WWS Blog

A Passionate Public Servant: My WWS Experience and Beyond

Jul 28, 2014
Published by:
Ana E. Cubas, MPA-URP ‘96

As a Los Angeles native, adjusting to life as a graduate student at the Woodrow Wilson School was tough.  The curriculum was rigorous and getting used to the weather was challenging (I had to learn how to shop for the appropriate jackets, socks, and ear muffs!).  I missed home, and as someone that was committed to public service, I also searched for opportunities to volunteer, and to give back to Latino and African American communities.  I tried to find volunteer opportunities so that I wouldn’t feel isolated.

During my first year, I discovered the Princeton Student Volunteers Council (SVC).   According to the current website information, “SVC is a student-led organization that sponsors more than 40 hands-on, direct service volunteer projects that operate on a weekly basis with community organizations in Princeton, Trenton, and surrounding areas.”  I joined a tutoring group that traveled to Trenton High School twice a week to tutor students in a variety of topics.  SVC provided cars for the tutors to be able to travel to Trenton (which was helpful to me as I did not own a car while at Princeton).  Seeing the academic needs of the students at Trenton High School, and the fact that those students that we tutored had never set foot on the Princeton campus, I organized for them a College and Financial Aid Fair at the Woodrow Wilson School.  I spoke with the graduate and undergraduate administrators and they agreed that it was a good idea for them to pay for transportation, food, and materials for this all-day conference.  It was satisfying for me to have put on this event.

During my second year at the Woodrow Wilson School, I joined the Graduate Consulting Group, a student-led consulting group that worked pro-bono on various projects.  I became the leader of a project to conduct a feasibility study for a farmers’ market in downtown Trenton.  We met with City officials, traveled to the site, and produced a report.  I am glad to see that the Group is still functioning, and the website currently describes it as, “The Graduate Consulting Group (CGC) receives funding from the WWAC to enable students to gain practical consulting experience and to apply their skills and expertise in the service of community-based organizations.”

These two experiences helped me cope with the stress of graduate study, apply those skills I learned in the classroom bowls, and helped ease my feelings of isolation.  They re-affirmed my desire to help my community, and to focus on urban education and planning issues. 

Over the past 15 years since WWS, I have devoted my life to public service and have worked at the Federal, State, and local government levels.  I worked in Los Angeles City Hall for various elected officials, and in 2013 ran for office.  While unsuccessful in my political run, a few months after my race, I established the Latina Public Service Academy  (LATinas), a program for high school girls to expose them to public policy jobs and how to run for office.  To date, I have raised over $25,000 and admitted 20 students into the Academy.   Currently, I work for HDR Engineering, Inc., an international architecture and engineering company that specializes in public infrastructure projects.  As the project manager for a rail project with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, I am responsible for highlighting the urban design and urban/regional planning elements and implications this project.  My experiences, both in the classroom and outside of it while a student at the Woodrow Wilson School have proven to be invaluable, and I recommend that all students use their two years as graduate student to give back to disadvantaged communities in New Jersey.


Ana Cubas Biography

Ana has devoted her life to public service.  She is passionate about helping low-income communities and has worked in the education, non-profit, and Federal, State and City government sectors since 1995. As an immigrant, and the first in her family to attend college, she knows first-hand the struggles of low-income families. 

Ana obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with highest honors from U.C. Berkeley, and a Joint Masters’ Degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University.  Ana began her public policy career working for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and then for the California Legislative Analyst’s Office in Sacramento.

Ana Cubas ran for Los Angeles City Council District 9 in 2013.  She raised $550,000 for both primary and run-off elections, setting a record for female candidates in the City of Los Angeles.  District 9 stretches from Staples Center, U.S.C., and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to South Los Angeles.  She ran a positive, grass-roots campaign focused on back to basics and the empowerment of communities that have been left out of City government.  In the primary, Ana beat out five well-funded candidates to make the run off in May.  Despite her valiant efforts against her opponent--a well-funded State Senator whose campaign coffers exceeded $2 million-- Ana lost the run-off election by less than 600 votes.  Undeterred, Ana has founded two initiatives that resulted from the lessons she learned during her campaign:  1) the South Los Angeles Political Action Committee that will register voters in Council District 9 and the 2) Latina Public Service Academy, a leadership program, which will train high school girls on running for elected office.

Prior to running for office, Ana worked and served the City of Los Angeles in various roles.  Most recently, she was Chief of Staff to Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar.  She first worked for the Chief Legislative Analyst’s Office as a Legislative Analyst, and then for Council President Alex Padilla as a Legislative Deputy. From 2005 until 2008, Ana was appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to serve on the Los Angeles City Information Technology Commission and prior to that by Mayor Jim Hahn to serve on the City’s Human Relations Commission.

Escaping the civil war in El Salvador, Ana was brought to Los Angeles when she was ten years old. She attributes her educational and professional success to her family’s strong work ethic. Her father provided for his family by standing on street corners as a day laborer, and her mother continues to serve as a domestic worker in the Westside.






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