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Master of Public Affairs Curriculum - Flexible Core Courses

P A 383C - Policy Development (Politics and Process)

3 credit hours

This course acquaints students with how public policy develops and is adopted in the American governmental system. It is normally taken during the first year. The course helps students understand the different settings in which policy develops and the factors that influence its development. Each section of the course uses different substantive policy concerns such as international affairs, social policy, community engagement, and resource and environmental regulation to explore how individuals and institutions initiate and/or give legitimacy to public policy, including the executive and legislative branches, the courts, interest groups, and individual citizens. The course also covers the dynamics of the policy process by focusing on the roles of and relationships among various levels of government and the concepts and models used to describe these aspects of policy development. The roles of ideas, concepts, and formal methods of analysis in policy development are discussed. Reading assignments and class discussion focus on case studies, legislative hearings, policy-issue briefs, court decisions, and theoretical works which highlight and explain the development of particular public policies.

P A 393L - Advanced Policy Economics

3 credit hours

Students are required to take an additional three-hour course in policy economics, selected from among a set of courses focusing on the application of economic theory and techniques to a specific area of public policy. Course options include macroeconomics, public finance, regulation, international trade and finance, natural resources and environmental policy, health policy, transportation policy, human resource development, urban and regional economic development, international development, education policy, social policy, and labor economics. Not all options are offered every year. This course is usually taken in the second year.

P A 397C - Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis

3 credit hours

In addition to the Introduction to Quantitative Analysis course in the common core, students are required to take another three-hour course in quantitative analysis, selected from among a set of courses focusing on the application of quantitative theory and techniques to policy analysis. Topics offered vary from year to year but include econometrics, demographic techniques, systems analysis, simulation modeling, and quantitative indicator methods. As the second course in the two-course quantitative sequence, this course is intended to provide students with an in-depth understanding and hands-on experience with a specific quantitative method useful in policy analysis. This course is usually taken during the second semester of the first year.

P A 680PA  - Policy Research Project

3 credit hours each semester

A unique component of the School's two-year program is the policy research project, a two-semester, six credit-hour course devoted to organized group research on a policy issue of concern to a public sector client. Students are required to participate in a policy research project during their first year.

The format for a policy research project is a research team of one or two professors and from ten to twenty students. An attempt is made to involve faculty from different disciplines and, within the constraints of student preferences, to select students with a diversity of academic backgrounds and experience.

Ten or more projects are conducted each year on a range of topics selected according to the knowledge needs of clients, the fields of competence of the School's faculty, and the policy interests of both faculty and students. Policy research projects are thus client- and product-oriented and serve as instruments for both learning and public service.

Students participate in all phases of the research project, including helping to define its objectives and methodology. During the course of the project, students share responsibility for organizing the available talent and resources to accomplish the research, for making day-to-day decisions affecting the progress of the research, and for developing the final research product. Through its emphasis on interdisciplinary research on real policy problems, the policy research project enables students to develop and integrate their analytical and quantitative research skills, experience the realities of the administrative and legislative processes, feel the impact of political pressures and conflicts, and learn the requirements for effective oral and written communication with nonacademic practitioners.

P A 680PB - Policy Research Project

3 credit hours