Negrete aspires to serve as Deputy Mayor of City Services for Los Angeles.
Nancy Negrete, Headshot
Nancy Negrete

Nancy Negrete comes to the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy with questions. “There are burdens and benefits to any policy, but how can we distribute those burdens and benefits in ways that are equitable? How can we distribute more benefits to low-income communities of color?”

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Negrete—raised in a low-income Latino community in Southeast Los Angeles—developed an interest in policy early.

While in elementary school, she accompanied her mother to a meeting where city council members were debating the implementation of a water tax based on individual households’ usage. Growing up in a neighborhood where many of her neighbors were large, multigenerational households, it dawned on the then-young Negrete that such a tax would punish those families in her community. “I thought that was really unfair,” she said, “and I realized that these five individuals had a lot of power and the ability to change people’s lives on a daily basis.” She walked out of that meeting knowing she wanted to pursue a career in policy.

After graduating from Wellesley College in Massachusetts with a BA in political science and Latin American studies, Negrete returned to Los Angeles and worked as a legal assistant for the Immigration Center for Women and Children. There, she processed U Visas and DACA applications. Negrete then served as a Program Manager at The City Project, where her role in advocating for environmental justice began as she started mapping communities of color and their access to parks. “There was an overwhelming disconnect between access to parks and people of color. Environmental justice recognizes that these disparities exist and makes sure that people of color are not discriminated against in city planning, for example.”

In light of the 2016 election, Negrete felt called to engage faith communities involved in helping immigrant communities succeed, which led her to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. While earning her MA in Theology and Ministry, she also cultivated a network of faith leaders who, like herself, cared deeply about social justice and considered it a top priority. She currently works for Fuller Seminary as a content developer, where the programming she builds equips faith leaders to effectively respond to immigration issues through advocacy. Regarding her social justice-focused work with Fuller Seminary, Negrete emphasized that “involving young people under 30 in policy and protest work is important. Helping to create intergenerational relationships in the faith community is very important to me.”

So why Harris, and why now?

“Understanding that the systemic inequalities that exist in our society are intentional and created by policies and legislation, I recognize the importance of research and policy evaluation to understand the benefits and burdens of these policies on communities of color,” Negrete said. “I was attracted to Harris because of the Core. I knew I needed to learn coding and statistics. I was excited to access the curriculum, network, and toolkit in a one-year program.”

Negrete also said the Center for Effective Government was a huge UChicago draw. “It’s relevant because we need to think about the full inclusion of all people in our democracy, including folks who are undocumented or those who are incarcerated. I’m interested in finding ways to have civic engagement with people who are usually excluded from political processes.”

Motivated by her family, as well as a deep desire to see “young Latino/a people thrive and access the best of society and achieve their full potential,” Negrete already has aspirations for next steps after earning her MA in Public Policy: “I would like to work at the city level–in the long term, my goal would be to become Deputy Mayor of City Services for the City of LA.”