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Neuroscience Program


Olivia Mora '20

Olivia Mora '20

Working towards justice for the disadvantaged

REAL student Olivia Mora ‘20 interned with the Federal Trade Commission investigating unfair business practices.

REAL student Olivia Mora ‘20 interned with the Federal Trade Commission investigating unfair business practices.

By Ally O’Connor ’20

Growing her knowledge and experience within the justice system, Olivia Mora ’20 (Neuroscience and Anthropology), spent her summer interning with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in San Francisco.  During her time with the FTC, Mora worked directly with investigators to survey a plethora of different informational sources to connect scams, frauds, and other breaches of conduct to the individuals or companies that executed them.  

Using numerous databases that log consumer complaints and compile personal information, along with information from a bureau that reports on suspicious financial activity filed by banks and social media, Mora assembled information and created summaries of different entities’ general operations and ethical shortcomings. Interestingly enough, Mora concedes that even though she had access to a significant amount of non-public information, she was surprised by how much was publically available about a suspect through sites like LinkedIn or Facebook.  

After a previous internship with the International Rescue Committee working to provide aid to immigrants who were trafficked on their journey to the United States, Mora found helping people and doing investigative work to be a calling, which led her to the FTC. When asked about her perspective on the agency, Mora explains that the FTC is a watchdog for consumers. Created to protect the public from antitrust harm and deceptive and unfair business practices, the agency’s role has become a crucial one in an increasingly corporatized world. “Victims of these harms are often times disadvantaged populations – the elderly, kids, small businesses, the incarcerated, poor people,” she says. “I take pride in being a part of something that can hopefully minimize their suffering and bring them to justice.”

This internship, and the reality that most of the cases the FTC files are civil suits, in which the defendants are rarely charged criminally, has forced Mora to ponder the ethics of the justice system and criminalization in this country. Particularly the fact that while many suspects have accrued millions of dollars through scamming, they will never receive jail time as a result.  “Living in San Francisco, the homelessness crisis and the stigmatization and effects of addiction have never been more visible to me,” she says. “There are thousands of the mentally ill and black men charged with possession, but the people scamming them and their families (mostly white men) get a monetary slap on the wrist.”

Going forward, thanks to her many related internships, Mora intends to pursue a masters in forensic psychology.  She explains that she is “very interested in the biological and environmental factors related to criminal psychology, and how people come to the conclusion of inflicting harm on others.”

About the REAL Program

The College of Arts and Sciences developed the REAL Program to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields. We believe financial means should not determine whether or not a student can participate in internships, research, projects or creative works opportunities. Committed to providing paid experiential learning opportunities for students, the REAL Program provides stipends up to $5,000 for undergraduate opportunities lasting up to 10 weeks over the summer. Since inception, the program has distributed nearly $1.3 million to more than 300 students.

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