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Alumnus Jeff Papa Uses Skills to Help Others Across Globe

August 12, 2013

Papa Profile Photo

Statehouse Leader: Economics alumnus Jeff Papa has been the Indiana Senate’s chief of staff and chief legal counsel since 2007, and is the current president of the Zionsville Town Council. He earned the Alumni Association’s Career Achievement Award earlier this year. (Photo by Chris Minnick)

     Jeff Papa has a tendency to chart his own distinct path. Though his college choice was an institution renowned for engineering and science, he earned a degree in economics at Rose-Hulman. “I was the only pure economics major when I graduated,” the 1993 graduate recalls.

     It wasn’t long before Papa was headed overseas, when he signed up for a study-abroad program in the Soviet Union. “The first time I was ever on a plane was to go to Moscow,” he says. He liked it enough to return two more years, and earned a certificate of proficiency in Russian technical translation, with a European Studies minor. A master’s degree in business economics followed from Ball State University, along with a 10-week internship in Korea and multiple trips to Russia.

     Then, Papa’s interests took another turn.

     “My roommate was going to law school and said, ‘you should take the LSAT,’” recalls Papa, one of three recipients of the Alumni Association’s Career Achievement Award this year. Scoring near the top and having an interest in law, he enrolled at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, where he eventually earned two separate degrees. And, his international interests continued, studying European law in France, Chinese law in China, Latin American law in Brazil, and immigration issues in Mexico.

     A volunteer-abroad program in Nepal in 2000 sent him down yet another path. He taught English to schoolchildren there, but wanted to do more. So, he founded the Youth Enhancement and Training Initiative (YETI), a non-profit corporation that raises funds for an orphanage Papa established in Nepal to serve 26 children. Ten to 15 percent of YETI fundraising also benefits underprivileged kids in Indiana.

     Papa’s career path has also followed several paths. He interned with the Indiana Senate in 1993, and worked as a legislative assistant and public information officer while in graduate and law school. Then, after focusing on immigration and government services with the prominent Barnes & Thornburg law firm, he returned to the Indiana Statehouse in 2007 as the Indiana Senate’s chief of staff and chief legal counsel. He oversees legal staff members advising lawmakers to draft laws, and is in charge of all other Senate employees and operations—68 full-time staffers that increases to about 140 during legislative sessions. Away from his job and YETI responsibilities, Papa is also president of the Zionsville Town Council and is pursuing a doctorate in education leadership from Marian University.

     As you can see, Jeff Papa is focused on helping others and learning.