Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, April 23, 2010

Sanchez-Moyano puts helping people at forefront of policy work

Rocio Sanchez-Moyano


After graduating in May 2010, Rocio Sanchez-Moyano joined the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Boston office in 2010 as a presidential management fellow. She worked on a variety of housing issues, from public housing and voucher utilization, to energy performance contracting, to community development in New England states.

She then joined Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, where she is now a research analyst.

The questions "So what? Who cares?" are not evidence of indifference or despondency for Rocio Sanchez-Moyano. Rather they are a challenge and an impetus to understand the greater implications of her work.

Sanchez-Moyano learned the value of those questions as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and uses them as she completes her Master of Public Affairs degree at the La Follette School this spring. A professor "would always ask 'So what, who cares?' meaning, what are the greater implications of this? When thinking about my work, I want the answer to be that I am helping people or changing their lives for the better, even it is in a small way," Sanchez-Moyano says.

After graduating in May, Sanchez-Moyano will bring that attention to bear when she joins the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Boston office as a presidential management fellow. "The opportunity to rotate among offices during the fellowship's two years will be a great opportunity to deal with a variety of policy and program issues," she says.

Long term, Sanchez-Moyano hopes to work as an analyst with broad responsibilities across several policy fields, or to specialize in an area. "I just hope that by working in social policy my decisions will have impacts on the lives of others," she says.

While at La Follette, Sanchez-Moyano held a project assistantship funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In the fall she investigated the accuracy of disclosure documents mortgage applicants make and whether that accuracy varies by consumer group, including people with less financial education. She found that mortgage disclosure documents are fairly accurate, despite the potential incentive for lenders to underestimate costs to attract customers. This spring she is examining the effects of financial education on employees. The project assistantship is with La Follette School faculty affiliate J. Michael Collins.

While compiling all of this work, Sanchez-Moyano keeps in mind the ultimate goal of her analysis and research: to help people. "An important driver in what I do is feeling like my work will improve someone's situation," she says. "I want to have a positive impact on those around me who have concerns that I can only begin to understand."

A summer internship as a program and policy analyst with the Division of Housing and Community Development at the Wisconsin Department of Commerce introduced Sanchez-Moyano to housing policy, one of her areas of interest. Sanchez-Moyano prepared a needs analysis to submit to HUD; implemented a web survey she designed to solicit public opinion about the state housing plan; and produced a report on affordable green housing.

"When I worked for the housing division last summer, we had a public listening session to solicit opinions for the needs and priorities of the state," she says. "Several members of the public had relied on state housing assistance and shared their stories when giving advice on how to move forward. Social policy clearly affected their lives."

Sanchez-Moyano came to La Follette through its accelerated program. University of Wisconsin–Madison seniors accepted into the program can begin taking core public affairs courses and finish their graduate degrees with one additional year as full-time graduate students.

She brought with her policy analysis experience. Through the campus think tank the Roosevelt Institution, she and other students put together a presentation for the state Commerce Department that compared Wisconsin's economy to that of other Midwest states. They considered how to increase entrepreneurship and studied a renewable energy grant program. When she took the La Follette School course on advance quantitative tools for public policy as a senior, she revisited an econometric assessment she conducted as a junior on the wealth gap between Latinos and whites. She found that the average Hispanic household holds $194,408 less in assets than the average white household. Even when controlling for demographic factors like education and income, Latinos have approximately 26 percent less wealth than whites.

As she finishes her studies in policy analysis and social policy, Sanchez-Moyano finds that only by asking more questions can she help to ensure that good public policy is crafted. "It is essential to always question, to always strive to understand all sides of an issue, to search for and acknowledge unintended consequences, and to take only that full understanding into the decision-making process," she says.

"Policies are much less clear than they sometimes appear, and the concerns of both citizens and decision-makers are more varied than one would imagine," she adds. "Only when we are conscious of all these facets can good policy be made."

Economist takes on global debt crisis in classroom, book, blog, October 29, 2009, La Follette School News

Last modified on Wednesday, November 12, 2014