Victoria Melendez, M.S., a 2018 graduate from our Urban and Regional Policy (now known as Urban and Public Policy) program, recently moved to Washington, D.C. for an exciting job opportunity. We checked in with her to see how she is liking her new role and how she is applying her program coursework and research to her work responsibilities.
Name: Victoria Melendez
Program: Master’s of Urban and Regional Policy (now the Master’s of Urban and Public Policy)
Year graduated: 2018
New role/organization: Senior Policy Analyst for UnidosUS
What were some of your favorite “big ideas”/class takeaways during your time in SPPUA?
It’s hard to limit them to just a few but I will never forget my first day of “Housing Policy” with Prof. Len Albright. He led the class with the critical question: Is Housing a market good or a fundamental human right? That question put into bold terms the crisis facing our country and provided an important framing for assessing all policy issues. Another perspective-shifting one came from Prof. Linda Kowalcky in her class, “Strategizing Public Policy.” Rather than offering overly rigid steps for making policy, she demonstrated to us how to spot the systems, circumstances, and people that galvanize political will and bring policy from the realm of thought to reality. I walked away from that class feeling empowered to an effectual advocate.
Describe your new role and what a day or week may look like.
I work in the Economic component of UnidosUS and every day looks a bit different. Sometimes I’m writing and editing large scale reports that make a case for the specific policies necessary for the Latino community to thrive. Other days you might find me on the Hill having a meeting with congressional staffers, seeking out ways for us to effectively work together. The activities may vary but in all things I am an advocate for Latinos and people of color across the US.
What surprised you most about your move to DC and new job?
You hear a lot that DC is a city with high turnover. People often come for just a few years to make some big career steps and then move on to the next. That is very true, but at my organization there are a ton of leaders that have been at the organization for decades. It’s neat to learn from people who have been a part of creating political and social change for so long. I get to hear their war stories and gain perspective on what it takes to make lasting change at the federal level.
What recommendations or advice would you offer to prospective or current students?
GO TO OFFICE HOURS!! Your professors have a wealth of knowledge and also valuable connections and literally took this job because they want to help young minds change the world. I became almost a permanent installment at Prof. Kowalcky and Prof Landsmarks’ desks and could not be more thankful to have learned from such compassionate and bright people that cared to see me succeed.
Also, a lot of professors are open to offering feedback on assignments if you give them ample time. It may seem inconsequential to get a second set of eyes when you’re workings a deadline, but these writing projects have staying power. Many of the roles I applied to required writing samples and I owe a lot to the valuable hours spent with professors perfecting the writing my future employers would one day see.
Did you do any research while in SPPUA that has been applicable in your new role?
Absolutely! “Economic Policy” with Prof. Modestino gave me valuable tools for using hard numbers to make a case for political action.
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