Oxley is studying the intersection of urban policy, technology, and education to provide more equitable education access to immigrant and first generation students.
Headshot of Grace Oxley
Grace Oxley

Grace Oxley, MPP Class of 2022, is passionate about finding solutions to enable institutions to direct resources to underserved communities. Her studies heavily focus on the intersections of urban policy, technology, and education.

“You think about the landscape in the US, and often you see communities of color are often disproportionately faced with the greatest challenges,” said Oxley. “So I knew I wanted to study urban policy coming in, and I’ve recognized technology and digital equity can influence policy work in a truly measurable way.”

As an Obama Foundation Scholar, she works to generate evidence to provide solutions to maximize impact. Oxley also serves as the President of Black Action in Public Policy Studies (BAPPS).

Oxley inherited her service-mindset from her parents and their experiences. “My grandparents brought my father to the United States from Barbados with the goal of providing him a better education. My parents’ stories motivate me to help communities in need access a better education and better future,” she said. “I want to try to fill that gap because there are a lot of immigrant or first generation students that still have several challenges to overcome.”

Oxley’s interest in public policy began when she studied Urban Policy at the College of William and Mary. There, she added breadth to her academic experience by studying abroad—one summer at Cambridge University and another summer at the University of West Indies—and by conducting independent research.

After graduation, Oxley worked at the Universiti Malaysia Perlis, where she taught international students English. After a year in Malaysia, Oxley moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to work in urban policy and community development, and later at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, where she worked as a Project Manager for Pitt-Assisted Communities & Schools.

While Oxley found her work rewarding, she was looking for a way to deepen her social impact. She decided to pursue her Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree because, she said, “Harris offered the mix of qualitative and quantitative skills I needed in order to think critically about what will make a difference in the world.”

At Harris, Oxley has developed a deeper understanding of the systemic disparities on Black communities. She has had opportunities to analyze the effectiveness of technology on social programs and their impact. “We think a lot about which policies can influence the distribution of resources, school choice, and things like that,” said Oxley.

Oxley’s work has always been very service-oriented, and she continues to find time to volunteer. Early in the pandemic, Oxley often volunteered with her church, distributing food to students in need and helping with community cleanups.

Oxley offers this advice to students: “Remember your why: Why did you come to Harris? Why are you doing the work you’re doing? Stay true to your unique perspective to solve the challenges that are important to you.”