Preview the 2018 Capstone Symposium

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The University of San Francisco Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Master of Public Affairs invites you to join us for the 2018 graduating classes’ capstone presentations on May 14th and May 15th.  The capstone project is the final requirement for the completion of their master’s degree and includes a well-researched analytical paper that applies the knowledge, skills, and methods of the program, in addition to an oral presentation. We are incredibly proud of our graduate students and believe their research will inspire positive changes for the common good.


Rebecca Charlton, PublicAffairs ’18

That’s Not Our Job: Individualism and State Responsibility After Welfare Reform

In 1996 President Bill Clinton overhauled our nation’s welfare system with drastic spending cuts and new work requirements. This capstone will explore the legislation’s cultural framework, punitive impact on low-income women, and offer a policy re-write to lift single mothers out of poverty.


Maya Chupkov, Public Affairs ’18

Care and Cash: Addressing San Francisco’s Homelessness Crisis With A Basic Income

Maya is exploring the intersection between basic income and preventing homelessness in San Francisco. She situates her research with a case study of Care Not Cash, a measure passed in 2002 that altered the homeless delivery system. She performs an in-depth analysis of San Francisco’s current homelessness problem, including the preventive strategies that could be strengthened with cash assistance models.


Amy Dundon, Urban Affairs ’18

Finding “Free City”

Finding “Free City” retraces the story of the City College of San Francisco, a public two-year community college, through its recent troubles and eventual resilience. In the span of five years, the college went from nearly closing its doors to offering classes free of charge to San Francisco residents. The research offers a critical analysis of the recent historical educational and economic policies that have shaped City College. Through the frame of class struggle, Finding “Free City” grants insight into community building and labor union organizing, questions normative economic systems, and evokes a new interpretation of the right to the city.

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Leslie Gordon, Urban Affairs ’18

Building a Better Map: Imagining Racial Equity in Oakland

Leslie’s research investigates visions of racial equity among institutional and grassroots actors who have a role in shaping Oakland’s urban space. As the city of Oakland works to codify and institutionalize racial equity through several initiatives, including the formation of the Department of Race and Equity and a new downtown planning process, how do we imagine a racially equitable Oakland? How would such a city look, feel, and function?


Nicholas Large, Public Affairs ’18 

Fierce Landmarking: Representation and the Queering of Political Power

This capstone examines place-based organizing for the LGBT community in San Francisco. Comparing contemporary memorializations like the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District and the Harvey Milk SFO Terminal to the Stonewall Inn, it offers a look into the movement behind the places. Operating under a context of gentrification, this capstone asks if it is the story or the place that matters, and what the implications of each are for a rapidly changing community fighting for equity.

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Briana Gonzalez, Public Affairs ’18 

The Invisible Population: Providing Family Services for Single Student-Mothers at USF

Briana’s capstone is on the growing population of single student mothers in academia. She conducts a comparative analysis of several higher education institutions, highlighting the family services they provide. Briana focuses on the University of San Francisco to raise awareness of the lack of family resources on its campus. In her capstone, she demonstrates why USF can no longer ignore this group of students and how the university can implement family resources of its own to assist single mothers in achieving academic success.

Bridget Mahoney, Public Affairs ’18 Rebecca+Bridget+Nolizwe copy (2)

Taking the Initiative: Are Ballot Measures Failing SF’s Homeless Crisis?

Through an analysis of the 2016 San Francisco Proposition Q campaign, this paper will analyze if the ballot measure/ initiative process is the best way to tackle homelessness. In doing so, I will explore why members of the Board of Supervisors continue to use the ballot instead of other legislative processes to correct this major issue.


Bernice Rosas Belmonte. Public Affairs ’18

Room at the Table: Inviting Latino Familial Support into the Discussion of College Access

Bernice’s research examines modes of encouraging and supporting Latinx first-generation college student families, specifically in Stockton area high schools. Her findings highlight the necessity of bringing Latino families into the conversation of college access in order to further first-generation college students’ higher education goals.

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Justin Balenzuela, Urban Affairs ’18 

Rounding Up Outlaw In-Laws

San Francisco is experiencing an economic boom that’s driving population growth and housing costs. As pressure builds, the accessibility of affordable housing options is constrained, and options are reduced to illegal or substandard housing conditions. Justin’ research focused on in-law units, which can be illegal and include substandard housing conditions, and addressing the conundrum of bringing units up to code without affecting tenants. His goal is to improve unit safety by encouraging the legalization of illegal in-laws, all while preventing the displacement of existing tenants while units undergo renovations.

Denise Garcia

Denise Garcia, Urban Affairs ’18

Just Transit: Governing Sustainability in Los Angeles

As more cities experience the detrimental impacts of climate change, the need for sustainable planning implementation increases. Throughout various cities, regions, and the state, sustainability plans have been developed and implemented, but questions remain as to whether their approach or implementation will have the desired mitigating impacts. Drawing from an equitable framework, this paper includes a comparison analysis to critique current sustainability plans developed from 3 different levels of governance.


