Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
MPA

Students take a total of 13 courses (10 credits). Ten are required core courses (described below), and the remaining three are electives. See the program schedule page for full sequence.

Required Courses

Economics of Public Policy

The primary purpose of the economics core course is to enable students to use economic thinking, concepts, and tools in their professional public policy work. By the end of the course, students should be able to articulate the economic context and analysis of a public problem, use economic concepts in managerial and policy decisions, and progress to advanced level courses confident of their understanding of microeconomics.
Summer Sequence 1

Statistics for Public Policy

Covers social and economic statistics and their role in public policy research. Among the topics explored are descriptive and inferential statistics, measurement, sampling, and multivariate analysis.
Summer Sequence 1

Foundations of Public Policy

The critical issues facing public policymakers (and concerned citizens) inevitably involve political, economic, social, and moral choices. In this course those choices — and the core values of public service and good governance informing them — are confronted directly. In examining how public policies are made, the course draws on a number of frameworks and analytical tools that have been developed by scholars and practitioners to address a range of questions: Why do some problems get public attention and not others? Why are outcomes of policy implementation often so disappointing, so apparently different from the intentions of policymakers? What role is there for knowledge, evidence, and science in a highly politicized policymaking environment? And what opportunities exist for various actors to influence the direction and outcomes of policymaking?
Summer Sequence 2

Communications and Public Policy

This course provides hands on experience for sharpening a variety of communication skills: writing, presentation, audio and visual. The goal of this course is to equip students with a diverse set of communication skills that can be used in a wide variety of settings. We begin by focusing on writing. The second part of the course covers presentation skills – from creating an effective visual representation of your policy to communicating this to a specific audience. For the last part of the course, emphasis will be on audio skills (e.g., podcasts, radio interviews) and constructing short 3 -5 minute videos. The overall goal of this course is to become familiar and comfortable with your role as a policy communicator, and to think strategically as to how to get your policy recommendation attention and action.
Summer Sequence 2

Management and Policy Implementation in Public and Non-Profit Organizations

Why do well-intentioned policies sometimes produce unfortunate results? This course will examine how policies designed by elected officials, bureaucrats, and courts are translated into practice through implementation, how and why public policies succeed or fail to produce changes in practice, and how policy implementation bears on democratic governance. The course will consider policy implementation across policy domains, with recurring attention to K-12 education policy.
Fall

Program Evaluation and Analysis

This course is designed to equip graduate students with the knowledge and tools needed to become critical consumers of evaluation research and to conduct evaluations of various social programs and policies. Following an introduction to the field of program evaluation and analysis, the course will address specific topics including: logic models, process evaluations, quantitative tools for analysis, experimental and quasi-experimental designs for outcome evaluations, and alternative data sources. Class discussions and assignments will utilize evaluation examples from a variety of substantive policy areas.
Fall

Social Justice and Advocacy 

This course will examine efforts to achieve social justice in contemporary political and social life. The class will examine three factors essential to understanding the challenge of working toward social justice. The first are the organizations through which campaigns for social justice operate. Many social justice campaigns operate through nonprofit organizations or rely on philanthropy for resources limits. The second module examines strategies that support efforts to achieve social justice. Direct participation in policymaking or implementation is a key strategy pursued by activists. The third module examines the process of framing and delivering messages. Policynarratives, new information, and novel frames can all alter public perceptions of issues and appropriate policies.
Spring Sequence 2

Systems Dynamics

Students will take a six-week module on systems dynamics, a method for understanding, designing, and managing change. The module will use SD to model the relationship between elements in a governing system and to explore how these relationships influence the behavior of the system over time. Students will learn that many of the causes of public problems have their roots in well-intentioned policies that have unintended consequences, and/or ignore the implications of feedback, non-linear interactions, and delays. Students will learn how to frame problems, visualize the system, identify potential leverage points, develop skills for communicating system insights, analyze policies, and ultimately design more effective and sustainable solutions. Students will be exposed to case studies on successful SD applications in the policy setting, as well as to software tools for SD analysis.
Spring Sequence 2

Financial Management and Budgeting

This course introduces students to the fundamentals of corporate finance, budgeting, and accounting for public organizations. Students will gain an understanding of how to employ financial information in organizational planning, implementation, reporting, and analysis. The semester will cover two key areas: managerial accounting (operating budgets, cash budgets, break even analysis, indirect cost allocation, capital budgeting, long-term financing); and financial accounting (preparation of financial statements, government accounting, and financial conditions analysis).
Spring Sequence 2