USC Price School of Public Policy

Alumni Spotlight: Lupe Valdez

Lupe Valdez

from SPPD Staff Reports

Lupe Valdez recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for two reasons. As director of public policy and community affairs for Union Pacific Railroad, she was on Capitol Hill with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to urge federal investment in Southern California. She was also at the nation’s capital to speak at a special reception for alumni and friends of SPPD as the incoming president of the school’s alumni association.

“As the next president, I hope to build on the work of the previous chairs and the immediate past president, Karin Berger Stellar,” she says. According to Valdez, the Washington, D.C. reception successfully connected newly admitted SPPD students with the school’s alumni.

“This is significant,” she says. “I hope to continue the momentum.”

When she is not busy with SPPD or the USC Mexican American Alumni Association (MAAA), Valdez deals with momentum of a different sort: moving freight along the railroad system. At Union Pacific – the largest railroad in North America, covering 23 states and two-thirds of the U.S – Valdez is responsible for working with Los Angeles local and regional governments on some of Union Pacific’s biggest issues.

“Addressing environmental concerns, particularly air quality problems, is very much a hot button with railroads right now,” she says.

At issue is the impact that recent international trade agreements have had on Southern California.

“The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the trade gateways for the country, but our infrastructure is not built to withstand the volume.” According to the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, 43 percent of goods entering through these ports travel to states outside of California – and that is where Union Pacific comes in.

A major part of Valdez’s job as community affairs and public policy chief for the region is to explain the benefits of the railroad system to elected officials and city managers. For this reason, she’s glad to have a well-rounded portfolio of professional experience in the transit industry.

“My current position is the perfect combination of my life’s work,” says Valdez, who worked for the former Southern California Rapid Transit District – the first organization to build a subway downtown – L.A. County Transportation Commission (now Metrolink), and Southcoast Air Quality District.

No matter what the organization, Valdez has always been in a community or public affairs role, she explains. In these positions, it has been incumbent upon her to put complicated technological reports into layman’s terms for the community and explain why the information is relevant, thereby generating awareness among the general public.

To this end, one of her proudest efforts was initiating the translation of community presentations into multiple foreign languages for the various ethnic groups that make up her constituent base. Depending on the neighborhood concerned, reports were translated into everything from Spanish to Cantonese and Mandarin, she says.

“In informing the community, my job also entails soliciting feedback from constituents,” Valdez notes – an important task for anyone working in public affairs.

Valdez is also concerned with feedback and ideas from SPPD alumni, who can help inform her service as the new SPPD Alumni Association president. Alumni who want to learn how to get involved in the life of the school can send an e-mail to: alumni@sppd.usc.edu.