Why Public Policy?
Public Policy Analysis and Management, to give the field its complete name, is a professional training of about 40 years’ standing in US—and, increasingly in overseas—universities originally directed at developing a professional cadre of policy analysts in government agencies and legislatures. More recently public policy education has broadened to train government executives and administrators, and high-level personnel in the non-profit organizations that perform social functions commonly undertaken by government outside the US. The core program in public policy is a two-year master’s degree offered by dozens of schools in the US and elsewhere alone and jointly with engineering, law, public health, and other graduate degrees.
The underlying model of public policy professional education is integration of disciplinary insights from economics, political science, law, statistics, operations research, psychology, and more with an intellectual spirit best characterized as “compared to what?” For example, the faculty at GSPP have terminal degrees in economics, political science, psychology, engineering, law, physics…and public policy. Policy analysis is directed to identifying the best thing governments can do about important problems and opportunities, including known options and newly invented initiatives, and is distinguished by its expectation that a good policy analysis will demonstrate critical thinking of more than one kind at once. In the early 1980’s the field experienced its most recent major adaptation, when it was recognized that to be effective, alumni needed not only to ‘win the argument on the merits’ but also to practice executive and leadership skills in real organizations. This recognition led to the integration of public management in the core curriculum.
Over the years, we have realized that the underlying model of policy analysis enriches and complements a variety of undergraduate specializations, and that public policy training can be valuable not only as a “pre-MPP” experience, but also to students whose graduate training won’t include the MPP degree. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and others need to understand government choices as citizens, as participants in
Why undertake the minor?
Employers and graduate schools recognize a completed minor as indicative of broader preparation than a single degree, not to mention curiosity and willingness to do extra work. The Public Policy minor also certifies interest and background in public affairs.
Furthermore, registration for the minor (which does not obligate one to complete it) makes you eligible for various GSPP undergraduate programs and activities and gets you on a mailing list for GSPP events of interest to anyone concerned with public affairs.