Laura Rivera-Carrion (MPP ‘02, PPIA ‘99) gives back to her community and assists in disaster recovery with HUD

February 23, 2022
The Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute guided her to graduate school, and the Ford School provided a strong policy writing foundation.
Headshot of Laura Rivera-Carrion

Laura Rivera-Carrion

MPP, 2002
Coordinating Officer for Disaster Recovery, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Location: San Juan, PR

First job out of Ford School: Grant Writer, Ana G. Mendez University System

In the summer of 1999, Laura Rivera-Carrion (MPP ‘02, PPIA ‘99) attended the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute. The program gave her the necessary skills, knowledge, and confidence to pursue a master’s degree in public policy a year later.

“PPIA is what got me into grad school. I don’t come from a family that knew how to guide me to grad school,” she explained. “I had the tools after PPIA to do it, so I knew what I needed to do. The program also gave me the confidence to apply to schools that I would have never even dared to apply to.”

Naturally, Rivera-Carrion chose to attend the university she had completed the PPIA program at — the University of Michigan. She began developing her writing skills, which she still relies on today as coordinating officer for disaster recovery for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“I cannot emphasize enough how essential having good writing skills is,” River-Carrion said. “English is not my first language, and I appreciated all of the assistance provided correcting my papers and my write-ups. Being able to write well for different audiences is the best skill you can have. The Ford School gave me a really strong foundation to not only write well but write in the policy sense well.”

In her role with HUD, Rivera-Carrion collaborates with other areas of the department and other federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She stepped into her current position after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“It’s been a very eventful last five years for the area. We do a lot of coordination with other federal agencies that are involved in recovery to try to coordinate the efforts, establish priorities, and help implementation,” she explained. “It’s an unprecedented investment that is happening in both places, so we want to make sure that it yields the best results for the citizens of PR and USVI.”

Her work has supported the recovery of both territories by helping to secure funds that will rebuild houses, assist businesses, and repair infrastructure impacted by the disasters.

“To me, it’s still not enough. Given the amount of money, I don’t feel that we’re having the type of impact that we should be having in both places,” Rivera-Carrion said. “We’re getting there. This requires a very long-term outlook for the type of infrastructure investments and changes that need to happen. But there are small wins, and I’ll take them.”

Rivera-Carrion moved back to Puerto Rico after graduating, but her time spent in Ann Arbor is very special to her. While completing her master’s degree, her daughter was born. 

“It was just so special. It was just the three of us in Ann Arbor, with no family nearby,” she recalled. “My fellow students were our family and support. When we graduated, there were a few of us that had kids. Our commencement speaker mentioned the names of all of the kids born during our two years. So, I will always hold dear how special my time was there, not only because of the academics and the great experience, but also the people you meet.”

Looking back at her graduate education, Rivera-Carrion had one piece of advice for current students: “Don’t be in a hurry to finish school. You’ll be an adult forever. Once you’re there, if you have an interest that you want to pursue, go ahead and pursue it. You don’t know the twists and turns of life, so take advantage of all of those opportunities the university offers."