Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Jaime Carias, MPP ’10

Jaime Carias

Jaime Carias, MPP ’10

Since graduating from USC Price in 2010 with a master of public policy, Jaime Carias began working at CSU Long Beach as a recruiter and counselor for incoming freshmen for the College Assistance Migrant Program. He also recently launched an educational organization, College Success Services (CSS), which strives to create college-going cultures for students and institutions across the country.

What fueled your interest to work in the student services side of higher education?

My passion for student services arose as an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara. At UCSB, I interned for the Office of Admissions and served as a Campus Tour Guide. My drive to assist underserved students motivated me to write my first grant as a junior at UCSB that funded $5,000 to launch my first outreach program which brought students from throughout CA to attend educational seminars at UCSB. Since then my passion has only grown. While at USC I worked at the Office of Graduate & International Admissions as well as the TRIO Upward Bound program. This worked continued to motivate me to pursue a career in student services. Now at CSULB, I assist low-income first generation migrant students with their transition from high school to a university campus. My position allows me to impact education at both the macro and micro levels.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work in this position?

Student Services professionals are able to impact lives in ways that one could never imagine. I dedicate myself to assisting my students to becoming better scholars, young professionals, and citizens. I enjoy seeing students develop throughout the academic year. The most rewarding part is when students who thought they did not belong on a college campus blossom and supersede all expectations. In my two years at CSULB, I have successfully placed students with full-time internships at the Office of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the US Veterans Affairs to name a few, which has been a professional accomplishment for me.

How did the MPP program at USC Price prepare you to succeed professionally?

The MPP program challenged and prepared me in many ways. Formulation, implementation, and evaluation are three words that always resonate in my mind till this day from USC Price. The program challenged me to view and develop policies and programming from an objective rather than subjective lens. Lastly, a policy or program is only as efficient as it is written, managed, held accountable, and ultimately evaluated. This is something that I am very appreciative USC Price taught me.

USC Price taught me the importance of risks when developing programming and policies. Are you “risk adverse” or “risk taking” are principles from Dr. Gary Painter’s class I practice as a professional today. With so many individuals in the field of education it is important to be the best when providing any type of service. The MPP program at USC Price prepared me for these challenges and I now use these principles to keep moving CSS and my career at CSULB forward.

After graduating with your MPP, you also went on to co-found College Success Services (CSS). Can you tell us more about what CSS does, and how it got started?

CSS is an educational organization founded on the principal of serving and empowering communities similar to the ones I grew up in. We strive to develop highly motivational, evidence-based, and result driven programs aimed at developing the resilience and persistence of youth and parents to achieve educational, professional, and personal success.

CSS was established by Dr. Victor Rios, Associate Professor of Sociology at UCSB, and I when we began to reflect on the power that inspiration, motivation, and preparation had on our individual lives. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, 2 miles south of USC Price, and recall coming to the USC campus a kid with my mother to collect aluminum cans for extra money. My mother held an array of jobs from cleaning homes in Westwood, to selling waters at local parks, and collecting cans. My parents never thought we could go from collecting cans at USC to collecting an MPP. Through CSS, I am now able to share this story of resilience with youth, parents, educational administrators, school districts, and universities to stress the importance of providing social, educational, and professional opportunities for urban youth.

What’s been the most exciting part about launching your own educational organization? What’s been the most challenging?

The most exciting part is being able to structure the foundations, principles, and vision of the organization. We strive to solve today’s toughest social problems by developing holistic, innovative solutions aimed at supporting at-promise youth and parents. Dr. David Suarez course on organizational management has helped me shape CSS. However with success come challenges and our biggest challenge has been learning about the different stakeholders and policies that are key players and influential in the educational consulting industry.

What lessons have you been able to apply from USC Price in your professional life?

USC Price taught me the importance of networking and collaborating. This has been imperative in advancing my professional life. In order to challenge and tackle the toughest social issues it is important to surround yourself with a team of like-minded individuals. Networking will open many doors that would have not opened had you not made the effort to make that initial contact. USC Price through its networking nights, alumni mixers, and group projects taught me this.

I now share with undergraduates, including USC students, the importance of these two principles. This summer CSS will be hosting an intern from USC Price to assist us with implementing our At-Promise University curriculum and program at Inspire Research Academy, a charter school serving out of school youth in Watts, CA. A film company will be producing a documentary on this groundbreaking program that will impact and change many lives throughout the Watts community, and stir up conversation on our current policies serving this population.

During your time at USC Price, what did you like most? Was there anything or anyone who inspired you?

Although I graduated from USC Price three years ago this month it seems as it was yesterday. Dr. Juliet Musso inspired me in many ways through her nurturing words and commitment towards social justice. I recall sitting with Dr. Musso in her office when I was a prospective student for USC Price and immediately having a connection when I began to share my story of resilience growing up in South Central Los Angeles. I thank USC Price for giving me the opportunity to study at a top 10 policy school because now I am able to share with urban youth and families that you can collect cans at USC and also graduate from there. The world is yours!

I enjoyed having the ability to take courses at other schools such as Rossier with Professor Shafiqa Ahmadi, sitting in the courtyard reading, talking with Cynthia Clayton or Carmen Gomez in the Price Office, and most importantly being able to gain hands-on experience with different policy projects and memorandums. My experience at USC Price was unique and I hope the current students can make the most out their time while as students there. FIGHT ON!