A self-described idealist, Monica has always been drawn to the ways that politics and policy and people intersect and influence each other, especially in communities and regions facing serious challenges like the impact of immigration or the upheaval wrought by natural disasters.
After graduating from the University of Texas in ’98, Monica worked in the Texas state legislature and served in the Peace Corps, before returning to graduate school to pursue a dual degree in Latin American Studies and Community and Regional Planning, a program she completed in 2011. While pursuing her degree, Monica worked full-time for the State of Texas and was actively involved in statewide recovery efforts from hurricane Ike in 2008. Monica now works in the private sector at HORNE LLP, which has a disaster recovery consultancy that helps state and regional governments recover from major disasters like floods, hurricanes, and fires.
As a Masters student Monica became deeply interested in immigration issues, which lead to her becoming an RGK Ford Social Enterprise Fellow in the summer of 2007. As a fellow, she served as a consultant for Fundación Comunitaria del Bajío in Mexico. She worked with a small community of 60 families near Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajato, to assist the women of the community be more effective in running a small embroidering cooperative that was vital to the economic health of the community. The community, like so many today, had lost most of its grown male population to migration to the United States for work.
Looking back, Monica can see how her experience in Mexico shaped her in several profound ways. Intellectually, it showed her how communities are fragile and resilient at the same time, often due to the same systems and webs of relationships. It also gave her direct experience with the sophisticated understanding and political savvy it takes to recover from short-term upheavals and then cultivate a longer-term recovery that maintains a community’s health and resilience. Personally, Monica’s experience with RGK challenged her to expand her worldview and increased her confidence in her own capabilities to serve others in multiple settings.
Monica’s experience in Mexico prepared her well for the complexity of the work she now does. She has a healthy appreciation for the fact that issues that seem straight-forward are anything but, and that small “p” politics at all levels profoundly influences the work of organizations and sectors as they navigate stakeholders and constraints to do their good work.
For the students coming behind her, Monica strongly encourages them to seek out opportunities to develop as many different lenses as possible to understand challenges and people. Monica acknowledges that frustration and doubt are an inevitable part of the process of doing good work, especially with scale of the challenges we face, and she sometimes gets frustrated by the slow pace of change. But, ever the idealist, Monica still has faith in the ability of people to pull together across different worldviews and experiences to make life better for each other, and is deeply committed to that work.