How public policy alumna Rebecca Arce used the skills she gained from the program and real life experiences to help her in Oregon government

Rebecca Arce

Rebecca Arce, M.P.P. ‘14

By Emily Willis, CLA Student Writer - April 26, 2024

Rebecca Arce, M.P.P. ‘14, is a first-generation student who entered graduate school in her 30s. Arce always aspired to work in public service after watching what her parents had to endure after immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico. Arce wanted to knock down the barriers that her parents went through while trying to integrate by making the process easier and less daunting.

“Being the daughter of immigrants, I watched my dad go through the naturalization process,” Arce described. “Because being a U.S. citizen was very important to him, he was involved in local campaigns and a local union member. From a very young age, I was  shown what it was to give back to the community and get involved.”

Arce started her undergraduate studies at Columbia College in Missouri and was considering law school, but it was a political philosophy class that got her interested in the inner workings of public policy. Arce interned with Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, which confirmed her interest in public policy.

Arce was attracted to the School of Public Policy’s master’s program for the variety of skills the coursework provides and career avenues one could take with the degree. Arce wanted to gain the qualitative methodologies to understand policy making through shared lived experiences. But it was the supportive student cohort that drew Arce in.

“I loved the cohort,” said Arce. “It was small enough where we could support each other’s work and encouraged us to be non-competitive. It created a sense of community among the dozen of us. I was also fortunate enough to have great mentors like Professor Brent Steele and Dr. Alison Davis-White Eyes.”

Arce’s thesis was a comparative analysis of social and international policy between the immigrant experience of Roma living in the United Kingdom with the Latina population in Western U.S. The biggest difference Arce discovered was the resettlement support the Roma population received from the U.K. government to help families integrate and get children on a path to education. Immigrants to states in the Western U.S. experienced a “free-for-all” environment, Arce described, with poor planning and support services, creating compounding effects for generations; for instance, fewer Latinx people entering higher education.

Arce was also involved in the inaugural cohort of the School of Public Policy’s OSU Policy Analysis Lab (OPAL) and assigned to get the program up and running. The lab accepts projects from external clients including  civic governments, public organizations, interest groups, and more, as a training opportunity to assist students build their qualitative and quantitative skills.

“As part of my graduate research assistantship,” Arce explained. “My assignment was to get the program up and running. There were six of us and a faculty member from the natural resources department helping. We were given the freedom to craft the program’s mission and direction, as well as choose the initial assignments.”

The City of Albany approached OPAL to help run an analysis on how to make city government more transparent in its mission to revitalize the city’s downtown core. Arce’s final report describes the successes that came about as a result of a broad citizen participation process and the shortcomings that merged when the interests of the community were forgotten.

“Working at OPAL provided me with immense policy analysis experience that I currently use for my career in government,” Arce explained. “Because OPAL works like a mini committee, I got a better understanding of the committee process and how to become a better writer of policy.”

Arce’s first job out of the M.P.P. program was with the Oregon Department of Human Services as an advocacy and development manager. Arce supported legislative committees and developed a service equity plan. Now, Arce is an equity, inclusion, and accessibility specialist at the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The commission is a pass-through funding agency for public educational institutions, including OSU, where Arce helps coordinate DEIA policy with public education institutions.

After working in public service for nearly a decade now, Arce still loves it.

“It’s hard work, especially when you’re trying to serve those who are left out, like students with disabilities, people of color, and LGBTQ students. I see things are better, but I recognize I work in a system that’s not designed for everyone.”