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Home > For Students > MPA/MPP Alumni > Alumni in South America

Maria Luisa Picard Ami

Empowering Mexican Women

ppp Job Title:
Social Enterprise and Sustainable Community Development Coordinator

Organization:
El Puente Community Development Corporation

Graduate:
MPA; Non-Profit Management; 2002
University of Texas at El Paso

Home Country:
Mexico


What do you enjoy about your job? What aspects of your job are the most exciting or interesting?
I work in a nonprofit that operates locally, but that also offers many opportunities for regional, national, and international networking on issues affecting low-income women, affected by the shifting about common issues. I enjoy the opportunity to start new projects, think them through, plan their implementation, and watch them develop and grow. Each new project is a challenge that requires pooling together both my personal skills and those of my colleagues and the organizational networks.

Why did you choose to pursue an MPA/MPP degree?
I choose to pursue an MPA degree because it was the graduate plan that best fit my experience and my future goals. For most of my professional life, I have worked intermittently in nonprofits and government agencies, on both sides of community economic development issues. The time invested towards a MPA created an opportunity to take a mid-career “energizing breath of fresh air”. The information and tools offered by the MPA program allowed me to organize my lifework in a coherent body of theory and practice, and to update and build on this experience, preparing me for the next stage in my professional development.

How did you select your graduate school?
In my case, I first choose the location and then the program. I wanted to live and work in a border community, in a city that would allow me to utilize my biculturalism, while at the same time offer me the opportunity to learn about the complexities of social, political and administrative exchange on an international border. El Paso was the choice and the MPA graduate program at UTEP was the perfect match because it is a program that recognizes its position in the U.S. Mexico border community and seeks to prepare professionals that are suited to its bi-national context. When choosing a graduate school, it is important to take into consideration the aspects modeled above. There are practical reasons such as place, time, and finances. But there are also powerful reasons related to the type of professional the school is interested in helping to form. Especially in an MPA program, where graduates will go out to work in, with and for the community as public servants or nonprofit managers, there should be a match between the philosophy of the school and its stated mission, and the prospective graduate student’s purpose and professional goals. Look at the program of study, see if the courses are tailored to your perspectives and/or if there is enough flexibility to focus and/or specialize in the area where you want to work.
How do you feel your MPA/MPP is helping you to make a difference?

The MPA program has allowed me to exercise a new level of professionalism in my work. By offering a diversity of tools for research, analysis, and implementation of public policy and programs, it has allowed me to approach projects with a comprehensive vision and renewed confidence in the quality of the work. Perhaps a good example would be a recent project I worked on. The organization, a community development corporation, was occupying a large and dilapidated warehouse with the intention of renovating it as an economic engine in the empowerment zone. My first task was to secure funding to purchase the building. With the knowledge acquired both in accounting and budgeting, I was able to create a loan package with a business and development plan solid enough to engage a national CDFI as a long-term partner. The next step was to conduct a feasibility study that included a market analysis and a facility use plan. Here again, tools acquired in public policy analysis and administrative law, as well as the research methods and statistical and economic impact analysis abilities honed during the MPA program helped me secure funding by writing, implementing, monitoring and reporting on a federal grant that required organizing and coordinating the work of a diverse team group of professional consultants to finalize the study. Today I am working on laying out the next stages of the project. It is necessary to develop a workable combination of financial, human, and organizational resources to renovate the building and furnish it, as well as to operate the facility as a social enterprise incubator.. By teamwork, networking and a wide array of public and private alliances, I am helping to create viable and sustainable models of resource administration, business operation, and information management that are based on solid strategic and financial planning practices. This project is a step forward towards building a sustainable community economic development model that is helping to re-establish the local economic base, shattered by the negative effects of international trade agreements and globalization on the low skilled workforce in El Paso. Being an active part of this project and seeing it unfold and prosper makes me proud.

How do you feel your MPA/MPP is helping you to make a difference?
I think my program made a difference for me. It changed my way of seeing the society. I don't have any accomplishment that I'm proud of yet.

How would you characterize your personality?
* Number cruncher * Rigorous * Good under pressure * Compassionate * Teacher * Persistent * Committed * Curious * Independent * Driven * Analytical * Service-oriented * Entrepreneurial

Contact Maria Luisa Picard-Am with questions regarding her graduate experience:
Email Maria

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