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SPP Celebrates 40th Anniversary with A Founder's Re-vision: Public Policy for the Next 40 Years

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Peter Brown speaking at podium

View the event recording for A Founder's Re-vision: Public Policy for the Next 40 Years

An anniversary is an opportunity to look back, reminisce and celebrate past accomplishments, but it’s equally important to explore what the future holds. Dean Robert C. Orr shared this message to open A Founder’s Re-vision: Public Policy for the Next 40 Years. The event, a conversation with Peter G. Brown, founder of the School of Public Policy, took place Oct. 29 and also featured a panel of SPP alumni.

“Anniversaries are important in our personal lives as well as our institutional lives,” opened Orr.

The event served as a kickoff for the School’s 40th Anniversary, focusing on how public policy will evolve as a field, and how the School can support that growth. Jennifer King Rice, senior vice president and provost of the University of Maryland, provided welcome remarks, followed by Brown’s presentation. 

During his tenure at the University of Maryland, Brown founded the School of Public Affairs (now the School of Public Policy), the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, and the School’s Environmental Policy Programs. His areas of research, both then and now, center on ethical governance and environmental protection and conservation. At the 40th anniversary celebration, he addressed the Ecozoic world view--a means for avoiding irreversible climate change, the failures of the U.S. as a state, and how the School can help.

“We have brought to our current set of problems ideas that are hundreds of years old, and in many cases, they are very influential and important, but in other cases, they are deeply misleading,” said Brown. “If we are going to have a chance of getting from the difficult situation that we are in to a rebirth of optimism and confidence in government, we have to examine these ideas that we have accepted for so long to change them and move into new conceptual spaces.”

Following the talk, Ethan Brown MPM ’97, founder of Beyond Meat and Peter Brown’s son, spoke about the impact of a policy degree. Brown emphasized the need for connecting the role of humanity on the earth with policy, theory and philosophy -- one of Peter Brown’s founding goals for the School.

“It is in this journey from policy to theory to philosophy to the scientific understanding of the world and back again that I view as the very soul of this institution and the reason that we prepare better policymakers, social entrepreneurs and global citizens,” said Ethan Brown.

The discussion portion of the event brought the Browns together with alumni Kelly Veney Darnell MPM ’93 and Selena Rawlley ’21. Orr moderated the conversation, highlighting the vastly different paths that each member took with their degrees, as well as offering an opportunity to apply Brown’s insights to the policymaking world of today.

“We learn in the School of Public Policy that policy is incremental, so we must reconcile that fundamental theory within policy with this very real necessity for monumental change when it comes to these anthropogenic environmental challenges,” urges Rawlley. 

Darnell, who has worked across sectors and disciplines, provided a bright look at the future, based on her work as COO of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“I like the perspective that young policy professionals bring,” encouraged Darnell. “When you bring young policy students into an organization, they still have faith in our society and what is to come.”

SPP’s 40th celebration will continue all year long! Stay up to date with 40th anniversary news, programs and communications.

We have to examine these ideas that we have accepted for so long to change them and move into new conceptual spaces
Peter Brown Founder, SPP

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