Alyssa Padilla is a Public Policy Fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C. She graduated from the UA in Spring 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the Eller College of Management.
Daily Wildcat: What exactly do you do in your fellowship?
Padilla: CHCI fellows get placed into agencies, nonprofit organizations, the White House or Capitol Hill, where we get to do all sorts of research and plan events, depending on which office you get placed in. I am currently doing public policy and research in Congressman Grijalva's office on Capitol Hill where I fact check talking points and write summaries for briefings that I've attended.
My first placement, which was September through December, was in the Department of Health and Human Services in the office of Global Health for the Americas, a federal agency. The fellowship also has weekly training sessions that have different types of policy and education training through the Congressional Research Service program.
What are the types of activities you get to partake in as a CHCI fellow?
I have gotten to meet with all types of different people including top executives, Latino community leaders, congressmen, Supreme Court justices and multiple ambassadors.
I've also participated in writing workshops and had really great volunteer opportunities. The CHCI fellows just volunteered at Carlos Rosario, an international public charter school, to help students learning English practice their English. We had a day with Habitat for Humanity and we will be hosting a CHCI 2010-2011 class scholarship where we raise money for the scholarships that CHCI provides.
How was meeting the first lady and President Obama?
It was mindnumbing and beyond anything I thought I would get to do at this point in my life. The CHCI fellows talked with the first lady for approximately 15 minutes about our program and the young Latino leaders that are out in the world representing their communities and pushing for greater things within those communities. Although the fellows did not get to meet with the president, we attended an event where he spoke and got to meet him and shake his hand.
How long have you been a public policy fellow?
I started in August of 2010, and my program ends in May 2011.
How did the opportunity to become a public policy fellow come about?
After graduating, I took a year off and Google searched ""paid fellowships"" to see what type of different opportunities were out there. I had heard about CHCI before, so I sent in an application, assuming I was one of the thousands to do so. After making it through a few rounds of cuts and a 15-minute phone interview, I was accepted. Had I not gotten this opportunity, I would have never worked in D.C. nor met core powerful leaders in the U.S.
How did your education and experiences at the UA help prepare you for this fellowship?
The mix of my business degree and the student run organizations I was involved in helped me prepare for the type of work that I do now. My business degree helped me learn to network and write proposals and memos. Working for the Women's Resource Center helped fully develop my interest in topics like health and sexual health education.
Do you have any advice for current UA students?
If you need time off, take it. Try your best to remain focused, always be prepared, never burn bridges, and retain civility and respect. One of the biggest things I have learned to do is utilize my resources and mentors. If you reach out to people with your same interests, they can help you along in life. That is something I never did until I moved out here.
What are your plans for when you complete your fellowship?
I was accepted to the Zuckerman College of Public Health to start my Masters in public health. I feel like my experience as a fellow has helped me develop the type of skills I need and allowed me to hone in on the specific topics that I am interested in. I was never as interested in policy and government as I was in community outreach and grass roots organization, but this helped me put two and two together. I want to further develop my interest in policy along the lines of health, which is a topic I have been advocating for since I was 17 years old.