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SPP Alumna Gained Valuable Experience Outside of the Classroom to Advance Her Career

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Veena Thangavelu

Some University of Maryland School of Public Policy students decide to earn two degrees instead of just one. Veena Thangavelu completed her Master of Public Policy degree at the School of Public Policy in May 2015 and is currently working on completing her Master of Business Administration as part of the dual MPP/MBA program with the Robert H. Smith School of Business. She works as an analyst at the State Department covering human rights in South and Central Asia.

“My responsibilities encompass officer duties on global LGBTI policies, disabilities rights and programming efforts to enhance democracy and labor equality with extremely marginalized populations,” Thangavelu says.

She became interested in public policy while working on Capitol Hill. “I was working on the Hill during a very partisan election cycle,” she says. “Candidates running continuously campaigned on particular issues—like environmental affairs. Bureaucracy aside, it resonated with me in the sense of, ‘Why are these issues still an issue?’ While the Hill was an insightful institution to gain expertise and professional growth, there had to be some other way to create public impact.”

She added that she felt her experience inside and outside of the classroom, including internship experience helped set her apart when looking for employment. “I worked on two consulting projects during my second year and each was life changing in that we made a tangible impact in a relatively small amount of time,” she says. “The on-site experience was so insightful having immersed myself with an otherwise inaccessible community.”

I met great people during my classes, undoubtedly exceptional leaders, and I’m proud to say some are even lifelong friends.
Veena Thangavelu SPP Alumna

Thangavelu traveled to New Delhi, India with the School of Public Policy during the winter 2015 semester. “My group worked with the Score Foundation, an NGO particularly for those with visual imparities and blindness, to scale the Project Eyeway program and build the organization around India outside the parameters of the Hindi-speaking north,” she says. “Professionally speaking, we assisted Score in harnessing a network through Coca-Cola India, the American Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Embassy in Delhi. It was very engaging to develop relationships with these stakeholders to advance disabilities policies on ground-level efforts in another country.”

Thangavelu noted that having the chance to build her network while pursuing her degree was also very valuable. She says, “I met great people during my classes, undoubtedly exceptional leaders, and I’m proud to say some are even lifelong friends.”

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