MPA Alum Encourages Students to Be Open-Minded

Alexandra Garcia’s passion for public policy began when she took PP 1001: Intro to Public Policy as a winter course to earn some extra credit. She was a political science and sociology major and found that the policy course tied a lot of concepts together for her. She then learned about the Department of Public Policy’s (DPP) Fast-Track program, and as someone who values efficiency, she was drawn to the program’s design that allows students to finish a Master’s degree in just one extra year after undergrad. Initially Alexandra had only intended for the Master of Public Administration (MPA) to be a stepping stone to law school, but her time in the MPA program sparked an interest in research and a desire to pursue a doctoral degree in the future.

Alexandra Garcia with her dog
Alexandra Garcia, MPA alum

In the DPP program, students have the opportunity to choose between two degrees, a MPA and Master of Public Policy (MPP). Alexandra weighed her options and ultimately decided that an MPA was more suited to her interests. The MPP allows students to pursue a quantitative-heavy approach to public policy and while the MPA sufficiently prepares students for quantitative research, it also focuses closely on the operations side of public agencies. Alexandra felt her strengths lied more within the MPA’s scope of courses and could prepare her for improving government agency operations to benefit the people using those services. 

Through the MPA program, Alexandra completed an Internship and Professional Practice (IPP) with the State of Connecticut’s Department of Children & Families (DCF) as a Data Analyst. She used statistical methods to evaluate different programs and initiatives for the agency, such as exploring how race and family situations affect a certain cohort of children, and their barriers to exiting the foster care system. Alexandra appreciated the supportive DPP faculty who were there to offer advice when needed. Despite feeling like statistics were not her strong suit, Alexandra said that her position at the DCF,  “empowered me to be able to analyze, understand, and tell stories with data in my own way.” She found herself wanting to learn how different criminal justice, education, and health policies affect children and families involved with the foster care system. 

Currently, Alexandra is a research assistant with the UConn School of Social Work Program Improvement Center. Doubting her own qualifications, she almost did not apply for the job, but after a stellar interview and dedicating time to the statistics assessment, she was offered the position. Alexandra offers the following advice to anyone else doubting themselves or their life path:

“You are meant to end up where you are and don’t fight it. I’ve wanted to go to law school since freshman year of college and now I cannot see myself doing anything else other than going into academia and research. I’ve only had this position for a short time but I love it because it is a continuation of what I unexpectedly learned to love while in graduate school, which is research. Always be open-minded!”