The importance of equity and citizen engagement in the field is a topic we first year MPA students are studying. In the case of one particular MPA graduate, I learned how she was addressing this very issue.
Alicia J. LeDuc (MPA, ‘11) took these same lessons on equity from the MPA program and is currently using them in her work as a lawyer. She currently works for Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP and has taken on pro-bono cases for the ACLU involving immigration rights issues as well as taking on cases representing low-income and other disadvantaged populations. During my interview with her, I learned about how the MPA program enhanced her current work.
What stands out to you from your experience in the MPA program?
The thing that sticks out to me the most in comparison to my other upper-division education is the seminaring aspect of Evergreen classes, where there’s a lot more dialogue and overall encouragement for people to voice opinions and think critically about how concepts will be applied in practice. In this way, the MPA program helped prepare me for legal practice when I engage in negotiations, strategy meetings, or need to make objections and represent my clients in court – areas where I need to speak up and give voice to my client’s case in order to be the best advocate I can. Seminaring really prepared me for that aspect of the role I have now.
Why did you choose the Evergreen MPA?
I chose the Evergreen MPA because I was interested in policy and a professor of mine at Saint Martin’s University, who had graduated from Evergreen, referred me to the program. He knew I was self-directed and interested in advocacy work, and the program did work well for me in allowing me to pursue my individual interests. During my time at Evergreen, I spent three months in a religious community in East Africa doing research and economic development work for my Capstone project, and was also able to create an independent learning contract as a research analyst with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
It was also a flexible program. I attended the MPA from 2009 to 2011 at a time when many were having a hard time finding work in their field during the recession. The fact that I could work full-time during the day and attend class in the evening made the Evergreen MPA program feasible. The program’s sensitivity to the needs of working professionals allowed me to earn a master’s degree in two years without delaying my career, leaving me even more qualified at the end.
How did the MPA program help prepare you for your current career?
The litigation work I perform frequently touches on policy issues. For example, I represent the ACLU of Oregon in litigation regarding access to ICE records on the implementation of immigration rights policies. Being in a policy-oriented Master’s program helped lay the foundation for me in understanding how agencies operate and how to effectively interact with government entities. I’ve been able to come into these cases with eyes wide open, having read and discussed administrative law, federal policy analysis, and the legislative process during my Evergreen tenure. The MPA perspective gives me a beneficial edge.
In general, the MPA program enhanced my sense of agency in taking ownership over my role in our governance processes, as a private citizen and now in particular as an officer of the court. As an attorney, I carry these ideals with me and strive to engage in work through which I can be a responsible steward and advocate for our democratic process. When I think of the Evergreen MPA’s emphasis on how to make room for quieter or less represented voices in the governance process, I see that spirit carrying with me in my work, particularly in pro bono cases. I’ve also had the chance to share these perspectives with others engaged in governance work abroad, through work with Afghan women attorneys in the Alliance for International Women’s Rights, as well as gender justice research in Guatemala.
Do you have advice for current or future MPA students?
Engage. Take the time to educate yourself by completing the readings and leaving time to reflect on your impressions before you head to class. This will help you focus your contributions in seminar, and be more prepared to hear what others have to say. It also helps you build upon the ideas more quickly. Beyond that, I would advise taking courses – or creating ILCs – in subject matters that interest you. Take advantage of the unique adaptability available in the Evergreen MPA program to position yourself as a budding expert in whatever it is that impassions you. We come to Evergreen to be the change, and the program is there to help you enhance your ability to do your life’s work. Take the opportunity and make it yours, it will benefit others in return.