Current Students Hired to Conduct Study for USDA

by Michael Downey, MPP '17

March 25, 2016

Being in the heart of Washington, D.C. allows students at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration opportunities to contribute to the federal policymaking and implementation process and enables them to develop valuable connections while they explore various career paths.

Three current students are developing expertise in policy analysis through a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.  Under the guidance of Professor Susan Dudley, the students are conducting a comparative study of food and agriculture regulations between the U.S. and European Union.  Daniel Pérez, a policy analyst with the Regulatory Studies Center who leads the students, describes the partnership as a “cooperative agreement that allows the USDA to tap into the Center’s expertise and vice versa.”

The students came to this project with a variety of interests and skill-sets.  Zhoudan Xie, MPP ’16, is specializing in international environmental policy and was particularly interested in the project’s international perspective. 

“Environmental policy is a field I am very interested in and committed to, and it is obviously an important component of this project,” she said.  Zhoudan has focused her studies on developing quantitative skills and was drawn to the opportunity to apply her expertise in econometric and statistical analysis.

The Trachtenberg School places a heavy emphasis on helping students apply the knowledge they bring to the program as well as the theory they learn in class to real policy issues. 

Aryamala Prasad, PhD ‘20, says she was attracted to the project because “it would be a good opportunity to apply the rigor of academic research to address a practical policy challenge.” As a member of the research team, she has been able to tap into her five years of research prior to enrolling, especially her experience conducting comparative studies as a consultant with the World Bank.

An important aspect of post-graduate education is the opportunity to explore possible career paths. Lydia Holmes, MPA ’16, has been working to create a database of regulations that affect agriculture in the U.S. and the EU.

“This project gives me exposure to specialists in the field who not only give me better perspective on what types of opportunities are available in the field, but who are also able to give invaluable career advice and serve as a network for me as I progress in my career,” Holmes said. “This will help me go into my career with not only the skills I learned in my degree program, but with actual examples of how I’ve been able to apply those skills to this project.”

Over the next seven months, the research team will continue working to compile a taxonomy of the relevant laws and regulations and analyze how they affect agricultural productivity.  And as a result of their experience, the students will have demonstrated a clear ability to translate their classroom learning into applied problem-solving.