SPA Newsroom

UNM Alumnus Shares Secrets of Success

POSTED: February 2020

Always be open to change, seek out little-known opportunities and never stop growing your network ­– those are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom from recent UNM School of Public Administration graduate David Vazquez. His strategy seems to be working too – he was recently selected from a national pool for not one but two prestigious federal fellowship programs.

“There’s tons of opportunity at UNM, you just have to apply yourself.” –David Vazquez, MPA ‘19

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After moving to New Mexico from Puerto Rico, Vazquez came to The University of New Mexico in 2010 to join the Army ROTC program. He is now a two-time alumnus, with a bachelors in University Studies and a master’s in Public Administration (MPA) and is close to completing his certification in National Security and Strategic Analysis. His military experience, along with his academic success, recently landed him selection for both the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Graduate Fellowship Program and the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program.

“I’m the kind of person that regardless of where I’m at, I look for opportunities,” Vazquez said. “And ultimately, you really can do anything with an MPA.”

That statement will be put to the test as he moves into one of the two fellowships, which each offer unique opportunities.

The NNSA fellowship is a year-long, fully compensated program that grooms graduate students to be leaders of national security. Every year, more than 230 applicants compete for 50 positions nationwide. Job possibilities include nuclear security and nonproliferation policy, national security research and development and nuclear safety. It gives participants the opportunity to complete specific tasks and responsibilities such as running briefings, completing technical and policy analysis and developing training strategy and materials. After finishing the program, many fellows go on to work for federal agencies like the NNSA, national labs, Department of Energy and Department of State.

Similarly, Presidential Management Fellows complete a two-year development program that emphasizes training government leaders. They are groomed to work in federal agencies, academic institutions, non-profits and businesses around the world. In addition to salary and benefits, the fellows receive extensive professional development opportunities and assignments. After completing the program, they are immediately granted noncompetitive placement into permanent or term positions.

Vazquez says his interests in the military and national security are driving him towards the NNSA fellowship, and he hopes eventually to work for the State Department. He was also one of the recipients of the 2018 Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program, where he assisted with research assessing traffic patterns for Balloon Fiesta. He credits the UNM ROTC and the School of Public Administration with much of his success, particularly mentoring him towards and preparing him for such prestigious programs.

 “Some say that just because our program is small it doesn’t have impact, but that’s ridiculous,” Vazquez said. “If you talk to people here in Albuquerque, you’ll start finding UNM MPA alumni everywhere.”

As an example, he pointed to the current U.S. Marshal for the District of New Mexico Sonya K. Chavez – another UNM SPA graduate. In addition, the alumni of the school are represented on multiple state and federal levels, and have received recognition from many distinguished programs. Vazquez says the SPA community is one he’s proud to represent and looks forward to helping grow.

“Always keep your eye out for opportunities and try to help people as much as you can because part of that results in building relationships,” he concluded. “If you make other people successful, you get more positive returns and more positive relationships.”

He’s eager to help others with their application process to similar professional opportunities, and can be reached through email. When not in school or taking part in fellowships and programs, Vazquez enjoys practicing martial arts and hanging out with his wife Allison and son Alejandro (4).

Credit: UNM Newsroom