Q: How did you first become interested in your field of study?
A: The first-hand exposure to poverty and inequality that I had growing up in Costa Rica, coupled with the eye-opening study of it as an undergraduate made me want to gear my career toward finding impactful ways to make a dent in this problem. I have personally benefited from policies and initiatives that gave me amazing opportunities to further my education, and to have higher aspirations than what my parents or grandparents even remotely had. However, I am aware that education and public policies are not usually as generous to everyone as they were to me. I truly believe in the power of education as a tool to create a world with less poverty and more opportunity. That is why I became passionate about this line of research.
Q: What are your primary research interests?
A: I am very interested in the intersection of education policy and development. I think that access to education is still a huge issue in many developing settings, and I hope to do research that addresses this. In particular, not having “access” to education could take many forms, depending on the context: the schools may be too far away, the curriculum may only cater to a few students, the classes could be taught in a language that most children don’t understand, underrepresented groups in education don’t know how to navigate the systems, etc.
Q: What made you decide to attend UVA for your Ph.D.?
A: Having lived for four years just an hour away, I got to visit Charlottesville many times. I remember thinking to myself, “someday I’ll live there," especially since compared to Lexington, it felt like a big, cosmopolitan city. During my time in Lexington, I fell in love with the Blue Ridge mountains, and with the area in general. Luckily for me, UVA was also here, so I got to go to grad school in a place that I really liked and already had a bond with.
Q: What are your ultimate career goals?
A: I would love to work for an international/multilateral organization, or as part of the Measurement & Evaluation team of an education and/or development organization.
Q: What advice would you give to students applying to Ph.D. programs?
A: Make sure you find a program where people, and especially your advisors, are caring and truly interested in your professional development. This can make or break your graduate school experience. This, to me, is way more important than any ranking or fancy names.