Class Aims to Create Policy Professionals

Posted: February 13, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Although it is only six years old, the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program offers both young professionals and experienced managers an opportunity to immerse themselves in ethics, policy analysis, government relations, organizational dynamics, budgetary processes and global challenges.

As the gateway course for the MPP program, PUBP700 Theory and Practice in Public Policy aims to help students become more sophisticated policy professionals with the ability to operate effectively and ethically in a political environment. Students explore several types of theories and assess their strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, they will be introduced to several perspectives on the practice of policy analysis.

Catherine Rudder
Catherine Rudder

“The goal of the course is to provide a program that will be useful to students across a broad spectrum of substantive areas,” says Catherine Rudder, professor in the School of Public Policy (SPP). “Part of the challenge is how to move the students forward in their careers because so many of them are already working.”

Lee Fritschler
Lee Fritschler

According to Rudder and Lee Fritschler, another SPP professor who teaches the course, there are several aspects of the course that make it unusual. First, the course is a combination of theory and practice. Students will analyze readings about economics, political science, sociology and other areas and be asked to directly apply these readings to real-world issues.

To go out into the workforce and perform policy work in either the public or private sector students must become theoretically and strategically aware, the instructors say. The class also places heavy emphasis on writing and speaking skills. Some students have referred to the class as “boot camp” because it not only deals with reading material, but also the presentation of that material.

A second characteristic of the class is its incorporation of library skills as an integral part of the instruction. A representative from the Arlington Campus Library gives presentations to the class about how to access, cite and appropriately use library sources. In addition, students have practice exercises to ensure they can find exactly what they need when they need it. By the end of the semester, students should be able to use the bibliographic software EndNote, which eases the process of formatting footnotes and constructing bibliographies.

The third important aspect of the class is that students perform a team policy analysis of a current policy. Some students may analyze millennial challenge grants handed out by the Bush administration to countries to help make their governments more democratic. Other students may analyze privatization options for Fairfax County Public Schools.

“The goal is to make the situation as real as possible,” says Fritschler. “Students must identify a client, present their policy analysis and solutions and why these solutions will work. Some students have even gone to the actual client and presented their research and findings.”

Students who have completed the MPP program have gone on to work in a variety of areas in the public and private sector including local, state and federal government; government institutions; and international organizations. Other students work on Capitol Hill as lobbyists, in businesses such as Booz Allen Hamilton, and at trade associations such as the American Petroleum Institute.

For more information about the MPP program, see the web site.

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