Student Spotlight: Lizbeth Lucero ’24 MPA

First-generation college graduate Lizbeth Lucero, who aims to make public policies more inclusive and equitable, appreciates the diversity of faculty and fellow students in Brown’s Master of Public Affairs program.


Brooklyn, New York

Undergraduate Institution: 

Cornell University '20 B.S. Development Sociology

Even before enrolling at Cornell University, Brown Master of Public Affairs (MPA) student Lizbeth Lucero was interested in issues of poverty, equity and education. "Cornell's Development Sociology major incorporated courses on comparative social inequalities, international development, population dynamics and social science methods," said Lucero. "The major allowed me the flexibility to triple-minor in education, public policy, and law and society." 

Having graduated during the pandemic, Lucero said, "I didn't necessarily want to attend graduate school right away, especially in a remote world. Instead, I wanted work experience in the policy space before deciding on a graduate program." 

Through post-college networking, Lucero connected with Ariana Zukergood, a Cornell alumna and 2020 Brown MPA graduate. Zukergood invited Lucero to join a weekly forecasting group of recent Cornell graduates and then-current Watson MPA students.  "During our weekly meetings, I was immensely impressed with the Brown MPA students' critical thinking techniques and their ability to make evidence-based forecasting predictions," said Lucero. "The more I looked into Watson's MPA program, the more I could envision myself there."  

When applying to Brown's MPA program, Lucero appreciated the one-year program model and, although initially anxious about the quantitative analysis-focused summer sequence, she recognized its importance to making good, informed policy decisions. "This semester, I'm reminded that complex problems don't have one definitive answer; public policy is tremendously complicated," she said.    

I was immensely impressed with the Brown MPA students' critical thinking techniques and their ability to make evidence-based forecasting predictions. The more I looked into Watson's MPA program, the more I could envision myself there.

Lizbeth Lucero MPA Class of 2024
Lizbeth Lucero '24 MPA

At Watson, Lucero appreciates the diversity of the MPA cohort and the array of policy interests. "The program has allowed me to build relationships with people I may not have otherwise encountered," Lucero said, recalling eye-opening conversations with former and active members of the military and classmates with familial connections to the military. "As I continue on this one-year journey, I look forward to learning from the expertise and real-life experiences of my classmates," she said.

As a daughter of immigrants, Lucero is eager to focus on issues of equity: "How do we systemically dismantle barriers through effective decision-making processes?" Calling it her "passion project," Lucero is interested in examining the educational achievement gap and increasing the representation of students of color on college campuses across the country. Most crucially, Lucero is interested in how to make effective, sustainable and equitable public policy, especially for those who have the most at stake.

In her classes, she is already studying unique approaches to how to do this. Professor David Blanding, who teaches Policy Analysis and Problem Solving, incorporates case studies and urges students to always question the status quo in the policy-making process. Lucero explained that in her Public Budgeting and Management class with adjunct lecturer in international and public affairs Diana Perdomo, "We're currently learning how budgets speak to our [policy] priorities: How do we allocate money at all levels of government to meet the needs of constituencies and communities? How do we create mechanisms for community engagement in state and local budgets? What do we consider priority items in our budgets? And, how to bring new voices to the table?"

For Lucero, policy is personal. She pointed out how the policies she's studying as a graduate student have directly impacted her life. "My educational trajectory has been a testimony to effective governance and good policy decisions. The Federal TRIO Programs [educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from historically underserved backgrounds], for instance, played a tremendous role in my journey to and through college. While we may not always explicitly see the benefits of good policy decisions, they are all around us. And yet, there's still a lot more work to be done — that's why I want to get into this work."

While Lucero is considering pursuing a Ph.D. in the future, she remains open to other possibilities in her next steps after graduating. "I'd love to go back and work with my colleagues at New America [a think tank in Washington, DC]. I am also open to learning more about what other organizations and institutions are doing to address the most pressing needs of the 21st century."