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ASU political science grad pursues career in policy

Myra Francisco

November 16, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Myra Francisco, who will be graduating from Arizona State University this fall with a BA in political science and minor in statistics, knows that policy is important — and she wants to play a role in shaping it.

For two years after graduating high school, Francisco attended a liberal arts school in Minnesota but ultimately chose to transfer to Arizona State University due to the professional opportunities she believed it could provide.

“I knew that there would be plenty of opportunities to get involved in policy and learn outside of the classroom,” said Francisco when discussing why she chose ASU.

Her interest in political science was sparked after taking government in high school where she learned how policy can play a large roll in impacting society. Francisco decided to major in political science as a way to learn the necessary skills needed for her dream career.

With the flexibility of ASU’s course offerings, Francisco made it a priority to pursue internships both locally and in Washington D.C.

As an intern with the Arizona Board of Regents, she learned more about the policy priorities of the state’s universities. Francisco would track bills and learn about the legislative process at the state capitol every day during her internship.

“I think the biggest takeaway from this experience was that policy isn’t black or white; public policies are intersectional and have lots of stakeholders.”

Francisco was able to spend time in D.C. completing internships on two occasions. First with KIPP DC during the summer of 2019 and last spring for her internship with New America as a Higher Education Policy Intern.

“Ever since I started college, I had dreamt of going to D.C. to work for an organization like New America, and it definitely lived up to all my expectations,” Francisco said.

New America — a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank – provided Francisco the ability to learn from experts in the policy field. She had the freedom to research topics she was interested in and published several blog posts “about topics such as federal-state partnerships for funding schools and internship inequity.”

Currently, Francisco is an analyst student intern at the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is an independent, nonpartisan agency that provides information to Congress and other agencies. At GAO, the staff  must work at a fast pace and think critically. Francisco said the team oriented environment has been ideal for her career development.

“The best thing about working at the Government Accountability Office is the type of work that my day-to-day entails,” she said. “I’m constantly learning.”

After graduation, Francisco hopes to relocate to Washington D.C. Although she is unsure whether she will work in government, higher education or nonprofit, Francisco knows that the skills she gained while at ASU will help in pursuing a career in policy.

“I think the most important thing that I’m looking for in a career is the ability to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.”

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: I’ve always been surprised at how some subjects and topics bleed into each other. For example, in my probability class this semester (a class focused on probabilistic theory and its applications), I was pleasantly surprised when we encountered models that functioned the same way as models that I’ve learned throughout my political science coursework. The courses couldn’t be more different; but it reminded me that there’s value in gaining different perspectives from different disciplines. It also reinforced the idea that there are multiple ways to use the same tool — in this case models — to achieve different ends.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I think the most important lesson I was taught at ASU wasn’t related to academics. I chose to minor in statistics for two reasons: first, it’s a discipline that is becoming increasingly important in policy; and second, I wanted to challenge myself. I’ve taken several mathematics and statistics courses at ASU, but the most difficult course I’ve taken by far is my Calculus III class. When I enrolled in the course, I hadn’t taken a calculus class since high school, nearly three years prior. My professor was very patient with me in office hours throughout the whole semester, helping me learn and understand a subject that was basically like a foreign language to me. He taught me the importance of perseverance, especially when you’re outside your comfort zone. I learned how to approach problems from a different perspective and to adapt to different ways of thinking. These are highly transferable skills that I’ve been able to apply both in and out of the classroom.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Be open to making mistakes and being wrong! It’s important to remember that as a student, your job is to learn and continue to develop yourself. You’re not supposed to know absolutely everything when you’re in college, or even when you’re about to graduate. Take those moments where you have the wrong answer or make a mistake as an opportunity to learn. 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience at ASU and the School of Politics and Global Studies?

A: One of the things I really appreciated was the freedom and autonomy that ASU gave me while completing my degree. I was able to take classes that were interesting and structure my schedule so I could also work as an intern in many different places. Without that flexibility, I can confidently say I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.

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