Sabrina de la Vega, MPP Class of 2021

Sabrina de la Vega, MPP Class of 2021, discusses the ways she found and built community at Harris after moving from Washington, D.C. to Chicago.

My name is Sabrina de la Vega, and I am currently pursuing my Master of Public Policy (MPP) with a focus in environmental studies. I work with the Harris School of Public Policy Admissions team as a Graduate Assistant. In this capacity, I primarily speak with prospective students about the MPP program and the student experience here at Harris.  

Many students are surprised when I tell them I had absolutely no connections in Chicago prior to moving from Washington, D.C. 

One of the reasons I came to Harris in the first place was because of some wonderful people I met during the admissions process who were part of the student organization Minorities in Public Policy Studies (MiPPS)Melissa Navas, especially, had a profound impact on my decision to come to Harris. She made me feel welcome and included from the first time we met, and even helped me look for apartments over the summer. Her kindness and passion for Harris made me confident that there must be many more wonderful people where she came fromand that absolutely proved to be the case. MiPPS also has proved to be a great way for me to get involved and make friends with a lot of second-year students—with whom many first-years don’t often have a real opportunity to engage with until spring quarter. 

I have also found that the cohorts we were assigned to during orientation, and randomly assigned homework groups for many classes, led to real friendships. Moreover, working through rigorous problem sets and navigating the challenges that came with being in the first quarter of grad school sparked close friendships. I also always recommend Jumpstart and Math Camp to prospective students. While both programs are designed for brushing up on quantitative skills before the fall quarter begins, I contend it is also where friendships really start forming. 

Perhaps the second most-frequent question I’m asked is, Do you have time to do anything other than study?” My response is typically something along the lines of “grad school is what you make of it.” For example, I view friendships at Harris as networking with future colleagues: it is a good use of your time to put down the books for a few hours and get involved and hang out with your classmates. Whether you join Harris intramural sports teams (there’s nothing like competition against the law school to unite policy students), explore downtown and other Chicago neighborhoods, take in weekly movies with friends, work on campus or attend evening events like Harris After Hours, there are almost limitless opportunities to become part of the Harris community.

Moving to a new city (and starting a new program!) may seem scary and overwhelming, but at Harris I found a lot of people who could relate, with advice about how to succeed and even have fun here. With so many great opportunities to network with peers from the day you arrive, I found Harris a welcoming homeand think you will too.