In our fourth edition of this year’s new student series, meet Angelica Cruz. She’s an incoming MPA in Development Practice student and is from Manila in the Philippines. She’s obsessed with technology, and hopes to one day help improve urban development plans in Manila.

Full Name: Ma. Angelica Feliz Chua Cruz
Program: MPA in Development Practice
Anticipated Graduation Year:  2018
Hometown: Manila

Undergraduate University: University of the Philippines – Diliman
Undergraduate Major: Geography

Undergraduate Graduation Year: 

What’s your professional background?
Since graduating from college, I’ve been working in non-government organizations. The three organizations I worked in helped me gain experience in microfinance, education, and good governance reform. While I knew from the very beginning that development work was what I wanted to dedicate myself to, I wasn’t sure what aspect of it I really wanted to focus on. Working as an outsider with the government for the last two years or so has helped me understand that the biggest hurdle to Philippine development has really been governance. Through my organizations’ strong relationships with cities and local government units I’ve observed that balanced urban development that is driven by thoughtful and strategic leaders is the key to regional cohesion.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I applied to SIPA, because it was/is the ideal school for furthering my career. While I’ve had a lot of local experience, I think that incorporating international perspectives to my understanding of development issues is of utmost importance. This is particularly true in the Philippines where leaders are prone to reinventing the wheel, or going the complete opposite direction, and fully adopting a solution without considering the context it came from.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I was honestly shocked. I thought about the admission results constantly, and I was in a permanent state of anxiety for almost half a year. Because of the time difference, I stayed up each night of the first week of March just waiting for an email. The day I got my decision, I found out four hours after it was released since my email categorized the notification as an ad. I just felt so happy after reading that first sentence that I only actually read the full letter a half day later. I had a Plan B, C, D, E in case Plan A didn’t work out, but amazingly enough it did. I’m still awed when I think about it.

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
I didn’t really apply to any other school. SIPA was the only one I wanted to go to. I figured that if I didn’t get in the first time, I didn’t want to settle for any other school or program, and I’d just try to make myself a better candidate after another year. 

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
As mentioned before, I’m really interested in urban development. The fact that SIPA is in New York is so important to me, because I see New York as a model for Manila. I’m excited to learn from faculty who have worked with the city government on urban design—for both infrastructure and institutions.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
A lot. I like to think that I’d do well academically, but of course that’s not a given. And financial constraints linger in the back of my mind. But if I’m honest, my main concern is fitting in. I don’t know if I’ll be overwhelmed by the complete change in environment or if I’ll thrive in it. Part of me is still in disbelief that this is happening at all, so I can’t seem to imagine myself actually being there when the time comes. (On a more personal level, I’m really afraid of leaving my dog who is 16 years old.)

What are your goals after SIPA?
I hope to work in the UNDP, so that I can get a better picture of different development strategies around the world. But in the long-term, I’d really like to be part of improving urban development plans here in Manila. While the big cities have been booming, the growth has been terribly unequal.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
For the Philippines, I think it’s most important for us to foster a sense of unity. While class divisions are evident in cities like Manila, regionalism prevents us from working together on a national level. There’s a very strong us-against-them mentality that inhibits Filipinos from thinking about the best programs and people for the whole country, not just for ourselves or those closest to us.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I love technology, and I am addicted to tech news. However, I only started using a smartphone this January. For the longest time, I stuck with my Nokia 3310 because of Snake II. The only reason I’m not using it now is because it gave up on me. Like a lot of people, I like to think of myself as a forward thinker and (maybe) would-be pioneer, but there are irrational traditions and habits that I am too attached to let go of.

View all of Fall 2016’s interviews here.