Aaron Gordon, Public Affairs ’18 

Do Tech Workers Care About San Francisco? Analyzing Political Engagement

Over the past decade, there have been tensions between the tech Industry and long-term residents of San Francisco. Many people are concerned with the influence that large tech companies have on local politics. But what effect is the average tech worker having on San Francisco politics? This study aims to answer that question.

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Erika Sandberg, Public Affairs ’18 

The Secret Door: Transparency and Privacy in the California Juvenile Justice System

Erika’s research addresses the imbalance between transparency and privacy in the California juvenile justice system, and the effects this heightening of opacity have on judicial and governmental accountability. The rationales for increased privacy are rehabilitation and avoidance of youth stigmatization, yet decades of legislative enactments suggest a shift towards more punitive measures. This research will propose recommendations to optimize the balance between the two competing concepts while keeping the privacy of youths intact, because without insight, who are we really protecting? The children or the institution?

Jessica Lindquist

Jessica Lindquist, Public Affairs ’18 

Protecting San Francisco Residents From The Wolves of Wall Street: A Case Study

In response to the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal agency responsible for protecting consumers from abusive, deceptive and predatory practices of the financial services industry. The CFPB’s consumer complaint database has been an important resource for the American public for the past seven years. However, the Trump administration has declared its intentions to remove the database from public view, an action lobbied for by the financial services industry. Jessica conducts the first deep data analysis of the public complaints filed to the CFPB Consumer Complaint database by San Francisco residents. Her case study highlights how consumer financial harms are a citywide problem: San Franciscans living at every income level and in every part of the city are struggling to resolve their financial issues with the wolves of Wall Street, the financial services industry.


Ceaundra Thomas, Urban Affairs ’18 

Reframing Deficit Theories about Black Boys in Oakland Schools

Deficit oriented theories have been used in the United States education system as a means of justifying the disparities we see amongst gender and racial groups, specifically Black boys. Ceaundra’s capstone focuses on how these deficit theories can be reframed to more accurately capture the root of these disparities. Over time, systematic barriers have presented a multitude of obstacles that hinder people of color from receiving the same quality of education as their white peers. By focusing on the African American Male Achievement program implemented by Oakland Unified School District, she antagonizes the master narrative of Black boys underperforming because of their culture, and conceptualize ways that the education system can better serve Black boys.

Why Master of Public Affairs Students Go to Reno

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Bianca Rosen
Master of Public Affairs Candidate 2017

As a first year graduate student in the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program at the University of San Francisco, the possible career paths one can take seems daunting, especially in a dynamic and exciting place like the Bay Area. You may have a strong idea about the direction you want to go in, but can never fully articulate where that direction will ultimately take you.

Sometimes, the only feelings of security for a young professional are glimmering moments of, “I am supposed to be here, in this program, in this city”. But, you may not exactly know why. The MoPA program has pointed me in the direction I’ve wanted to go, and told me, “here’s why”.

I was first drawn to this program because of its dedication to social justice, advocacy, and community-based solutions to public policy issues. As someone who strongly identifies as a feminist and is active in the anti-rape movement, I felt passionate about large scale change-making. I knew I wanted to ambitiously confront the intersection of all inequalities in my career, as sexual violence is a tool for all forms of oppression. Yet, I never knew how that passion would manifest into something tangible that could achieve such change.

This semester, I signed up for a grassroots advocacy and mobilization class. It is week four of the semester, and the class has already turned my abstract career goals into that tangible reality I had been seeking. As I learned about the undeniable power of communities coming together to advocate for policies or candidates that pursue “a more humane and just world”, I could see clearly that this is the avenue of change-making I’ve been looking for. To hear my spirited teacher describe the ins and outs of grassroots advocacy, and to learn about the great necessity for passionate people — leaders who create other leaders — I was truly moved. I thought to myself, “YES, yes, yes, yes, this is me. This is where my path has been directing me.”

When my teacher then asked if any of us wanted to go to Reno, Nevada to get first hand experience with electoral organizing on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I was already out the door and ready to go.

MoPA in Reno

Reno was a whirlwind. A whirlwind of organizers telling their story as to why they were there, why they had dedicated chunks of their lives away from their friends and family to engage Nevadans and get them out to vote for Hillary Clinton. A whirlwind of people, with stories, values, and reasons, for volunteering for the campaign. A whirlwind of doors to knock on and strangers to meet. A whirlwind of canvassing packets, names, and addresses of people we were trying to encourage to caucus for Clinton. Most significantly, it was a whirlwind of people power, of humans connecting to other humans for a shared purpose.

Whether or not you’re a Clinton supporter, to knock on a stranger’s door to find that they are in fact, an avid supporter, and then have them share a deeply personal and revelatory moment in their life to illustrate why, was healing.

