Bypass the primary and secondary navigation and continue reading the main body of the page

University of La Verne Grad Cultivating a Future in Public Service

Rogelio Espinoza Huerta

The lessons Rogelio Espinoza Huerta learned as a boy while working in the sweltering fields of the Coachella Valley went beyond the intricacies of harvesting vegetables.

His father – an immigrant farmworker – wanted his son to strive for a better future.

“He would always tell me, ‘If you don’t do well in school, you’re going to be out here with me doing this for the rest of your life,’” Huerta said. “I really took that to heart.”

Huerta, 24, of Coachella, followed his father’s advice. He will graduate with a master’s degree in public administration from the University of La Verne at spring commencement on June 2. He also landed a coveted management internship for the city of Phoenix, which he is set to begin on June 25.

He hopes to one day return to the Coachella Valley as a city manager and make a difference in the place where he was raised. Huerta particularly would like to improve life for farmworkers, since his father continues to work in the fields.

“Bringing what I’ve learned from a city like Phoenix to Coachella would be very impactful to the residents,” he said.

Huerta grew up in the unincorporated community of Thermal and played football at Coachella Valley High School. His coach recommended he check out the University of La Verne to continue his education.

He had numerous out-of-state offers, but turned them down after seeing the university’s small campus and class sizes. Huerta served as defensive lineman for the Leopards and majored in kinesiology, because he liked the idea of helping people.

But after completing his undergraduate degree, he discovered he could make a greater impact in public service, so he enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program.

While working toward his MPA, he learned about Phoenix’s Management Intern Program, which receives applications from around the country. Participants have gone on to become leaders in all levels of government and the private sector.

Huerta went to Phoenix for a two-day interview. Six days later, he received a phone call with the news that he had been accepted.

“It was scary, but at the same time I thought, ‘I can’t believe I did it,’” he said. “This is a major stepping stone for me in my career and my goals.”

Dr. Jack Meek, professor of public administration, said Huerta’s achievement is an example of the high level of success that graduates of the program have reached.

“Rogelio has set his goals high and pursues these goals with an open mind and a solid foundation,” Meek said. “There is a spirit of inquiry and learning in him that is palpable.”

Professor of Public Administration Dr. Marcia Godwin said Huerta took advantage of a campus visit from Placentia City Administrator Damien Arrula ‘05 to ask questions that would help him prepare for his Phoenix interviews.

“You quickly see that he is attentive and cares about helping others,” Godwin said. “He has really made efforts to seek out mentoring and career opportunities, going beyond his class assignments.”

Huerta currently works for the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, which was formed in the 1980s to provide affordable housing for farmworkers and other low-income residents in the region.

Huerta said the solid work ethic he gained from his upbringing, combined with his education from the University of La Verne gave him the edge over other candidates for the internship. He hopes it continues to be a winning combination as he advances into his career.

“I want to be an inspiration like so many people have inspired me,” he said. “I hope younger students will look at me and say, ‘He did it. Why can’t I?’”