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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Learning to Care About Politics

Hallie Balch, McCarthy Sacramento Fellow 2017

Something that I often hear from family members, friends, and teachers is, “The government doesn’t work.” Chances are, if you’re familiar with American politics, you have heard or even said something similar yourself. This was the mindset that I even had as I prepared for my internship with the McCarthy Fellows program. Pessimistic? Sure, but political inaction is prevalent within our society.

As a student at Dominican University, I have been surrounded by people with different political ideologies throughout my college experience. I came to the McCarthy Fellows program expecting liberal individuals with a streamlined theory on politics and little room for my own conservative ways of thinking. What I found in the Fellows was actually quite different – a unique group of people like me, eager to learn and better understand the ways of our government in California.

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This is the most important observation from my time in Sacramento is—just because someone holds different beliefs does not mean their reasons are not valid or that they lack a voice or passion. In my McCarthy Fellows cohort, we each study politics and government in our respective fields. To be a part of the process is eye-opening, to say the very least. For example, I comb through hundreds of bills every day that have an impact on my home district, my community, and people that I love. I study legislation that people may never see or notice. These are bills that legislators craft with teams of policymakers and spend months perfecting. This is a side of government that the public does not see.

I see policymakers in the Capitol working every day to negotiate across the aisle to craft policy that will benefit constituents. This is not what people outside of the Capitol see. They don’t see Assemblymembers buzzing around on the floor, lobbying to get votes from their colleagues for hours on end. They don’t see the effects that a seemingly monotonous bill on water consolidation will have on a community struggling to gain access to reliable, clean drinking water. They don’t see the countless staffers researching bill after bill in order to maximize the benefits for the state of California as a whole.  My greatest takeaway from the McCarthy Fellowship thus far—California’s state government is active. I just have not been staying involved with the politics that have the potential to impact my life.

It can be hard to stay up to date with the ins and outs of policies and procedures, but it is important to try and stay informed. The resources are there and the members of the California Assembly and Senate constantly try to reach out to the constituents of their state. Additionally, legislators are consistently working to pass legislation to increase transparency and open the lines of communication between government and the people. The next step is to use the tools and resources that our government provides us.  One can tune into the Assembly floor while they’re in session and listen to the debates taking place. One can get in contact with their district representative if they’re not happy about something in their community. Getting involved is not hard, one just hard to start taking action.

If we are not informed about what is happening in the world, how can we possibly expect to enact any positive change? I cannot express how important it is to understand what is going on in our government. Not only in Sacramento, with its fast-paced politics and savvy legislators, but also in our individual communities. So the next time you feel like throwing government under the bus, try researching it. Try learning about it. Try understanding it. After all, we’re all in the same bus and who says someone has to be thrown under it?

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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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Calling All McCarthy Center Alumni!

We’re excited to announce the formation of the McCarthy Center’s Alumni Committee — to rally our alumni around the Center’s new students, events and the upcoming 15th Anniversary! A small group of dedicated undergraduate and graduate alumni have come together to organize our support of current and future students, and the USF community as a whole.

The committee is comprised of active and dedicated alumni volunteers from all McCarthy Center class years, programs, and majors. The current committee includes:  

  • Rebecca McDowell, Master of Public Affairs 2016, Mayor’s Office of Education
  • Rodd Lee, Master of Public Affairs 2014, BART
  • Jennifer Ratliff, Master of Urban Affairs 2016, USF School of Management 
  • Pete Byrne, Master of Urban Affairs 2016, San Francisco Office of Short Term Rentals
  • Lunna Lopes, B.A. 2006, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Nico Bremond, SF Magic Zone
  • Andrea Wise, M.A. 2013, UC Berkeley Public Service Center

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Mission

The mission of the Alumni Committee is to create a strong and unified alumni presence at all signature McCarthy Center events, activities and traditions in and around our community. They will work closely with the McCarthy Center Board and staff. A strong alumni coalition also presents the opportunity to continue spreading the word about McCarthy Center undergraduate and graduate programs.

The Committee members were initially invited by the Center’s Director to serve for a minimum one-year term. Going forward, the  Alumni Committee will develop a subsequent application process and the length of terms during the first year.

