Alumni Highlight: Mayra Chavez-Franco

Political Science/BS/2009

Occupation: Senate analyst, Academic Senate, UC Merced

Current residence: Merced

Shortly after graduation, Mayra Chavez and her now husband, Josue (Josh) Franco, (Social and Cognitive Science/BA/2009), found themselves working in Washington, D.C., in U.S. Rep. John Garamendi’s office.

After three years in D.C. though, Chavez got a little homesick.

“D.C. was an amazing experience,” she said, “but I missed my family a lot, and both Josh and I wanted to be back in California.”

About a year after transferring to the representative’s Fairfield office, Franco received word he’d been accepted into the Ph.D. program in political science at UC Merced and the couple returned to their old stomping grounds, this time as an engaged couple.

Chavez is now an alumni campus employee, working as an analyst for the Academic Senate at UC Merced. She staffs the Graduate Council, which is in charge of all policies related to graduate education.

“I’m consistently surprised by how many units it takes to make everything work,” she said. “It’s a true example of shared governance.”

As a student, Chavez worked for the Students First Center, so she has first-hand knowledge on how policy decisions affect students. In fact, her advice to students and alumni interested in working on policy decisions is simple: Keep an open mind.

“Usually decisions are made for a reason, and while they might not make sense in practice, understanding why the original decisions were made will really help you in determining the best course of action moving forward,” she said.

Chavez is especially interested in keeping an open mind while working on graduate policies affecting graduate education as a staff member, because she does hope to someday pursue her Ph.D.

In addition to working at UC Merced, Chavez has also gotten involved with the UC Merced Alumni Association. She and her husband are the founding chapter leaders for the Merced Alumni Chapter.

When asked why she’s chosen to get involved in this way, she jokes, “Josh made me do it!”

“Whatever the campus does will affect my degree and my degree’s reputation," Chavez said. "And I want to make sure my fellow alumni feel that same pride in sharing in our campus’s success.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the work the Graduate Council is doing, you can read their meeting minutes and agendas online.