People and Community University

Child advocate looks to expand leadership role

Roxana Lemus, who worked full time while taking two seven-week classes per semester, is graduating with a Master of Public Administration from UOnline and will address fellow graduates at the commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Roxana Lemus

Roxana Lemus is graduating Thursday with a Master of Public Administration from UOnline.


With a bachelor’s degree in political science and several years of experience as a victim advocate, Roxana Lemus knew she had what it took to help children and families who have been affected by domestic violence or other crimes.

Able to quickly assess the “needs on the ground,” she said that she had the demeanor, skills, and training to provide the level of compassion and support so urgently needed after law enforcement officers filed their report and left a scene.

“It’s a difficult job, being on call, going out at all hours. But I loved working with the kids, especially,” she said. “I knew I could help them.”

What Lemus didn’t have was the advanced degree she knew it would take to move ahead in her career.

“Working in law enforcement, I saw a lot of people going for their master’s and I was inspired,’’ said Lemus who worked as a victim advocate at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office before joining the Pasco Guardian Ad Litem Program as a child advocate manager. “It really empowered me. It made me think, I can do that, too.”

She began looking at various online master’s degree programs and quickly set her sights on the University of Miami and its UOnline Master of Public Administration program.

“UM was my dream school ever since high school,’’ said Lemus, who grew up in Central Florida. “I toured the campus in 2010 or 2011, and I just felt like I belonged there.”

Her experience taking classes online was not at all what she expected.

“I never felt like it’s just a computer in front of me,’’ she said of the UOnline program, its advisors, and professors. “I truly felt like I was a part of UM and taking classes on campus in Miami,” she declared. “They treat you as a human being, not just a number or a face on the screen. Every professor I had elevated me and empowered me in some way.”

Lemus, who continued to work full time while taking two seven-week classes per semester, said her courses were sometimes tough but she always understood how they related to her career in child advocacy.

“I learned so much about government and organizational leadership,’’ she said. “You start to see how it relates to what you do every day. It taught me to be more patient. It gives you a very different mindset.”

Lemus said she made lifelong friends through the program—even though they only met once or twice on campus.

“Even though you are all online, you pretty quickly find your people, or they find you,’’ she said, laughing. “We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all rooting for each other.”

At commencement, Lemus said she plans to urge her fellow graduates to never let anyone diminish their light.  “People may try to minimize you, but no one can diminish the core of who you are,’’ she said. “We are all essential. I think we all have a duty in life to pass the baton along.’’

Lemus, who hopes to continue in her advocacy career, eventually leading a team of victim advocates, once joked with her classmates and professors that she would “change the world when she became president.’’

One professor did not laugh, so Lemus asked her why.

“Why would I laugh when I know that is something that you are capable of doing?” Lemus said the professor told her. “That was so meaningful to me. [My professors] saw so much potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself. UM will always be a very special place to me because of that.”