews and assess what placements would be best suited for me. References from faculty like Ed Harrington and Professor Weiner helped me secure my top two choices for my summer internship: the Office of Financial Empowerment at City Hall and the California Reinvestment Coalition. The internship search highlighted to me the connections this program offers its students.

The last week of finals, I found myself in the same room as orientation with the group of strangers that over the course of year had become dear friends.  As each of my classmates presented on a research question that they had spent weeks preparing for our Research Methods final, I was struck by how much we each had evolved as students of public policy. My cohort has a diverse set of policy interests, and I’m grateful that I’m able to learn from them about issues that are outside of my focus. Their passion for social change and commitment to challenge the status quo has motivated me to work harder so that I can become a compassionate policymaker.  

People say graduate school is not what you expect, but it is everything you need. This insight has been true thus far in my own experience. In the pursuit of my graduate degree, I’ve deepened my knowledge of public policy, become more open to perspectives that differ from my own and feel a renewed sense of purpose.  I’m incredibly grateful for the strong support of the McCarthy Center, my graduate program, the dedicated faculty and my inspiring cohort. I’m looking forward to what the next year brings.

 

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New MA in Urban and Public Affairs Program Combines for a Winning Formula

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This spring the Leo T. McCarthy Center announced that it will be combining two former programs: the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and the Master of Public Affairs into one robust program, the MA in Urban and Public Affairs (UPA). Professor Rachel Brahinsky, program director of UPA, has been apart of the process since its inception.  In a recent USF News story, Professor Brahinsky speaks to the unique features of the program and the excitement of bringing the best of the two former programs together.  Read the full  story here.

April 15th is the priority date to apply to the USF’s MA in Urban and Public Affairs for fall 2017.  Applications received by this Saturday will receive priority consideration for admission and scholarships.

You can apply to the UPA program online. For questions about the application process, financial aid, or other topics about admission, please contact us at upa@usfca.edu or at 415-422-5683.  We wish you the best as you consider the University of San Francisco in your educational and professional goals!

OpEd: Should feminine hygiene products be subject to sales tax?

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Bianca Rosen, MA Public Affairs ’17

In 40 states and the District of Columbia, women pay for having their periods. Literally. The sales tax in these states does not exempt feminine hygiene products as a necessity of life. Instead, these products are taxed like other luxury or non-essential items. In California, the sales tax exempts candy and Viagra, while taxing tampons, menstrual sponges, and pads. Women pay an extra price for their biological make up, as menstruation products are deemed by lawmakers as unnecessary to the, “…sustenance of life”. Across these 40 states, the sales tax on feminine hygiene products ranges from 2.9 to 7.5 percent according to the Tax Foundation. In California alone, the taxation of feminine hygiene products generates an estimated $20 million with a 7.5 percent sales tax. The Guide to Local Government Finance in California explains that medicine and groceries are included in the state sales tax exemption. In this instance, medicine is defined as, “any substance or preparation intended for use by external or internal application to the human body in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease and which is commonly recognized as a substance or preparation intended for that use”. In other words, menstruation is not considered a medical or health matter, and therefore feminine hygiene products are not a necessity of life.

Of the ten states that do not tax feminine hygiene products, five do not have a statewide sales tax and the other five including Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, have exempted these products from taxation. Across the country, in states like Utah, Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin and California, there has been a push by activists and lawmakers to exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales tax. Specifically looking at California, the effort for a tax exemption was thwarted in September of 2016 when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a “No Tax on Tampon Bill” put forth by Representative Cristina Garcia.

According to NPR, some lawmakers argue that, “presenting the issue as an instance of sexism may ignore the nuances and inconsistencies of state tax codes,” citing that an exemption for all women would require a nationwide exemption. Others, like Governor Jerry Brown, worry about the budget implications of such an exemption. When he vetoed the “no tampon tax” bill in 2016, he stated that a combined diaper and tampon tax exemption, “would reduce revenues by about $300 million through 2017-18.” Economist Nicole Kaeding from the Tax Foundation argues that “product-specific” tax exemptions raise the tax rates of other products. Furthermore, it can incite a mad dash by, other interest groups, to get more specific items exempt, creating chaos in state tax codes. If the stability of state tax codes rely on taxing women’s menstruation and preventing our “special interest” in controlling our period, we have a serious problem.

