By Matthew Kredell
Laura Peralta has long been a model alumna of the USC Price School of Public Policy. In her new role as President of the USC Price Alumni Board, she’ll just have the opportunity to be a more prominent example of the best the School has to offer.
Like many students at USC Price, Peralta came to the School as an immigrant and first-generation college student.
When she immigrated to Southern California from Argentina with her family at 10 years old, she had to learn to speak English, take part of a new culture, and work with her mother cleaning houses to help support the family.
Those experiences led her down a path of helping others to get access to the opportunities that she herself found through hard work and determination.
“Having to navigate all these obstacles in life made me who I am,” Peralta said. “It made me want to ensure that people, no matter their life experiences, can have access to services and opportunities for a better future.”
That passion for giving back to the community is what motivated Laura to pursue a career in public service and eventually led her to an institution that she’s proud to represent – the Price School of Public Policy.
As a first-generation college student, she immediately felt welcome at the School beginning with the application process.
“I loved what USC had to offer,” Peralta said. “From my first touchpoint at Price going through the application process, the experience and support from staff and faculty made me feel at home — whether it was in class, through recommendation letters, connecting us to internships, presenting us opportunities for leadership or introducing us to alumni.”
She also found plenty of opportunities offered to students at USC Price, and she took advantage of them all. A Dean Merit’s Scholar, she landed an elite USC City/County Fellowship, served as president of the USC Price Latino Association and took a leadership role in student engagement for the Graduate Policy and Administration Community (GPAC) student association.
During her time at Price, she was as a graduate intern at the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs in Washington, D.C, under President Obama, the first president she had the opportunity to vote for after gaining citizenship. She also interned for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Both of those internships ended up leading to jobs, first as policy deputy for the Los Angeles City Council and then as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Today, Laura is vice president of community development at Citi, where she collaborates closely with government and nonprofit organizations to co-develop asset-building programs that serve low-income communities across Southern California.
Laura serves on the board of a number of organizations, including the Southeast Rio Vista YMCA, the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, and the Southern CA Citi Women’s Network.
Whether in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco, where she worked in community affairs for Bank of the West, she felt the connection of the Trojan Family.
“When people know you’re a Trojan, they want to take you under your wing,” Peralta said. “They want to support you.”
When she returned to Los Angeles to work for Citi, she felt a responsibility to give back to the School that had supported her career by joining the USC Price Alumni Board for a six-year term.
Amid ethical issues coming to light around the University, Peralta and the USC Price Alumni Board urged the School to re-evaluate its policies to ensure that they are irreproachable.
“Being a public policy school, we felt integrity was especially important here,” Peralta said. “We were proactive and took the lead in looking at how to represent and protect our students.”
Beginning in June, she took over as board president for the final two years of her term.
“Laura exemplifies the diverse and inclusive educational experience that the Price School strives to offer,” said USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott. “I appreciate the leadership role she is taking to help shape our institution and look forward to working with her over the next two years. Her commitment to having a positive impact in the community aligns with the School’s mission.”
Peralta wants students to know that working for the private sector they can still have a connection with government. At Citi, she helps identify public policy needs in the community and funds nonprofit programs that address those needs by building public-private partnerships.
One program she’s proud of being involved in with Citi is the Cities for Citizenship Initiative, where Citi partners with local government and nonprofit organizations to provide citizenship workshops and financial education to immigrants in Los Angeles County.
As someone whose work focuses on community development, it’s no surprise that Peralta wants to improve the activity of Price alumni in the neighborhoods surrounding USC. She has made Price alumni engagement in the local community one of her main goals while serving as President of the Price alumni association board and has established an executive committee to help reach those goals.
Like her, many of those young people in the surrounding community are immigrants looking to be first generation in their families to attend college.
“When I was at USC, we were analyzing the intersection between urban poverty and public policy in neighborhoods like South Los Angeles inside the classroom, yet we were not actually engaged in the local community as a school,” Peralta said. “That’s something that USC Price is working to change, and I want the alumni to be a part those efforts. I am excited about the next two years and what we can accomplish together!”