Meet Zak Borja, an MPSA student at the Bush School, and listen to him describe his determination to use his experiences to better represent marginalized communities in government and policy-making, particularly after witnessing the bureaucratic barriers faced by low-income individuals in his upbringing on the Texas border.
Howdy! My name is Zak Borja. I am an MPSA student here at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. I am on the public management track and I have a concentration in state and local government. Before I came here to the Bush School, I got my bachelor’s in political science from the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Texas, and between the ages of 16 to now, I have done social activist work, organizing for protests, and working to better understand my community needs in South Texas and honing service leadership skills.
I came to the Bush School because I wanted to learn how to make purposeful, tangible change in my community and my country. I know there are plenty of other public affairs schools throughout the nation and plenty of public affairs schools in the state of Texas as well. But there’s only one school that centers on public service and emphasizes the noble calling that is public service, which is the best school and the respective students who are looking for a career in public service and government. If you want to just get another job in the government, I say go to any public affairs school in the state or the nation. But if you really want to learn how to change the world and make real impacts in people’s lives every single day, choose any school.
Something I appreciated the most about my first semester here at the school is the sense of community that you get here with the professors. They will literally and not figuratively do anything and everything in their power to not only make you feel like this is a place where you belong, but they will do anything and everything in their power to make sure you have all the tools to be capable and successful in your future career. I also just genuinely enjoyed all the opportunities from organizations, from being able to listen and learn from the Ambassador Council to being chosen to be a Bush Board fellow to better serve my community here in Bryan College Station with Project Unity. It’s just been an absolutely amazing and life-changing experience here at the Bush school, and I can’t wait to finish off my time here having the best time of my life, an experience that really impacted my choice to pursue a career in public service and government with my entire childhood growing up on the border in South Texas.
Coming from a single-income, working-class household, a first-hand experience and seen the bureaucratic tape that are barriers for most low-income and working-class people to get the help and the assistance they need and having such little representation, especially in the Valley. Absolutely broke my heart. And so I felt that to better serve my community and to better have an understanding and how to cultivate and create policy that represents people of color and represents marginalized organizations of people. I said, what better place than to go to a place like the Bush school to learn how to more effectively and efficiently run these government organizations and cultivate policy that represents people that look. And so those experiences better help me make a decision to further a career in public management here at the Bush School, because I wanted to better represent the people and the community that I came from who have to fight twice as hard just to get a seat and a voice at the table.
The one piece of advice I would genuinely give myself, of course, you have time management. I could definitely work on time management. I could work on a lot of things like that. But the one thing I would definitely for myself is learn how to do Econ because that is going to come back and bite you in the butt if you don’t know how to do Econ. Younger me, learn Econ.
The one thing I would say is that the Bush school is an extraordinarily unique institution that not only teaches people how to be principled, ethical, and understanding leaders in any arena that they go into, but it truly hones the leadership skills and allows people to really go out into the world ready to change the world and make meaningful, impactful change.