 

Taxing women for a bodily function that they cannot control is a gendered and discriminatory policy. Such a tax on feminine hygiene products also disproportionately affects low income women and girls. When living from paycheck to paycheck, the $7 to $10 dollars a month for tampons or pads, can really add up. On that same note, what do young girls in these low income families do when they get their period and don’t have access to these products? Most likely, they stay home, as some have told California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. This is not only about women’s health and well being, but equal access to to these products for all women.

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As discussed in our course, Urban Public Finance, a large part of taxation is encouraging and discouraging certain behaviors. We tax tobacco consumption in order to discourage this behavior as well as to force smokers to pay for the damage this habit costs the healthcare system and the environment. This suggests that as a state, we do not value smoking. We think it does damage that needs to be paid for by those who cause it. In California, Viagra is tax exempt, as an Los Angeles Times editorial puts it, “Viagra is…dispensed to improve quality of life.” Not only do we value men’s erections as a necessity, but we validate its importance with a tax exemption. Feminine hygiene products lack such legitimacy. At the same time that opponents argue feminine hygiene products are not a necessity of life, I cannot imagine they would be okay with menstrual fluids staining the benches of public parks. Menstruation is a part of life for women and taking care of our periods is crucial in sustaining the quality and dignity of our lives. Until lawmakers and opponents of a “no tampon tax” have a period and walk around for a day without a tampon, they have no right to make women pay for having theirs.

Activists, organizers, and lawmakers in every state should continue advocating for a “no tampon tax.” Menstruation is also not a disease, as the tax code includes as a stipulation in the definition of medicine. We need to revisit how language in the tax code can be altered to better reflect the realities of women’s every day lives. The change we need on an even larger scale is more women in elected office. When President Obama was asked why he thinks there is no exemption for feminine hygiene products, he answered, “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws.” With more women in office, their understanding of what is and is not necessary in sustaining women’s lives can help to create policies that reflect those necessities.

 

 

MoPA Internship in Washington, D.C.

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Sarah Souza
Master of Public Affairs candidate ’17

As a candidate in the Master of Public Affairs program (MoPA), I am spending the summer completing my internship requirement in Washington, D.C. for theGROUP, an independent strategy, policy and communications firm. The supportive environment on campus helped me find this incredible opportunity. And, the hands-on internship requirement not only allows me to put into practice what I learned in the classroom, but it also gives me the chance to experience living in our nation’s capital!

After one year at MoPA, I felt confident and prepared to work at a prestigious firm. Courses such as Writing for Public Affairs and Research Methods honed my communication and analysis skills – pertinent to this internship. MoPA’s electives allow me to tailor my educational career to my interests and makes me a better intern because I have experience in several fields. Rigorous coursework with experienced professors, such as Ed Harrington teaching Urban Public Finance and Kathleen Koll teaching Immigrant Cities, replicated what the real world is like in public service by combining academia with practicality. Continue reading

227 Years in the Making

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Rebecca McDowell
Master of Public Affairs ’16

Yesterday, California voters voiced their political opinions and headed to the polls. As a result, for the first time in history, a woman won the nomination of a major political party. On the news this morning, the anchors were discussing Hillary Clinton’s primary election win and said something that caught my attention. In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female prime minister, ever. Now, I already know equal representation within elected office severely lacks in this country, but with yesterday’s win, I saw gender inequality, particularly in politics and leadership roles, with new eyes. The United States is fifty-six years behind other nations electing women to lead a country, yet people often assume the United States is a leader in many areas. That may be so for some things, but electing women to office, not so much. Continue reading