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Michelle Vaca

'12 MAIR/MPA

Economist

United States Department of Labor


Michelle Vaca is an economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. Originally from Ecuador, she currently lives in Washington, D.C. Michelle received her BS in Economics from Florida Atlantica University in 2008 and her MPA and MAIR from Maxwell in 2012.

Michelle works for the Women's Bureau at the Department of Labor. The agency works on policy issues and provides technical assistance tools to regional offices so that they can work with organizations on the ground. Examples of topics include equal pay, non-traditional careers, and women in manufacturing. Michelle is responsible for analyzing labor force statistics related to women (or in comparison to men), writing issue papers, briefs and reports, and creating graphs and presentations. She was responsible for all the statistics and graphs included in the Equal Pay Report published by the White House last year. She also did extensive research and wrote an issue paper on high-paying, high-growth careers for women with a ten year outlook. The Director often includes Michelle in high level meetings including those with the Secretary of Labor.

As a Presidential Management Fellow Michelle is currently finishing her six-month developmental assignment at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, where she works as an Economics Program Officer. Her main tasks in this agency have been to collaborate on the Constraints to Growth Report for Guatemala, analyze how the implementation of the gender policy guidelines is working along with the economic analysis reports, and doing a literature review of whether the time savings for women resulting from water access projects are causally related to an increase in women's participation in market work - and how this time savings is valued for cost-benefit analysis.

“My experience in Maxwell has had an enormous impact on my career. The different courses and backgrounds of the other students opened my mind to the importance of perspectives beyond pure economics while at the same time providing adequate tools,” she says. “One of my favorite classes was Sustainable Development with Professor Sultana - this class helped me learn about economic growth from a different perspective and to always keep in mind that we should think about the unintended consequences so that we can have mitigation plans in our projects. Professor Van Slyke was right in his Policy Implementation class about the importance of stake holder involvement. Finally, Professor Rubenstein's course on Quantitative Analysis has proved very useful in both of my jobs and I really enjoyed his teaching style.”

“Beyond the formal education, I also value my experience as vice-president of the MPA Student Association (formerly know as MAXPAC), which provided memorable moments and responsibilities and also allowed me to interact with most people from my class year,” she adds. “A group of classmates and I got together weekly to play tennis (indoor courts in Drumlins) and that was a great distraction from academics!”

 

Michelle’s advice for Maxwell students today? “Take advantage of the whole Maxwell experience! Being in a smaller town where it snows most of the time has the positive consequence of allowing you to forge closer relationships with your classmates and professors- and that is what you will cherish the most when you look back. I am amazed by the quality of students and their accomplishments before and after Maxwell. Take advantage of the variety of courses that are offered by the different departments in Maxwell- you can try to become an expert in one subject but always remember that as a student you have the opportunity to learn about other subjects or technical skills that can give you a well-rounded perspective to better address and understand different issues and people in your work life. Finally, although you have heard it a trillion times, it is true - network! And it's never too early to start.”