In 2012, University of Maryland School of Public Policy alumnus Evan Papp, along with five other friends, started Liberty Root, a farm that seeks to bridge the gap between farms and urban environments. Papp and his colleagues, including fellow UMD School of Public Policy alumni Joey Bailey and Jason Beach, purchased 15 acres of land in West Virginia to start Liberty Root. “The inspiration was born from a desire to become more self-sufficient, not only in the most basic sense of growing our own food, but in creating a community that could flourish and thrive in the face of great economic calamity and dislocation that we see all around us,” he says. “There is something truly empowering about starting an enterprise with like-minded people and working toward a goal that no one individual can achieve alone.”
Papp adds, “The wide range of public policy specializations [at UMD] creates a very rich environment for creative ideas to grow. And the diversity of students at SPP helps to develop strong bonds and networks that can lead to the startup of an enterprise like Liberty Root.”
While studying international security and economic policy at UMD, Papp says he was introduced to a wide variety of issues, experiences and opportunities. “I liked the wide variety of policy topics that students were exposed to during their studies,” he says. “And the close proximity to Washington, DC, supports a cadre of professors who work in the DC policy scene and have networks and real-world experiences that students can leverage.”
After serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia for three years, Papp moved to Washington, DC, and fell in love with the vibrant culture, history, and international draw of the city. “Shortly after moving to DC, I was looking at graduate schools within the beltway. The University of Maryland School of Public Policy offers the best value of all public policy degrees around DC, hands down,” he says. “The fact that it is part of a large public university system with generous graduate assistantship opportunities and in-state tuition made it the best choice.”
I think the most important aspect of a degree is that it should prepare you to not only get your foot in the door to begin a career, but to also equip you with the tools to thrive when you arrive.Evan Papp '11
And the time he spent studying at UMD served him well. “I had an internship at National Defense University, through the school, that focused on strategic security studies in sub-Saharan Africa, which helped land me a job in the Africa Bureau of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),” he says. Papp currently works in public affairs and strategic engagement for USAID.
“I think the most important aspect of a degree is that it should prepare you to not only get your foot in the door to begin a career, but to also equip you with the tools to thrive when you arrive,” Papp adds. “UMD School of Public Policy played a critical role in finding a job with USAID and better understanding the very complex policy dynamics that I’ve experienced inside the bureaucracy.”
The work that he completed while earning his degree has proved to be valuable in his day-to-day career. “An exciting aspect of studying public policy is that virtually all of the papers and projects you work on are related to contemporary issues with very relevant implications on the political economy of the US,” Papp says.
In addition to the coursework, Papp says he also enjoyed engaging discussions with faculty members and classmates. He advises new UMD students to “invest in relationships and networks with your colleagues and work together in thinking creatively on how to solve problems if you were the head of an organization, and then think entrepreneurially about how to put those solutions into practice with your like-minded colleagues like we have done at Liberty Root.”