During the month of April, known as Do Good Month at the University of Maryland, we recognize two distinguished SPP alums who are making significant contributions in public policy, driving positive change in their communities through their dedicated work and steadfast efforts to ensure equity for all. Delisha Thompson and Amanda Woodson are changing the world through their purpose-driven work.
Delisha Thompson MPP ’18 is a double Terp who graduated with her master’s degree in public policy in spring 2018. As she mapped out her graduate course plan, she was able to craft a specialization tailored to her specific interests in and passion for education and mental health policy. “Maryland has always been able to facilitate my desires to be a public servant and ‘do good’ in my local community,” notes Thompson. As an adoptee, Thompson is also a strong advocate of adoption policy and of making the adoption process child-centered to help fix the current system which she believes is broken and inherently unethical. Her strong passion for advocacy, mental health and working with children and adolescents was inspired by her mother, a recently-retired administrator in the city of Baltimore who provided mental health services to inner city children for more than thirty years. “She has always been an innovator and a game changer in mental health service delivery for children in Baltimore experiencing mental health crises,” reflects Thompson about her mom.
Amanda Woodson ’20 was part of the first class of students at the School to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public policy. “My degree has opened many doors for me in my career, allowing me to understand the impact of well-written policy in creating innovative solutions to pressing policy problems facing society,” reflects Woodson. In speaking of her time at SPP, Woodson, a current Juris Doctor candidate at Suffolk University Law School, shares, “The amount of passion each professor showed as an educator further inspired my fellow students and I to pursue careers in public policy.” She is passionate about a wide range of policy issues stemming from her internship and work experiences, including health policies such as prescription drug pricing, decreasing the racial disparities in medical treatment, as well as disability and education policy. Woodson’s maternal grandparents met in graduate school while each pursuing their master's in education, so the importance of access to education was always emphasized in her household growing up. She is a huge proponent of universal preschool and increasing funding to school systems where funding is scarce.
Thompson’s work with the nonprofit organization Leveling the Playing Field (LPF) during her time at SPP helped to fuel her passion for child advocacy and pave the way for her current success. LPF’s mission is to redistribute donated sports equipment to expand access and equity within youth sports and recreation programs in under-resourced communities. Additionally, participating in community service projects in places like Louisiana and working with local homeless shelters in Prince George’s County on mental health initiatives were critical in her quest to affect change in mental health policy. “As a graduate student I was able to focus my entire graduate capstone on mental health, specifically on providing policy recommendations to the university about what they could do to improve mental health figures on campus,” recalls Thompson. During her capstone, Thompson was part of the team that won the Audience Choice Award at the Do Good Challenge for their student-led group, Scholars Promoting and Revitalizing Care (SPARC). The group’s goal was to address gaps in mental health resources at the University of Maryland by advocating for increased accessibility, funding and staffing for campus mental health facilities. With it’s #30DaysTooLate campaign, SPARC worked to raise awareness for existing resources on campus and encourage students to prioritize and dialogue about mental health.
The courses offered by the School of Public Policy prepare you for the real worldAmanda Woodson ’20
For Woodson, the biggest factor that fueled her passion for health and education policy was her time at the School. “The courses offered by the School of Public Policy prepare you for the real world,” asserts Woodson. “One of the classes I enjoyed the most was a capstone course taken in my final year of undergraduate studies where I completed a semester-long project for a real client. This experience was an amazing way to apply the skills and knowledge I had built and honed.”
After graduation, Thompson worked with students at Tunghai University in Taiwan advocating for issues related to mental health, teaching about racism, police brutality and effective mental health strategies, and fostering a classroom environment she was proud of. Thompson’s continued pursuit of mental health advocacy is also evident in her current work with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law on a project that explores research gaps in ADA accommodations, crisis interventions and the reintegration of students back onto campus after a mental health crisis.
Woodson is most proud of her work as a government relations specialist for the Amputee Coalition, a nonprofit health organization serving more than two million people with limb loss or limb difference and more than 28 million people at risk for amputation. Woodson is working directly in the policy field, providing logistical support to execute engagement with legislators and policymakers, and grassroots engagement with advocates nationally. From policy research to participating in coalitions with other organizations to writing articles to inspire advocacy, this position solidified that she had chosen the right career path. “I truly feel the work I do every day creates a positive impact on the community,” notes Woodson. “Policy truly impacts the world around us every day.”