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Pairing real-world experiences with classes taught by distinguished faculty from across the Forty Acres, a new Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP) certificate will allow students to see first-hand how public policy decisions are made. The newest of 12 interdisciplinary certificates, the Public Policy BDP is a collaborative effort between the School of Undergraduate Studies and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Applications for Public Policy and the other 11 BDP certificates are accepted each spring and fall semester. Students interested in spring 2014 admission may submit applications through March 6.
Ed Dorn, professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and faculty chair for the new BDP, knows a thing or two about public policy. A former LBJ School dean who served in the administrations of two presidents, Dorn sees the Public Policy BDP as a way to give students a head start in a crowded job market.
“A certificate in public policy may provide a competitive advantage to recent graduates who are applying for jobs in the public sector,” Dorn said. “Many UT undergraduates are keenly interested in politics and public policy. Our courses help orient them to the challenges and opportunities they will confront in those environments.”
The LBJ School is funding two of the courses for the BDP. The first is a brand new course, Public Affairs 325, created to introduce students to public policy in a broad sense. This course will count as a foundation course for the Public Policy BDP. The second is Dorn’s BDP 101 forum seminar, “Public Policy: Race, Immigration and Citizenship,” which will connect students with faculty doing research in those areas.
“A lot of students come to UT with this idea that what starts here changes the world, and they want to be a part of making those changes,” said Jeanette Herman, assistant dean for academic initiatives and director of the Bridging Disciplines Programs. “This program takes students through the steps: from defining a problem, to figuring out what policy solutions might fix that problem, to actually implementing those changes through legislation and assessing the results.”
Each interdisciplinary BDP certificate is comprised of classroom components and either an internship or a research project. “We call them connecting experiences,” said Erin Thomas, advisor for the Public Policy BDP. “Students can do them here in Austin, out of state or abroad, and we offer scholarships to support them.” Given the university’s proximity to the state capitol and the its connection to Washington D.C. through the Archer Fellowship Program, BDP students have a numerous ways to get involved in public policy during their college careers.