While USF currently has a strong alumni relations network, this Committee will focus on specifically serving McCarthy Center students and alumni with the priorities of:

  • Adopting the alumni relations core values of excellence, lifelong relationships, lifelong learning, inclusiveness and diversity, global citizenship, advocacy, and USF pride;
  • Participating in alumni board meetings and functions, regional alumni chapter events and other university functions
  • Organizing at least one alumni event with assistance from McCarthy Center staff during the spring or summer semester;
  • Communicating the mission and purpose of the McCarthy Center and Alumni Steering Committee to the wider alumni population;
  • Supporting a strong relationship between the McCarthy Center Board, alumni and current students in career planning, placement and transitions;
  • Encouraging highly qualified and diverse prospective students to attend USF and enroll in McCarthy Center programs and degrees.

What’s Next?

McCarthy Center Alumni are encouraged to stay tuned for an update from the committee. There will be a variety of ways to become involved including:

  • Upcoming events including the 15th Leo T. McCarthy Anniversary celebration, November 9, 2017 and the speakers series, Conversations for the Common Good beginning in 2018
  • On-going recruiting efforts
  • Networking opportunities
  • Welcoming and mentoring students
  • Supporting job and internship searches for current students and recent graduates

In the meantime, if you are one of our alumni, undergraduate or graduate, please make sure to update your contact information here!

See some of our alumni at the recent 15th Anniversary Kick-off in Sacramento held last month at Frank Fat’s in our Flickr album.

My Path to the 2017 Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award

Nichole Vasquez

Nicole Vasquez, Kinesiology ’17

2017 Leo T. McCarthy Public Service Award Winner

The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good has been a formative part of my college experience here at USF! I am very grateful that I learned of the center my sophomore year of college. Since then, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Privett Global Scholar program, where I traveled to India and worked with an organization which focused on integrating people with disabilities into the school system. I also have served as an Advocate for Community Engagement, where I have been working with the incredible community partner, Family House. In each of these experiences, I have had the chance to be in community with folks from different walks of life. I have also had a chance to think critically about community-engaged work, and see that it often times is not a linear process. Post-graduation, I will be attending Creighton University as part of the Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program. I hope to carry on what I have learned through participation in the McCarthy Center programs in order to be a caring and compassionate occupational therapist. Thank you so much to the McCarthy Center for the wonderful work that you all do each day!

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Check out more of Nicole’s posts:

What About An Internship Abroad?

Future Advocate For Community Engagement

USF in D.C. is Unlike Anything Else!

 

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Gabbi McDaniel

I left Washington, D.C. more than four months ago. Whenever anybody asks me about my experience, my first response continues to be, “it was the best experience I’ve had at USF.” Then I gush for five more minutes about the opportunities I had, the individuals I met, and the impact this program had on my academic and professional career. Over these past four years, I’ve been able to join multiple organizations on campus, volunteer throughout the city at non-profits doing incredible work, and even spend a semester studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador. I’m beyond grateful for all of those experiences, but the USF in D.C. program is unlike anything else.

When I was accepted into the USF in D.C. program, I was ecstatic. I knew that I’d have the opportunity to live in D.C. during the first presidential election I could vote in, gain hands-on experience with a full-time internship, and synthesize my academic background with real-world applications. However, I never anticipated just how well USF in D.C. would prepare me for my future professional endeavors and instill in me a passion for the intersections between sexual and reproductive rights, policy advocacy, and international development.

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During the fall semester, I interned at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA is the lead UN agency addressing sexual and reproductive health, maternal health, gender-based violence, and child marriage in the context of international development and humanitarian settings. As the sole intern in the office, I had direct access to UNFPA DC’s Director and our Advocacy & Communications Specialist on a daily basis. Together, our team of three, consistently worked to advance UNFPA’s mission within the context of the US government. I had the opportunity to advocate with my colleagues before the Department of State and Congressional members; attend countless conferences with other NGOs and government institutions focused on these issues; and represent UNFPA at advocacy and strategy meetings. Every single day I was exposed to the complexities of advocacy and the fight for improving access to sexual and reproductive health care around the world. Throughout the semester, I was awe-inspired by the intelligent and determined women I worked alongside who used their privilege to fight for social justice.

Now, I’m finishing up my final semester at USF and yearning to get back to Washington, D.C. to continue this vital work. I’ve been able to use the knowledge I gained in D.C. in my Human Rights Advocacy course and my Gender, Development, and Globalization class. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are inextricably linked with economic justice, racial justice, human rights, and national security. As graduation draws nearer, I’m seeking opportunities within human rights advocacy, communications, and policy analysis, with a particular focus on sexual and reproductive health. The USF in DC program provided me with a foundation to pursue these career opportunities and I cannot thank the McCarthy Center, Betty L. Blakley Scholarship, the Newmark Fellowship,  USF in D.C. professors, and my UNFPA colleagues enough for my experience.

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