The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Olivia Laramie

Headshot of Olivia Laramie
Project Coordinator
Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission

Degree & graduation year: Master of Public Policy & Administration ‘20

What I do: As project coordinator in the research department of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, I help manage and write legislative reports, organize and write standard operating procedures, aid in the research and writing associated with scientific manuscripts, and conduct qualitative analysis when necessary. I am also the program coordinator for the commission's responsible vendor training program and serve as a research license liaison between the research department and licensing/enforcement department.

How I ended up working there: I graduated from SPP in May 2020, during the COVID-19 emergency. At first, I had a job lined up that was rescinded due to the impacts of the pandemic on the economy. Instead, I moved home to Vermont and started my job search all over again. From there, I was lucky to be hired as an intern for US Representative Abigail Spanberger while I continued looking for a full-time position. I utilized LinkedIn and Idealist for most of my job search and placed my resume in the resume bank for Capitol Hill opportunities. Eventually, I reached out to Michelle Goncalves, who is the executive director of UMass Women into Leadership and an SPP alum. She forwarded me the posting for my current position and connected me with the commission.

The best part of my job: The best part of my role as research project coordinator is that I am continually learning. When I graduated, I wondered if I would miss school because I enjoy learning so much, but fortunately, I get to continue doing just that! I never anticipated working in cannabis policy, so I am learning so much every day about legalization, equity, the medicinal benefits of cannabis, risks, and more.

A recent exciting work experience: I recently took on the role of program coordinator for the commission’s responsible vendor trainer program. This program certifies qualified individuals and agencies to conduct the annual training of all marijuana establishment agents. This program plays a major role in upholding public health and safety in Massachusetts, and I am so grateful and excited to have the opportunity to make an impact through my position.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: Every day I find myself saying, “Oh, I learned this in class!” I am honestly shocked at just how much I learned during my two years at SPP and how applicable it is to my job—from writing policy memos in Professor Lee Badgett’s class, to qualitative coding in Professor Joya Misra’s class, and quantitative coding from Professor Sanjiv Gupta’s statistics course—I could really go on and on. Each class I took has been vital to my success at the commission.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: Every interview I’ve ever read from an SPP alum says this, but it’s so true: Craft the program around your own goals. SPP offers so many classes, and each professor and staff member contributes their individual expertise. Also, listen to what your classmates have to say! I probably learned just as much from my peers as my professors; I was inspired by their knowledge and passion for helping the public every day!

Future plans: I would eventually like to run for public office, though I am not sure at which level yet. Although I am interested in politics for the long term, I think it is incredibly important to gain experience on the policy side first. Good policy is good politics; in fact, I don’t think strong, human-centered politics can exist without thoughtful policy-crafting happening behind the scenes.