By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Anthony Rodriguez was in the village of Mukuwila, Zambia, when he received the call offering him an interview for the Ronald Reagan Public Policy Fellowship. After two years of serving in the Peace Corps, Rodriguez was ready to begin working at a private investment firm in the summer months before he started his master’s degree program at UCLA. However, he decided to fly to Los Angeles early to seize this opportunity instead.
The first-year Public Policy master's student was the first to be awarded the new fellowship consisting of a two-year $30,000 scholarship at UCLA Luskin through the Ronald Reagan Foundation.
As a fellow, Rodriguez will be studying the effects of Ronald Reagan’s economic, social and international policies on the state of California and the Federal government. In addition, he will have access to the archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and will be working on projects such as creating resources for teachers and students available on the Foundation website.
After Rodriguez graduated from California State University Northridge with a bachelor's degree in business law in 2011, he joined the Peace Corps and for two years worked primarily in the food sustainability field in Zambia.
“We introduced fish ponds to the village where people could take the byproduct from the maize and other crops to use it as input for the fish to create a good source of protein,” he said.
During his time with the Peace Corps, Rodriguez was able to use his marketing skills to promote small-scale businesses. He also taught about HIV awareness at local schools and introduced solar lights to the village, which previously had no electricity.
His current academic focus is in public policy with a concentration in monetary policy and macroeconomics.
“I chose UCLA because of the flexibility they allow students in creating their own concentration,” he said. “When I read about the Reagan scholarship I thought it was a perfect partnership between what I want to study and an era in American history when monetary policy played a huge role.”
Rodriguez said he feels a sense of duty to his country and to serve the public. His decision to join the Peace Corps and study public policy was inspired by his father who served in the United State Air Force and his grandfather who served in the Nicaraguan military.
His interest in history, particularly as it relates to monetary policy during the Reagan administration, started early when he was a child.
“My Dad and I would always watch Jeopardy and I would play Trivial Pursuit with my three sisters,” he said. “When I was in the Peace Corps, I became more interested in reading about the period during the late 70s and 80s which were times of depressions and recessions.”
In the future, Rodriguez hopes to apply for a summer internship with the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
“Upon graduating I’d like to have a job with an international macro organization such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the United Nations. I am also not opposed to working domestically for the Treasury or for the Federal Reserve,” he said.
This year, however, Rodriguez said he wants to focus on learning the fundamentals of the public policy program and being a part of the Reagan Foundation.
"At the foundation, we have some projects going on this year including the Great Communicator Debate Series, which is a nationwide debate competition for high school students. We are also working on a project to submit AP questions for high school students about history and micro or macroeconomics,” he said.
Rodriguez said he is enjoying being exposed to many intelligent individuals including politicians like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and former defense secretary Robert Gates.
“This has allowed me to interact with people with really impressive resumes and with leaders of our country. That’s what I hope to be someday as well,” he said.
Rodriguez said he has worked extra hard to keep up with his classmates, but he thinks it will benefit him in the long run.
“There is an interesting dynamic of people from all over the world. It’s almost intimidating how educated this class is. But that’s how you become stronger,” he said.