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 or email Leslie Lombre, Associate Director at or call (415) 422-2983.

Save The Date

How Bolivia Is Changing My Perspective

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Natalie Caprile, Sociology and Pre-Med ’18 

Before the Privett Global Scholars program, I had never spent more than two weeks outside of the U.S. The thought of changing that through such a challenging program was daunting. However, being in Bolivia and having the opportunity to open myself up to the people here, as well as listen to their experiences, has given me an increased understanding of the world and myself.

One of my most challenging and rewarding experiences thus far has been the work I have done with my organization, Vivo en Positivo. Vivo does work surrounding HIV and AIDS (primary and secondary prevention, direct support for people living with HIV, as well as their family and loved ones, etc.) throughout Bolivia. For my project, I am focusing on primary prevention among youth in Cochabamba. To meet this end, we are going to middle and high schools in five municipalities and performing training sessions on HIV, human rights, and discrimination.

To prepare for these trainings, I conducted research, created PowerPoint presentations, and designed an informative brochure. Even with all this preparation, I felt the nerves as we went to our first training. I did not have complete confidence in my ability to talk in Spanish about such a specific topic for an hour. I sat back and listened to my coworkers lead the presentation while writing down key concepts on the board and passing other materials out to the students.

At the end of the training session, my coworker asked if there were any questions. One student raised her hand, pointed at me, and point-blank asked, “What does she think? Why hasn’t she said anything?” I could feel my heart beating, but I responded, “Sorry that I haven’t been talking a lot–I’m still working towards speaking Spanish fluently. But, for me, the most important thing is that you all know your rights and have correct information. I hope that you can talk about this amongst yourselves and with your other friends and family.” The young woman who asked the question nodded her head at me in response. I survived my first session.

The next day, I was leading training sessions on my own in a different school. Though my coworkers have been helpful and understanding while I have worked on my project, I was pushed out of my comfort zone pretty quickly. Other than learning how to lead an hour-long presentation in Spanish, I have also learned how important transparency and honesty are in doing work with communities in which you are an outsider.

When I go to schools to lead sessions, I own up to where I am from and what I am doing in this community. I touch on what I hope to bring as well as what I have learned from people and experiences here, and I encourage students to ask questions or call me out if they feel it is necessary. After multiple sessions, I have had students (mostly young women) come up to me and thank me for coming, ask me for more information, or ask if we can lead these sessions in other areas of their communities.

At the request of one of the principals from a school in which we held trainings, we have already branched out with our sessions. We held two at an organization that offers food, shelter, and activities to local children with less access to resources. After finishing the trainings there, they asked us to come back and hold more sessions.

I love doing work that allows me to have interactions with people in communities in Cochabamba. This project has given me more than just public speaking skills or technical knowledge about HIV. I have been fortunate enough to have real conversations with students who allowed me to see into parts of their lives. Some of them have told me stories that have changed the way I conceptualize things like health, family, and responsibility. Because of this, I have gained a greater understanding of others and myself on a global scale. The way I see things has shifted. There is no going back from here.

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Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) Immersion into D.C. and Campaign Research

Enrique Aguilar, Master of Public Affairs candidate, USF

Enrique Aguilar
Master of Public Affairs candidate ’16

The Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) candidates have the option every year to apply for a week long immersion class based in Washington, D.C. Led by USF Politics Professor Ken Goldstein, the DC Immersion program for MOPA students is designed to introduce students to the methods used to develop, target, and deliver messages in election and advocacy campaigns as well as in the policy process. Blending theory and practice, students met in class, heard from speakers, and made site visits in the nation’s Capitol as they learned how different tools are utilized by political professionals. Students were required to synthesize the day’s material through applied exercises and the creation of actual work products.

The final product of the week for this year’s cohort was based on a campaign assignment that split the participants into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Each group received a candidate who is running for a Senate seat in Florida’s 2016 election. The Democratic group received a Democratic candidate and conducted opposition research on the Republican opponent, as well as researched their own candidate. The Republican team did the same thing: conducted opposition research on the Democratic opponent and researched their own Republican candidate.

Once the research was completed, both groups created their own polling memos with several themes they determined based on the research they conducted. This polling memo was the basis for a survey that both groups worked together to craft, which was then sent out to residents of Florida via email through a partnership with a national political consulting group.

Once the data was received from the survey, the groups worked with their Democratic or Republican teammates and created a presentation that highlighted the significant survey results and how that information could potentially change the (mock) race. It is important to note that neither candidate in the Florida race was involved in this project and the purpose was solely academic and provided our students with practical, and portable skills to set them apart in the workforce. Enrique Aguilar participated in the 2016 MoPA DC program and shares his experience with us.

Although I do not possess the political campaign experience of some fellow students in the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program, I do have a background in political science and international studies, which led me to this graduate program on a quest to gain practical skills to complement my undergraduate education in political theory. The MoPA DC immersion program was a great opportunity to learn about political opposition research and personally experience some of the challenges of working on a political campaign.

