DIRECTING THE WAY.

Author:Catalano, Christina
Position:SPOTLIGHT: PEW RESEARCH CENTER
 
FREE EXCERPT

As the Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center, Mark Hugo Lopez, has had a large impact on the research in civic engagement and voter turnout for the Hispanic Community and on the nation as a whole. His perseverance to help influence policy all started at home in LA.

HUGO LOPEZ has a background in economics, but he is not just a numbers guy or only interested in the stock market--he applies his knowledge to make a real impact in the Hispanic community.

Hugo Lopez grew up in Whittier, California, and is a third generation Mexican-American. His grandparents came to the United States during the time of the Mexican Revolution.

How was his Chicano culture a part of growing up? It was a central part of his childhood.

Hugo Lopez grew up always thinking about the struggles in the Chicano community: "I grew up in a household where Chicano culture was a central part of everything that was in the family. I grew up in the 70s and into the early 80s. My dad was a part of the local movements (specifically, the Chicano Movement), and he worked very hard on education as a teacher and a junior high school principal." Thus, Hugo Lopez found a hero in his own father in the form of civic engagement.

Hugo Lopez knows that his family's impact made an imprint in his life, and inspired him to pursue a life in policy with the Chicano Movement in his research, in his spirit, and in his heart: "Often times, my father and I would have long conversations about the impact of public policy on Chicanos in Southern California, on Hispanics throughout the country." This type of upbringing was rich with grassroots experiences.

Throughout his childhood, Hugo Lopez had countless direct experiences with the Chicano movement: from protests to advocating for his family members to be elected, he is no stranger to civic engagement or civic duty.

With the inspiration to inform policy, Hugo Lopez then attended the University of California Berkeley and earned his bachelor's in economics. He then went on to pursue his Ph.D. in economics at Princeton University.

His passion for the subject pushed him to keep exploring the world of policy, so much so that he became a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland.

However, he had a setback that inspired him to go towards policy hands-on in full force: "I did not become a tenured professor... and then I ended up switching gears about halfway through at Maryland to a career looking at youth civic engagement...

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