By Haley Venglar ‘19
The Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) recently named College of Liberal Arts student Apolonia “Polly” Calderon’s dissertation the 2017 Best Graduate Student Paper on Latino Politics.
Her dissertation focuses on the influence of non-government institutions, such as philanthropic organizations and social groups, on immigration policy outcomes.
“The MPSA Conference is one of the largest that my department attends, so it was very exciting feeling to have my work acknowledged and honored by the association,” said Calderon. “I know people that have won in the past and I have always admired them, so it was surreal to receive this same honor.”
The MPSA was founded in 1939 and is dedicated to the advancement of scholarship in all areas of political science. The purposes of the MPSA are to promote the professional study and teaching of political science, to facilitate communications between those engaged in such studies, and encourage research in theoretical and practical political problems.
When Calderon, a first-generation student, left her home in the Rio Grande Valley and set off to complete her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, she thought that she would someday become a lawyer. She never imagined that her career path would lead her to graduate school for political science.
“My major area of study is immigration policy and the effects of current and former immigration practices, so my paper was focused on these ideas,” said Calderon. “I think it is very important to create programs that distinguish the stigmas that are associated with undocumented immigrants.”
As a first-generation student, Calderon sometimes struggled to push through the challenges that college students face. Reflecting on her education now, she advises all students to remember that there are always people willing to help.
“It’s okay to feel like it’s hard sometimes, and it’s okay to not know something—but it’s never okay to not ask for help,” said Calderon. “You have to pick yourself up and continue. I would not be where I am today if I had not utilized my resources.”
Calderon hopes to work for a research institute after first spending some time serving the Hispanic population. She hopes to mentor students and help them achieve their goals, no matter how unattainable they may seem.
“I would love to find a job that allows me to combine working for a nonprofit organization that serves the Hispanic community and undocumented immigrants,” said Calderon.