Notable graduates: Marci Ybarra — First-generation doctoral student with research to lead to welfare program reform
Marci Ybarra is a first-generation college student, and is the first of her family to earn a Ph.D. She entered doctoral education at UW–Madison’s School of Social Work to further develop her interests and skills in examining the role of public program designs and practices and related outcomes with recipients, particularly as it relates to poverty.
“All of my work is applied research; it’s more about looking at problems in the everyday world. My work and my dissertation is tied to the state of Wisconsin, and I hope that it’s affecting those in the state that are making decisions.”
“I discovered I had an aptitude for research,” Ybarra says. “That’s the whole reason I went into a doctoral program.”
In the year prior to enrolling in the social work doctoral program, she interned and then worked as a legislative assistant to Detroit City Council President Maryanne Mahaffey. During her time as a legislative assistant, she worked on policy issues related to voter rights and citizen advocacy.
But when asked if she was interested in going into politics, Ybarra says she plans to stick to research and education instead. “What I like about academia is it gives you a little more freedom to pursue your own interests,” she says, “without having that political pressure to fall on one side or the other on certain issues.”
According to Ybarra, one of the most important aspects of research is the ability to link findings to programs that effect people’s lives on a daily basis.
“All of my work is applied research; it’s more about looking at problems in the everyday world,” she says. “My work and my dissertation is tied to the state of Wisconsin, and I hope that it’s affecting those in the state that are making decisions.”
Ybarra thanks the Wisconsin Idea for bridging applied research to policy-making. “Participating in projects that I really felt made a difference and a contribution in some way,” says Ybarra. “Not only in academia, but also in the state of Wisconsin has been rewarding.
“I can’t say enough good things about the type of training and relationships that has hopefully informed the state of Wisconsin,” she adds.
Ybarra has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, where she will be studying in the fall.