September 29, 2011 — Barely settled into its new home in Garrett Hall, which opened in August, the University of Virginia's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy is growing quickly.
Until this year, all Batten students were U.Va. undergraduates who earned the Batten master's degree in addition to a bachelor's degree over five years. This semester brought an inaugural class of 22 graduate students for the two-year master of public policy program, expanding Batten's total enrollment by nearly 50 percent.
In addition, by partnering with five other schools at U.Va., the Batten School has recently created five dual-degree programs that will allow students to obtain a graduate degree from the partner school and a master's from Batten in fewer years – usually shaving off one year – than if each degree were pursued independently.
Batten's post-graduate students represent 10 states, from New York to California and Michigan to Texas, and one comes from West Africa. They hold undergraduate degrees from 17 schools, including Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University and Georgetown University, and have an average of four years of work experience. Seven of the 22 already have master's degrees in another field; six are pursuing one of the dual-degree programs.
"As you can imagine, the people who were attracted to this inaugural class shared a bit of a pioneering spirit," said Howard Hoege, Batten's director of admissions. "I genuinely believe that much of the class chose Batten because they believe in the vision of this school and wanted to play a role in building its growing legacy."
Several new Batten students said they chose the fledgling Batten program over more well-established programs because of small class sizes, faculty accessibility and the infectious enthusiasm of fellow Batten students and faculty.
"Larger MPP programs, in most cases, cannot offer the flexibility, intimacy and the U.Va. resources that the Batten School offers." said Jimmy Hock, who previously worked for Hewlett-Packard as a senior consultant focused on mergers and acquisitions in China and India.
The dual-degree program with the Curry School attracted Annie Rorem, a former middle school math teacher, because it allowed her to explore general public policy and community development along with her education policy focus on teaching math to young girls, she said.
Hoege said that the school's focus on results was another factor in students' decisions to enroll. "We devote a third of our core curriculum to the study of leadership and the context in which public policy is made. Another quarter of the curriculum is focused on experiential learning, where students are doing policy analysis on real-world policy issues on behalf of real-world clients," he said. "The combination of these aspects of our curriculum is very compelling to prospective students."
Batten's dual-degree programs combine a master's of public policy with a doctorate from the Curry School of Education; a master's degree from the Darden School of Business; a master's degree in public health from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; a master's degree in urban and environmental planning from the School of Architecture; or a law degree from the School of Law.
The first two years of each program require a student to take the entire first year of the M.P.P. curriculum and the first-year curriculum of the other participating school. After that, a student will complete the course requirements for both schools and take any other related graduate courses at U.Va.
"We are excited about launching these new dual-degree programs," said Eric Patashnik, a professor of public policy and politics and associate dean of the Batten School. "In many sectors of our economy – including health care, education, business and the environment – there is a growing demand for people who possess leadership capacity, strong analytical skills, knowledge of public policy and training in a substantive field. Students can complete the two degrees in less time than it would take to pursue both separately, so they can quickly put their new skills and competencies into action."
Representatives from the partner schools noted the benefits of each new program.
With law and public policy so tightly intertwined, the M.P.P./J.D. program will be a logical fit for future leaders, said law professor Richard J. Bonnie. "People who anticipate that some or all of their careers will be spent in policymaking roles in government or NGOs, domestic or foreign, will profit from the program," he said. "It provides a natural set of assets for being in those roles."
The M.P.P./M.B.A. program will help future leaders manage public and private sector partnerships and move seamlessly through the worlds of government and business, said Darden Dean Robert F. Bruner. "We have entered a new era in history – a global era shaped by closer connections between business and government. It's critical that the future generation of leaders be able to analyze issues from the perspective of both."
Students in the dual program with the Curry School will gain the skills needed to do the sorts of rigorous education policy research that impact education systems, said James Wyckoff, a professor of education and director of U.Va.'s Center on Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness. The program is one of very few programs like it in the U.S. and helps Curry "stand out among other top education policy programs nationwide."
The planning and management of sustainable communities is the focus of the master's degree program in urban and environmental planning, said Bruce Dotson, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning. "This necessarily involves public policies that guide private land development decisions as well as public decisions about infrastructure and services, to create communities that conserve the environment, provide jobs and address issues of social equity," he said. "Planners are needed who are fluent in all these realms."
The M.P.P./M.P.H. program will give students the opportunity to focus on health policy, one of the hottest topics in the U.S., said Ruth Bernheim, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, founding director of the M.P.H. program and associate director of U.Va.'s Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life. "In this competitive world, where policymakers and leaders need to be generalists, it's also helpful for them to have training specific to a field like health where they can work directly with care providers and community health interventions and become facile with complex epidemiology and clinical outcomes research."
— by Brevy Cannon