Alum Builds Skills to Accomplish Goals Close to Heart
After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor of science in economics, Diana Vega Vega promptly enrolled in the two-year master of public policy (MPP) program through the University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “I wanted to look beyond myself and my own interests and apply my skills and knowledge to something that could impact the world in a greater way,” said Vega Vega.
Focusing Her Studies
Under the advisory of Dr. Samuel J. Myers, Jr., Vega Vega’s research is centered around racial and social equity and immigration policy. Dr. Myers, who received his doctorate in economics from MIT, directs the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, and specializes on the impacts of social policies on the poor.
Vega Vega’s decision to dedicate her studies to advancing racial and social equity and advocating for marginalized communities stems from her own experiences as a first-generation Mexican immigrant and college student. “Members of my family have gone through the path to citizenship… it’s close to my heart, it’s written on me,” said Vega Vega. As she gets further along in the MPP program, the classes will become more tailored to her specific interests. “I am looking forward to taking Analysis of Discrimination next year. It is a course on applied labor economics, and we will use econometrics to analyze racial disparities,” she said.
Goals for the Future
Not only does Vega Vega plan to use her Minnesota Economics degree to effect positive change in society, but she also wants to play a role in diversifying the field. After she completes the MPP program, she plans to pursue an economics PhD. She explained, “As a person of color, I want to advocate and inspire other people to pursue economics because there are very few people of color in PhD positions.” While graduate school can be intimidating, Vega Vega thinks the preparation she has received so far in her education will give her an advantage. “The rigor of the Minnesota Economics program is unique, which I am really thankful for because I think am well-prepared for further studies in economics,” she said.
University and Beyond
Vega Vega has already obtained a glimpse of why the Minnesota Economics reputation is so strong through her participation in the American Economic Association Summer Program (AEASP). The prestigious and intensive AEASP allows talented students to develop and polish their technical skills in preparation for rigorous graduate programs. Vega Vega said she certainly appreciates the rigor of the University of Minnesota’s economics program. “I have seen that other economics departments across the country are not as mathematically or statistically rigorous as the U. A lot of the material I saw this summer I had already seen in my undergraduate classes, which was extremely helpful,” said Vega Vega of her AEASP experience.
Aside from the AEASP, Vega Vega has had internships working with nonprofits in Minneapolis ranging from La Oportunidad, an organization that works to close the achievement gap and break the cycle of poverty and violence with the Latino community, to the Great Plains Institute, which focuses on improving environmental policy and practices. These experiences helped her further realize her desire to advocate for racial and social equity and immigration policy. With her Minnesota Economics background, the knowledge she is gaining through the public policy program, and the impressive professional experiences she has gained throughout the years, Vega Vega is well equipped to make a positive impact on the world and lead with her heart.