Rachel Santos’ ability to manage her position as the communications and operations manager for Indianapolis’ Office of Education Innovation, while still pursuing her Master of Public Affairs degree from SPEA has earned her a spot among IUPUI’s Elite 50.
The Elite 50 award recognizes student achievements in scholarship and service beyond the classroom. Honorees are chosen from among the more than 8,000 graduate and professional students at IUPUI.
“When I learned I had been selected for the Elite 50, I felt a sense of accomplishment,” Santos says. “I had set earning the Elite 50 award as one of my 2018 goals and am proud of myself for accomplishing that goal.”
Santos completed her undergraduate degree in 2016 but realized she wasn’t done learning. That’s when she made the decision to move to Indianapolis from South Bend and begin work on her master’s with SPEA.
“I felt I would be doing a disservice to myself if I did not take on another challenge,” she says. “Plus, I have ambitious career goals, so furthering my education was a necessity.”
During her first year, Santos worked as graduate assistant for the Center for Civic Literacy at the IU Public Policy Institute. She was later awarded SPEA’s Peterson Fellows Program Scholarship.
The annual scholarship provides $15,000 for one SPEA graduate to complete a three-semester public service internship with the Mayor’s Office in Indianapolis.
“The Peterson Fellowship has completely changed my life trajectory,” Santos says. “It brings your MPA full circle. Not only does it provide you with professional skills you can’t learn in a classroom, it also opens the door to important networking opportunities. Without the Fellowship, I would never have made the connections I have made in the city nor would I have been hired by the Office of Education Innovation.”
Santos says students must keep their eyes open and stay in contact with SPEA advisors to ensure they are aware of critical opportunities, like the ones she has found.
“We are in a great city and SPEA does an excellent job providing students with local connections that could lead to great career development. The opportunities here are truly endless.”
Santos says the opportunities she has found through SPEA have strengthened her commitment to community engagement.
“I enjoy my current position and would love to take on any position that allows me to get more involved with Indianapolis communities,” Santos says. “I have always had the dream of taking on a position that works directly with the people we serve, such as a neighborhood advocate.”
Santos now has her eye set on connecting her passion for community to her desire to create real change.
“I believe I can be a great policy maker. The SPEA MPA program has given me the proper tools and connections to get there,” Santos says. “I am so excited to complete my degree and continue to serve the city of Indianapolis.”