Natalia Cooper (MPP-EP'26)
Category: Student Experience

Title: Howard Scholar shies from the limelight, but accolades find her

Natalia Cooper poses in front of Healy Hall on Georgetown's Hilltop Campus.
Natalia Cooper poses in front of Healy Hall on Georgetown’s Hilltop Campus.

Even as a young girl, Natalia Cooper (MPP-EP’26) knew she wanted to make a difference. While her childhood dreams of being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court have changed, she remains ambitious about improving the economic and social mobility of excluded communities. 

Cooper, a Howard University alumna and full-time staff member at the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality (GCPI), is also pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy on a full-tuition scholarship. She attends classes in the evenings after work, adding to her already busy schedule. 

“I prioritize taking care of myself and my health first so I can be my best self at work and school. I have also learned that communicating early and often with coworkers, friends and family helps me manage my calendar,” said Cooper, the McCourt School’s 2023-2024 Howard Scholar.

As a policy and data analyst at GCPI, she researches policy and analyzes data to address racial equity issues related to tax credits, subsidized employment, postsecondary education, and health and human services administration. With only one semester of coursework under her belt, Cooper is already applying new tools and skills to her work at Georgetown.

Natalia Cooper attended the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 52nd Annual Legislative Conference in October 2023 with GU Politics and the McCourt School's Black Perspectives on Public Policy (BPoPP), participating in policy conversations on topics like child welfare system reform and closing the racial wealth gap.
Natalia Cooper attended the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 52nd Annual Legislative Conference in October 2023 with GU Politics and the McCourt School’s Black Perspectives on Public Policy (BPoPP), participating in policy conversations on topics like child welfare system reform and closing the racial wealth gap.

“My McCourt education is giving me more perspective to think about solutions to big problems,” she said.

Discovering a passion for public policy 

Cooper, who was raised in South Florida, attended Howard University as a political science major, intent on pursuing a career in law.

After learning more about the political ecosystem of think tanks, nonprofits, and research and advocacy organizations, she soon realized that many avenues were offering the opportunity to make a difference, including public policy analysis.

Cooper sought out as many opportunities as she could to build her quantitative skills and become a stronger candidate for graduate school. She added a second major, in economics, and completed coursework in statistics, applied calculus and data analysis to improve her policy evaluation skills, including a course on economic data analysis taught by Federal Reserve economists.

“Howard University’s Economics Department helped open up a new world to me. I uncovered new information and set new goals,” said Cooper. 

After earning her degree at Georgetown, where she’s found “alignment with [her] interests and goals,” Cooper aspires to advocate for solutions at the intersection of economic and social policy.

Natalia Cooper and her family, Gina Ann Mensack (far left), Lexie Hall (left) and Sean Cooper (right), at a University of South Florida football game in 2019. Meescha Cooper and Steven Mensack not present.
Natalia Cooper and her family, Gina Ann Mensack (far left), Lexie Hall (left) and Sean Cooper (right), at a University of South Florida football game in 2019. Meescha Cooper and Steven Mensack not present.
This story is a part of our “Student Spotlight” series, in which the McCourt School showcases the inspiring stories of emerging policy leaders who are making an impact in their academic pursuits, extracurricular activities and communities.