Current student Anna Holland, who is pursuing a dual-degree at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and Robert H. Smith School of Business, first became interested in public policy during her time in the Peace Corps.
“When I saw how policy decisions made in the developed world have a dire effect on life in the developing world, I wanted to be a part of those policy decisions and help them to be more sustainable and inclusive of marginalized populations,” she says.
“I became aware of the School because of its relationship with Peace Corps through offering the Coverdell Fellowship,” Holland adds. “The Coverdell Fellowship is a scholarship offered to returned Peace Corps volunteers who are interested in attending SPP. After doing some research about the School and speaking with current students, I learned about all of the great things SPP has to offer, including experienced faculty, opportunities to take courses abroad and a variety of development and economics-focused courses.”
She adds that she’s currently enjoying her current project class, which involves working with a small team of four as volunteer consultants for the Grameen Foundation to conduct an evaluation with a small NGO in India as their client. “Through this course, we will be doing research and preparatory work during this semester and then go to India for three weeks in January to meet with our client, complete the deliverables and present our final product. By far, this is the most important project I have worked on at UMD, and will provide me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience being a consultant and coming up with real solutions for the NGO to make a bigger impact.”
“During my Peace Corps service I was working as a health extension officer in a remote village in Tanzania,” she says. “There I collaborated with villagers to work on a variety of projects including: teaching maternal and child health classes at the local health clinic, partnering with a widows group to establish an income-generating project, applying for and receiving a grant to construct pit latrines in the market area and securing funding to build a library at the secondary school.”
“After Peace Corps, I worked on a six-month project with World Food Programme,” Holland adds. “In that role, I worked with a local NGO to assist in the implementation of Tanzania’s first cash transfer program to improve nutrition for more than 2,000 families in a desolate region of the country. Not only did this program provide impoverished mothers with a greater capacity to purchase nutritious foods, but it also taught them how to use a mobile banking system.”
Holland says she’s grateful for her experience in Peace Corps and what the experience taught her. “Peace Corps launched me into a leadership position that I never would have otherwise had in the United States,” she says. “I learned so much not only about development and cross-cultural communication, but also about my passions and what I wanted to do in my career.”
During her time at the School, Holland says she’s had influential relationships with Senior Research Scholar David Crocker and Assistant Professor Madiha Afzal. “Dr. Crocker is incredibly influential at SPP. He has much expertise in international development, is incredibly energetic and has a strong passion for helping students learn and grow,” Holland says. “It has been a pleasure to work with him on the international development council and in other school-related activities.”
“I participated in the Morocco winter course with Dr. Afzal this past January, and I was very inspired by her knowledge of development, security and politics,” she says. “She led really valuable discussions and encouraged us to think critically about complex issues in Morocco.”
“My favorite part about studying at the University of Maryland has been the relationships that I have made with diverse students and faculty across campus,” she says. “There are so many students from a broad array of backgrounds who I never would have met had we not been in graduate school together. Also, everyone at SPP has a strong drive to make a difference in the world and spend their career making a positive impact. Most students have strong moral values and opinions and feel strongly that their professions and future jobs must be aligned with those; that is pretty unique to SPP.”