Erika Mendez

MA in Educational Studies: Educational Policy and Leadership (LEADPOL)

Erika  Mendez, School of Education

Student Status: Current student, full time

Geographic Region of Origin: Chicago, IL

Previous Education: Beloit College, Political Science and Sociology

Prior to Joining the Program

My two most recent positions prior to joining the program were Assistant Equity Coordinator and Family Resource Specialist.

Why the Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP) Program? 

One characteristic that immediately drew my attention to the ELP program was its commitment to equity and inclusivity. Prior to applying, I knew that I wanted to surround myself with like-minded individuals who were driven to improve access and opportunities for underrepresented communities. Now that I am here, I know that this was the best choice I could have made. First and foremost, the mentors I’ve come to know and work with have helped me refine my areas of interest. Additionally, I’ve learned so much from the diverse experiences and knowledge of my cohort, which has helped me examine the problem of equity through different lenses. 


I am interning in the Contexts of Academic and Social Adjustment (CASA) Lab, a research group at the University of Michigan that examines school, family, and peer contexts of development in relation to academic and socioemotional outcomes. At the lab, I work on coding qualitative research on Latina/o identity development and on community outreach efforts for Latina/o families in Washtenaw County. 

Individualized Course of Study

Courses I have chosen include:

In choosing courses, my first step was to consult with a faculty member that I trust and who is familiar with my research and interests. I also took time to sift through the courses offered by different graduate programs on campus, considering how each option would extend and support my interests. As a final step, I mapped out a weekly schedule to avoid any time conflicts between my courses, internship and employment, then finalized my selections.

Highlights of the Michigan Experience

Throughout my time in the program I have had an exceptional support system that includes my cohort colleagues and professors. The rigor of the program can be daunting, but any sense of strain is eased by the caring community that surrounds me. I was able to build a support network by attending many outings on campus, planning events with my cohort, and reaching out to professors and mentors with whom I was interested in working.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The ELP program has helped me refine my interests in education. In particular, I’ve appreciated our work in examining how school spaces often do not reflect the experiences, interests, values, and challenges facing underrepresented communities.

Going forward, I’ve decided to pursue a doctoral degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. As a doctoral student, I plan to further investigate the out-of-school challenges that many communities face and how these challenges shape the learning experiences of youth, and to propose alternative interventions that make school spaces more adaptive to the changing needs of our youth.

Erika invites prospective students to contact her with questions about her experience in the program or student life.

Mendez’s program of study:
Educational Leadership and Policy