MoPA in Reno

It was healing because we all have stories of “why”. “Why” we support a candidate, a policy, or a movement, and those stories of “why” connect at those moments in time to create a collective, “because”.

The importance of empowering people, of building stronger communities that outlive the campaign, and ultimately building a stronger democracy, jumped off the pages of notes I had written in class and came to life in front of me.

I came back to school energized, inspired, and feeling like the dreams for my career had also been brought to life. As MoPA provided me with the opportunity to witness change-making in action, I was simultaneously nudged one step closer to understanding my career goals and how I will play a part in redefining the human experience as one that is characterized by justice.

Donations by supporters like you helped turn Bianca’s dream into reality. Donate today so more students like Bianca can participate in experiences that enrich their academic careers with us.

*The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of the Leo T. McCarthy Center or the University of San Francisco.

How would I define the graduate school experience?

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Sarah Souza
Master of Public Affairs Candidate 2017

How would I define the graduate school experience? I wonder how to best define it, I think I could describe it as a pathway to leadership development. My journey has only just begun with the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program, but it has already left lasting impressions upon myself.

Before classes officially began, my cohort had a whole week of orientation. This was a great opportunity to meet the rest of my cohort and bond together. The most outstanding part during the week of orientation was our day of service. We spent the day serving at the Saint Anthony Foundation, where we, as a group, served about 2,500 meals to the homeless population in the Tenderloin. It was a life changing experience to learn about their background, and what led them to become homeless. What I liked about the program at St. Anthony’s the most, is the humane approach they approach their mission with. Everyone is treated as people with the respect and dignity al humanity deserves. It is a non-discriminatory approach not turning anyone away, in which they offer daily meals, and free clothing to anyone who is looking for help regardless of gender, race or status.

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Although the resources provided by St. Anthony’s, and by other non-profits in the Tenderloin neighborhood are critical, they are not sufficient resources to mitigate the lack of access. The most crucial and vivid issue is the lack of access to affordable housing, and for some of them even limited access to portable water. After our day of service we all spent time reflecting on our activities for the day. Learning about their situation made me reflect about the importance of becoming a leader, and the significance of speaking up for others  – reasons that lead me to seek a graduate program.

A week ago when I first started MoPA, I was asked by my Applied American Politics professor to read and discuss both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution in class. The purpose of this assignment was to analyze the function of government in our current political system; this challenged me to think outside the box, and enticed me to question the role of government in both local and federal level. During this class discussion, I felt empowered and confident to speak up – my voice mattered – that was when I was certain that I made the right decision when I choose to apply for the MoPA program.

The first week as a graduate student at the University of San Francisco, I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone, encouraged to collaborate in class, and compelled to read critically – everything that graduate school promises to do. This program provides access to multiple tools that will enhance career growth, network and works hard to provide students access to multiple internship opportunities in the government sector, non-profit and private sector. Besides the multiple benefits of this program, I already feel part of the MoPA family. Everyone is willing to work with one another, and the professors and staff member provide support that will help me to grow personally and professionally over the next two years.

I appreciate the experiences so far that the MoPA program has provided to our cohort and it’s only been a couple of weeks! I look forward to learning more and contributing what I have to offer throughout this amazing program.

MoPA '17

Bringing #Disruption in Political Communication to USF

One of the many things that draws students to our graduate programs in Public and Urban Affairs is our location in the vibrant and diverse San Francisco community. We pride ourselves on giving our students myriad opportunities to put what they are learning in the classroom to use in their “backyard” here in the Bay Area.   We are often lucky enough to have local political figures, from supervisors to city planners, take part in a class or open up their organizations to give our students an insider’s view of the complex, inner workings of the city.


Professor Ken Goldstein

One such opportunity is the American Political Science Association’s annual conference, where our Master of Public Affairs program is proud to co-sponsor a day-long pre-conference workshop, led by Professor Ken Goldstein, on Wednesday, September 2nd.

Entitled, “#Disruption: Political Communication in a Digital Age,” the program will feature eight (8) panels showcasing the work of more than fifty (50) political communication scholars in addition to an Author-Meets-Critics Roundtable featuring Jennifer Stromer-Galley’s new book, “Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age.”

The year’s conference focuses on the challenges of measuring and understanding politics in today’s rapidly changing media environment. These disruptions challenge our paradigms and encourage new analytical modes, while reinvigorating questions about the politics of persuasion.  The pre-conference is an opportunity to discuss the intersection of information technology and political communication in a city so heavily intertwined with the heart of tech: Silicon Valley.

I’m thrilled that our students have the opportunity to engage with scholars at the forefront of their fields. It’s something that makes our programs unique and helps us educate leaders who will create positive, lasting change in their communities. I hope you’ll join us on September 2 for this exciting event. It’s just one of the many ways we benefit from being in the Best City Ever.

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