On arrival day, Professor Ken Goldstein welcomed our small group to his home where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with his family. Brett Di Resta, one of a handful of opposition researchers in the country, was also present at dinner. Both of them gave us words of encouragement before teaching us their challenging one-week program, normally taught in semester-long courses by Di Resta at George Washington University and Professor Goldstein in the USF in DC program.

After we had a full day of learning about campaigns, we were split in our groups for the main project. I was in the Democratic group, which meant my group and I researched our own Democratic candidate, Congressman Patrick Murphy, while conducting thorough opposition research on the Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis. From this research we wrote a detailed polling memo with ten themes we noticed about the opponent based on the evidence at hand. We condensed this list down again to come up with five compelling statements against DeSantis and then went into a survey. Residents of Florida received the survey via email and were chosen based on a random sampling of email addresses. Survey respondents answered basic demographic information, we tested their political knowledge and interest, and used our five statements to determine if likely voters were influenced by our statements, and therefore make a difference in the campaign. After critically analyzing the survey data, we presented our findings to Professor Goldstein, his colleague Di Resta, and the rest of of DC classmates. Our survey showed that residents of Florida found our candidate, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D) more favorable and more likely to vote for him than Ron DeSantis.

A memorable moment of this trip to Washington, D.C. was when my group was gathered around a table doing opposition research and writing a memorandum, while also trying to watch President Obama’s last State of the Union address on television. It was hard to believe that this was happening near the UC Washington Center where my group was working on our project.

In such short time this course taught me skills and gave me insight from experienced professionals that will be useful when thinking about my career choices after graduation. Having spent a week in Washington also gave me a small preview of what to expect if I pursue a career in our nation’s Capitol. The chilly evening walks around the National Mall were spectacular, but more importantly they were a time for self-reflection to think about why, through public policy, I am able to promote the common good and advocate for social justice.

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Enrique Aguilar was one of thirteen participants in the 2016 MoPA DC Immersion program. A generous donation in any amount helps fund student opportunities that Enrique was able to experience.

Apply here to the Master of Public Affairs program. Applications close March 1.

Who’s Leo?

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There’s a name that graces our door and the suite of offices located in Masonic #103 and we mention this name dozens of times a day – it’s listed on every brochure, rack card and report that cross our desks. Many of our students never had the chance to meet Leo Tarsicius McCarthy and even now rarely find faculty and staff that knew and worked with the Center’s namesake.

Who was Leo T. McCarthy?

Leo T. McCarthy is well known for being the longest serving Lieutenant Governor of California where he served for three consecutive terms – twelve years. However, Leo McCarthy began serving the public long before holding statewide office – he was passionate about public service, which he turned into a career spanning more than 30 years.

After moving to San Francisco in 1933 at the age of four from Auckland, New Zealand, Leo McCarthy went on to become a student of San Francisco’s educational institutions including Mission Dolores Elementary School, St. Ignatius College Preparatory and earned his Bachelor’s from the University of San Francisco. Afterward he went on to serve his country during the Korean War in the United States Air Force. Upon returning from active duty, McCarthy went back to continue his education and earned his J.D. in 1961.

In 1958, McCarthy transitioned into politics by managing Senator John McAteer’s successful campaign for the California State Senate. Leo McCarthy himself made the decision to run for office in 1963 and was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After five years serving as a Supervisor, he was elected to the State Assembly where he served as Speaker of the Assembly for six years.

In the early 1980s, McCarthy ran a successful campaign and moved on to become a statewide elected official. As California’s longest serving Lieutenant Governor, McCarthy’s political work revolved around economic development, international trade, education, health and the environment. He firmly believed in social justice and equal opportunities for everyone – foundations that shape our core values here at the Leo T. McCarthy Center.

In 2001, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good was established on the campus of the University of San Francisco and our doors opened in 2002. McCarthy was inspired in part from believing strongly in the importance of education and by Father Steven Privett, who at his inaugural speech spoke of “educating for a just society”. The mission and core values of the Center echoes McCarthy’s professional ethics where his colleagues often spoke of McCarthy as hardworking, honest, and a champion for justice. 

As a public official, family man and mentor, Leo’s life is an ideal to be emulated, said Art Agnos who served as Speaker Leo T. McCarthy’s Legislative Assistant before eventually becoming Mayor of San Francisco.

Former McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento student and current Board member, Casey Farmer recalls…

I met Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy as a junior during my Honors Public Service Thesis Course in the McCarthy Center, he was our first guest speaker of the semester. I distinctly remember his genuine and kind spirit, his bright mind and fascinating stories, and his passionate dedication to improving the lives of Californians.

While he passed away in 2007, his legacy lives on through the students who come through the Leo T. McCarthy Center with intentions of pursuing professional careers in civic engagement, political activism and public service – qualities which he cherished and modeled for generations to come.

The McCarthy Center will urge students who pass our way to embrace passionately some mission in public service.
—Leo T. McCarthy, Founder

NOTE: A generous year-end gift helps fund Leo T. McCarthy Center graduate students: $500 covers the cost of books and materials for a  student in our Master of Public Affairs or Master of Arts in Urban Affairs programs.