Student Spotlight: JD Mazuera Arias (MPA 2024)

JD Mazuera Arias

As a new Master of Public Administration student and Bloomberg Public Service Fellow, JD is drawing from his personal experience with immigration and enthusiasm for policy to make an impact in Latine community advocacy.

Can you share a bit about yourself and what motivated you to attend a school of public service?

I was born in Pereira, Colombia, just three hours shy from Medellín which most people are familiar with. At eight-months old, though, my family, alongside with baby JD migrated to Queens, NY. We lived in New York City for two years and then moved to Charlotte, NC where I was raised for most of my life (I even attended undergrad at Queens University of Charlotte, 15 minutes away from my house).

My experiences as former undocumented citizen and a former DACA recipient (I recently became a naturalized citizen in June of 2021), and being a Latino in America have led me to exploring careers in public service. In DC, where I’ve lived for the past two years, I was a Public Policy Fellow for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute where I did my placements as a fellow at The Aspen Institute’s Latinos & Society Program and the Congressional Office of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14). I’m currently the Government Affairs Assistant at the nation’s leading progressive think tank The Century Foundation.

Seeing how resilient but also recognizing how left behind the Latine community felt during the pandemic motivated me to attend Wagner, particularly Latine-owned small businesses. I started to notice structural and systemic flaws within both public and private sectors that inhibited certain institutions from meeting the demands and needs of people from my community. As I have closely worked in policy spaces that require the partnerships from those in the private sector, I was fascinated by how much social impact we can optimize if both the public and private sector collaborated with each other more often and effectively. I’m particularly fascinated with seeing how those partnerships can benefit the Latine community in having accessibility to financial literacy and comprehensive digital skills in order to acquire upward mobility and be successful in a digital economy.

What do you hope to gain from the MPA program?

I hope that the MPA program at NYU Wagner allows me to experience first-hand the successful partnerships that the public and private sector have in the city. Most importantly, I want to learn what is effective, what works, and what doesn’t. I also want to be a source of knowledge to my community and be able to deconstruct academic, financial, and digital jargon into common words used by those in my community in order for people to have a better understanding of their opportunities. Lastly, learning how to run a successful nonprofit or start-up is a dream of mine.

In addition to being a new student, you’re also in the newest cohort of Bloomberg Public Service Fellows (congrats!). Can you share a bit about your experience and what you’ve learned thus far?

It still feels surreal to me that I’m a Bloomberg Public Service Fellow at my dream university. I am eternally grateful and blessed to be a part of this year’s cohort—everyone is truly so talented and impressive (imposter syndrome is real). So far, my experience has been nothing but wonderful. I’ve met incredible students from this current and past cohort that I’m so excited to learn from. Before the semester started, we had a policy briefing on how local media impacts policy/politics and it was so fruitful to hear from people in those industries and what they’ve learned from being a part of them. We also had a reception before classes started in which we met former Mayor Mike Blomberg and those who work at Bloomberg Philanthropies. It was a really neat experience.

Wagner’s student group, the Association of Latinx Students and Allies in Public Service (ALAS), will be reactivated this semester. What are your hopes for the group and student community?

I’m super excited to reactivate ALAS this semester with my friend Miryea Cisneros (MSPP 2023), who I actually met during the Wagner New Student Retreat. We’re excited to build a strong foundation for the organization in order for it to have an impact on campus and in the wider NYU community even after we leave Wagner. Our hope is that ALAS becomes an organization built on comunidad for Latine students at the University. Right now we are hoping that the organization will be focused on fostering intergenerational conversations, embracing different backgrounds of Latinidad, and breaking down barriers that often divide nuestra comunidad. We hope to do this by hosting public forums, cafecitos con pan, and building partnerships with other Wagner and NYU-whole organizations. Most importantly, we hope that ALAS also helps Latine students connect with other Latine professionals in the industry through networking, mentorship, and panel discussions.

What advice would you give to other Wagner students who are interested in supporting IDBEA work?

To be welcoming of new thoughts, ideas, and different perspectives. I think we live in a society where it’s easy to listen to argue rather than to listen to learn. It’s so important in IDBEA work to listen and learn. We are not all-knowing; we are constantly learning and evolving. Everyone is on a different path and we should offer grace and patience throughout this work. Also, if we are wanting to uplift the stories of other people from our communities, in IDBEA then we should allow those same folks to tell it.