This summer, Grecia Garcia ’16 and Julian Juarez ’16 will participate in the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program at the University of Michigan.
The program, which formed more than 30 years ago, offers seven weeks of intensive graduate-level training in statistics, microeconomics, policy and writing to prepare students for graduate programs in public policy and international affairs.
Garcia, a double major in sociology and Spanish, says she wants to close the gap between research and public policy making — ensuring there are no discrepancies between the two. Juarez, a politics major, says his studies have piqued his interest in public policy and the legislative process.
“It’s amazing to learn politics through a liberal arts lens,” Juarez says. “At Willamette I’m able to build a strong theoretical background, but I think the economics and statistics are lost sometimes. PPIA offers a lot of opportunities to gain those skills.”
Uniting Research and Policy
Garcia aspires to improve education policy. Having mentored at Willamette Academy for three years, she says she’s seen the shortcomings of the public education system firsthand.
“I see a lot of ways that the school districts, or educational federal policies, are not helping our kids,” she says. “That’s why I’m really interested in public policy, to change policies like No Child Left Behind and funding for schools.”
Last summer, Garcia participated in a Liberal Arts Research Collaborative project in which she explored the effects of parent involvement at the academy. The LARC team will present their work at the Pacific Sociological Association’s annual meeting in April.
“LARC gave me the tools to do social research and write a qualitative paper,” Garcia says.
After completing her two theses — including a 100-hour internship and a research project on bilingual education policy — next year, Garcia plans to apply for graduate school.
“I am a first generation U.S. college student, and graduate school seems like a big step to take,” Garcia says. “PPIA will help me prepare mentally and academically for my future goal of getting a masters.”
Writing Policy to Rebuild Trust
During the previous spring semester, Juarez completed two internships with legislators at the Oregon State Capitol. He’s now participating in a semester program and Congressional internship in Washington, D.C., where he’s working for Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Portland.
“I’m fortunate that Willamette is near the state capitol of Oregon,” Juarez says. “Being able to go every other day for six hours at a time, learning and developing a sense for the legislative process, has piqued my interest in public policy, and PPIA is an opportunity to gain the necessary skills to write policy.”
Juarez says he is interested in rebuilding trust between underserved communities and financial institutions after the financial crisis of 2008.
“Just being able to have access to a bank account is huge for people, and we take it for granted,” Juarez says. “But if you have to cash a check at a grocery store and they take 30 percent, it’s a huge loss.”
When he’s not interning at the state capitol, Juarez plays for the men’s soccer team as a goalie. He’s participated with WU CAUSA, and he tutors for Chemawa Indian School.
“Learning to collaborate with different political parties in the Oregon State Legislature and learning to collaborate with diverse people at Willamette and Chemawa has been really eye-opening,” Juarez says. “Willamette has given me the ability to put myself in places where I can continue to learn.”
For more information on the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program and other scholarships, see the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards.
• Article by Emma Jonas ’15, creative writing major