The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Nick Russo

Photo of Nick Russo
Marketing & Communications Director
Pedal Movement

Degree: Master of Public Policy, 2013

What I do: I provide strategic marketing and communications guidance for Pedal Movement, a local start-up company in Long Beach, California, which focuses on increasing the use of active forms of transportation (bicycling, walking, etc.). This includes representing the company in public meetings and hearings across the city and the greater Los Angeles region in efforts to grow the brand, develop partnerships with local governments and businesses, and secure contracts.

How I ended up working here: After graduating with my MPP in 2013, I moved to Washington, DC, to work in internet policy at a think tank. After a few years of this work, I found that I needed to shift my focus to local and regional issues rather than national and international issues. I had started volunteering for the local bicycling advocacy organization and eventually took a fundraising position with that organization as I developed interest in mobility and transportation policy issues. When my partner and I moved to Long Beach in 2017, I searched for a unique way to continue working on these transportation policy issues and found Pedal Movement, a new company with a bright future.

The best part of my job: I get to ride my bike for my job frequently—but the best part is empowering other people to do the same. Our company helps people start riding their bike more and in turn feel more healthy and independent, while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint.

A recent exciting work experience: Recently, my company hosted a series of bike rodeos—educational events that teach kids about bicycle safety and rules of the road, and often have some form of playful competitive activity—for fourth and fifth graders in Long Beach. These events were a way to educate students about how to ride their bicycles in safe and legal ways, but also to promote the Tour of California (the United States' largest professional bike race), which began in Long Beach. It was a great event with hundreds of kids learning a lot and screaming their heads off cheering each other on while they raced one another.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: SPP gave me a broad set of tools that have proven incredibly useful in numerous contexts, enabling me to be a versatile and valuable asset to any organization for which I choose to work or volunteer. Additionally, the client projects my classmates and I worked on while at SPP helped instill a sense of community and connection beyond simply the work that we were asked to do. Although I am no longer directly involved on a day-to-day basis with policy issues, my work is still informed by a duty to create a better and more just world through equitable access to resources—a theme that was certainly present in much of my coursework at SPP.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: My degree has opened a lot of doors for me in a variety of fields ranging from fundraising and development to internet policy to communications and marketing. To me, versatility is the greatest value I have received from my degree.

Future plans: I plan to continue working on transportation and mobility issues for the foreseeable future —I believe that our reliance on motorized vehicles is one of the greatest threats to the health of our world as well as our own safety (especially now that I live in California!).