In the most recent event in the Ford School of Public Policy’s Policy Talks series, Cecelia Muñoz, political advisor and author, spoke about her new book and her experiences as a woman of color in the workplace. Muñoz also discussed economic and social policy, economic recovery post-COVID-19 and immigration policy. 

Muñoz is currently on leave from her position as vice president for public interest technology and local initiatives at the New America Foundation and is currently serving as a senior transition adviser on the Joe Biden presidential campaign. She previously worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaign and was the first Latinx woman to lead the United States Domestic Policy Council.

The talk began with moderator Public Policy professor Celeste Watkins-Hayes encouraging attendees to vote.

Watkins-Hayes said Muñoz’s book is inspiring and practical. 

“You take us to 30,000 feet, inspiring us to think about the duty of presidency and what excellent presidential leadership looks like,” Watkins-Hayes said.

The talk focused on Muñoz’s experiences in government and public policy work, specifically regarding democracy and the impact public policy can have on certain populations. Having worked in domestic policy for the White House for many years, Muñoz is no stranger to the immigration system in the U.S. and said she has been working on improving it for decades.

“(I have) been working on trying to update and reform our immigration system on the same piece of legislation now for 20 years,” Muñoz said.

She drew a connection between public opinion and politics, arguing that immigration is “a political problem” and not a “substantive problem.”

Muñoz argued that many current policymakers need to have a deep enough understanding of how policy affects people and that ethnic studies can be key in understanding people’s lived experiences.  

“In order to be successful in making policy, we need to know who we are,” Muñoz said. “We need to know how we got to the obstacles standing in our way.”

Muñoz emphasized the importance of voting and said the ability to participate in all eligible ways is the only way we can make effective change. 

“We own this democracy,” Muñoz said. “And the way you exercise power in this democracy is by showing up to vote.”

In an email to The Daily, Crystal Olalde-Garcia, a Public Policy graduate student who attended the talk as well as a smaller student session with Muñoz, stressed the importance of Muñoz’s advice at a time when the country is navigating a pandemic, an upcoming election and structural racism.

“As a first-generation Latina, it was powerful to simply be in the same space as her,” Olalde-Garcia wrote. “She named that we need to be confident in the work that we do even when some may not believe they need you (or your perspective).”

Contributor Isabelle Regent can be reached at

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