After a Semester with USF in DC

 

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Jacqueline Garcia, Politics ’19, is a Newmark scholar as well as a recipient of the Betty L. Blakley scholarship

USF in D.C.—what an experience! On many levels and in ways I didn’t expect, the semester I spent in Washington D.C. changed me. I’ve always had an interest in public service and the common good; one of that typical twenty-something-year-old, “change the world” mentalities. The McCarthy center gave me the opportunity to put my class teachings and my personal aspirations into practice. Experience is truly the best teacher.

During my USF in DC experience, I interned at the National Immigration Forum (NIF), a non-profit advocacy group pushing for fair immigration reform. I was the Field and Advocacy intern for the organization’s Bible, Badges, and Business (BBB) program.  This experience was extremely valuable. First, it gave me insight in regards to what an advocacy group looks like from the inside. I learned the tactics and strategies used to keep members informed and also how to include members in the process of action planning. Second, I acquired new skills while working at the NIF. In particular, I learned to use different software systems like Salesforce and Cision. Lastly, the BBB program is targeted at moderate to conservative-leaning groups. As a native Californian, some of the views these groups hold were foreign to me. At the NIF, I was provided the opportunity to get out of my liberal bubble and worked with people who had opposing views to my own. What I learned about myself was that I am more tolerant than I thought and that my own views are subject to change. This experience gave me a new perspective of the world I live in and my place in it.

While in D.C. I tried to get out into the city as much as I could. It’s a dynamic place with a lot to see and even more to learn. Nearly 50% of the population in D.C. is African-American. Almost every Lyft or Uber driver I had was an immigrant from either Africa or Latin America. This city runs on the labor of these minority groups yet the administration right down the street ignores their needs. So, going to D.C. was a great learning experience and also a form of validation for myself.

As young people, we have ideas of who we want to be, but there are inevitably moments of doubt that we can actually accomplish those aspirations. D.C. allowed me to expel that doubt. It energized my ambitions to work with the immigrant community. I took part in protests with organizations like United We Dream. I was able to experience advocacy work first hand. I sat in on conference meetings, press conferences, and networking events where I learned about research. I learned about career paths I’d never heard of. Although there is no way I could give a definitive answer to the question of what I want to do post-graduation, I have a few ideas. The ideas I have now differ from the ideas I had before my semester in D.C.

However, I gained more than professional insight. I gained perspective about myself and my place in this world. Self-care and self-love were practices that I learned to implement in my life while in D.C. How could I assist others if I wasn’t taking care with myself? I did not expect to come back with so much personal growth under my belt. As a young woman, this experience helped me find my voice. I am beyond happy with my experience. It helped me zone in on possible career paths for myself. And more importantly, it has influenced my thoughts and motivations. I’m extremely grateful and proud of the person I have become after my USF in DC experience.

Questions for Antonio Villaraigosa

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Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be the inaugural speaker to participate in Conversations for the Common Good, a new speakers series that invites inclusive voices to the challenge of serving the public good. Join us in meeting Mayor Villaraigosa and POLITICO’s David Siders in conversation on Thursday, February 1, 5:00 PM on campus at USF’s McLaren Conference Center.

 

A Primer for CONVERSATIONS

Can Antonio Villaraigosa trump the competition?

The upcoming 2018 California gubernatorial race will be loaded with interesting democratic candidates. Amidst political heavy hitters such as Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and State Treasurer John Chiang, Antonio Villaraigosa stands to run on a platform of educational equity. The former California State Assemblyman, who was also the Mayor of Los Angeles, is hoping to fortify a well distinguished political career by winning the vote to occupy California’s top office. Villaraigosa’s reputation is hallmarked by epic civic and municipal partnership building efforts. He is credited with turning around the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)’s poor performing schools with the construction of an organization called the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which works with the LAUSD as a coalition. Additionally, Villaraigosa led efforts that have  resulted in successfully combating spiking Los Angeles crime rates by hiring more police officers.

Villaraigosa has stated publicly numerous times that if elected to office as California Governor,  he would defy President Trump if his administration were to order the deportation of undocumented persons, including DREAMers. Villaraigosa has also said that he is not in support of building a wall to keep out immigrants from our southern border. Given his policy stances on immigration, Villaraigosa will no doubt find himself bumping heads with one America’s most controversial president. On the campaign trail, Villaraigosa will find himself challenged with the daunting task of unifying the Mexican-American vote which has been sharply sliced by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. As the campaign season begins to ramp up, it will be very fascinating to see how Villaraigosa energizes his base.

Questions to Ask

  • In what ways do you feel your experiences as State Assemblyman have prepared you to govern California?
  • What measures can be implemented in the State Assembly and Senate to ensure transparency and fairness regarding the investigation into claims of sexual harassment in the state legislature?
  • Given the current socio-political impact of the #MeToo movement, is there a credible need for comprehensive re-training on sexual harassment as well as cultural and gender sensitivity issues within the state legislature?
  • What strategies can be used to protect California’s coastline against the ongoing threat of offshore drilling?
  • Can we legally protect California as a sanctuary state with minimal federal disruption?
  • What are your thoughts on allocating cannabis tax money towards the implementation of a state-wide cannabis equity program?
  • In what ways can California restore its educational system to its once highly regarded status?
  • Given the current lack of bipartisan participation in Washington D.C., how are you prepared to discourage that type of political climate in the state legislature?

 This post was written by Calyn Kelley, Urban and Public Affairs ’19. Calyn will be introducing Mayor Villaraigosa on Thursday, February 1 in the opening event.

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Bringing Home into School

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Ofelia Bello

     Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs ’17

Contrary to what I thought growing up, one of the biggest struggles in graduate school – and there are many – is not the rigorous coursework as much as it is the pressure that comes along with being a first-generation student. That pressure manifests in different ways on a daily basis. However, being a first-generation student also means I get to draw from an inexhaustible source of knowledge, strength, and wisdom every day.

Throughout my educational career, my parents have expressed to me, at various points, feeling guilty and frustrated about not being able to help me with my academics through school. Before migrating to the Bay Area my mother was never allowed to go to school in Mexico and my father only attended up until elementary. Although I could have never articulated this as a young girl, I know now that my parents came to a country where it was engrained in them that the knowledge and wisdom they have is not valuable – because they certainly do not lack it. As a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate, I feel more confident now than ever asserting the fact that my parents are by far the best teachers I’ve ever had. They thoroughly excelled at humanizing me before I ever stepped foot in a classroom. I cared about the world before I knew what the world was – before I knew what my place in the world might be.

A couple weeks ago in my seminar Urban Education Reform, my professor Dr. Dave Donahue posed a question that has stuck with me since. He asked, “Why is it that we often talk about bringing school into the home, but we don’t necessarily talk about bringing home into the school?” There it was! The question I always had but didn’t know I had. Every college course I’ve taken has, in one way or another, reaffirmed values that my parents practiced in our home and in our community. Urban Education Reform has provided space for me where I can explicitly interrogate why we place value on certain kinds of knowledge over others and what that means for improving our education system. Given that schools are a critical part of both the physical and social fabric that makes up our cities, I think my professor’s inquiry beckons the follow up question: why can’t we bring the home out into the city?

I enrolled in the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program with the fervent desire to learn about the complexities cities’ face and what concrete ways we can make them more equitable. I know I am in the right program because it is made explicit in the classroom that we do not enter as isolated beings. Every time I step into a seminar, I bring my parents and my community in with me and our knowledge is honored. So ultimately, although the daily struggles that come with being a first-generation student can be difficult, those struggles look dim in the shadow of the brilliant parents and community I come from and continue to learn from, in conjunction with my academic coursework.

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