Soto aims to use the tools she gains at Harris to implement evidence-based solutions to make sustainable impacts in vulnerable communities.
Headshot of Sara Soto
Sara Soto

From a young age, Sara Soto, MPP Class of 2023, began volunteering, both in her hometown of Bogota, Colombia and abroad. She said these experiences formed her passion for fighting inequality and also got her thinking about how to make sustainable impacts on vulnerable communities.

“One of the things volunteering helped me understand is that it’s really important to have sustainable change. If you’re going into a community, you have to understand their needs, their strengths, and what they want so that you can give them tools that will help the community continue growing after you leave.”

This desire to understand people’s needs led Soto to pursue her bachelor’s degrees in sociology and psychology from the University of Miami, where she also developed an interest in human rights. That interest influenced her career. After graduating in 2019, Soto began working as a casework assistant at International Rescue Committee’s Miami office.

It was there that her clients inspired her to pursue public policy. “I witnessed how my clients who were minors had their childhood taken away, and that no matter the services we provided, their life would never be the same.”

Soto also said that while the International Rescue Committee met the survivor’s recovery goals, she began to think about the factors that lead to inequality at a more macro level. “I wondered how to prevent this initial suffering and provide the necessary support not to find themselves in this situation. 

“When I started researching the common backgrounds that many survivors shared, I noticed patterns: coming from poverty—or violence—or places with a lot of gender inequality or lack of access to education. While I was working with survivors after they had been trafficked, I realized I really wanted to work to prevent the issue.”

Thus, Soto began looking at graduate programs that would help equip her to combat the larger social problems at hand.

Once Soto began exploring programs available at  the UChicago Harris School of Public Policy, she saw earning the Master of Public Policy as the best next step for her. “It was clear that the Harris MPP would give me the tools that I need to both understand the needs of communities and also implement evidence-based solutions to meet those needs.”

While at Harris, Soto plans to continue focusing on intervention and exploring economic and political development by completing the International Policy and Development (IPD) Certificate. “I’m excited to push myself out of my comfort zone and explore more quantitative topics—in classes and by talking to my professors—that will help me create and implement the best developmental policies. That’s why the MPP is so appealing. It’s so important to have exposure to so many different backgrounds and careers and experiences.”

While Soto awaits the start of Autumn quarter, she has diverted her interest in gender equality into a passion project of her own: launching a small artisanal jewelry business that employs Colombian artisans and supports the economic and social empowerment of low-income women. “I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the future, but I know that in any role that I have, I want to be empowering women. This is just one way that I’ve been able to do that before beginning my studies at Harris.”