U.Va. Launches New Master's Program in Public Policy

About 50 percent of the 1.6 million civilians employed by the federal government will be eligible to retire by 2010, including nearly 70 percent of senior managers.

                                                                                                                    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Information Session Scheduled for Tues., Oct. 24

Oct. 17, 2006 -- With an impending brain drain in the federal government as the Baby Boomers begin to retire, human resources officials are beginning to worry about who will replace them. Beginning in the fall of 2007, the University of Virginia will offer a new, five-year master’s degree program in public policy that will provide a new generation of leaders focused on public service.

The accelerated, interdisciplinary program will be open to U.Va. undergraduates who have finished three years of studies and who are interested in pursuing careers in government and the non-profit sector.

“There’s an idealistic dimension to this program,” said David W. Breneman, dean of the Curry School of Education, who has been named director of the MPP program. “It’s been popular during the past 20 years to criticize government harshly. But government performs many essential functions. We want to prepare students to make positive contributions to government and to the non-profit sector. The program is also a practical one that will provide students with the professional skills and analytic tools that employers increasingly demand. It’s like an MBA for public service.”

Students accepted into the program after their third year will complete a two-year curriculum that includes courses on American political institutions, economics and policy analysis, research methods, law, leadership, ethics and management. In their fourth year, students will complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree and in their fifth year, they will complete the requirements for the master’s degree in public policy.

“This five-year program shaves a year off the more common two-year master’s degree programs,” Breneman said.

According to the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (http://www.naspaa.org), there are more than 200 graduate programs in related areas nationwide. Program titles vary somewhat: Masters of Public Affairs, Masters of Public Administration, Masters of Public Policy and Masters of Public Management. Most of the programs are two-year graduate programs that begin after a four-year bachelor’s degree has been completed.

In addition to the course work for U.Va.’s new 30-credit MPP degree program, there is a required component of experiential learning, said Eric Patashnik, associate professor of politics and associate director of the MPP program. After their third year and before their fourth year, participating students will complete a weeklong public service retreat at U.Va.’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. And after their fourth year and before their fifth year, they will complete a required summer public-service internship. Students will select their internship placements with assistance from U.Va.’s Center for Politics. In addition, two of the required courses in the spring of the fifth year involve the preparation of a thesis in the form of a “professional-quality analysis of a major policy question for a real-world client.”

The program is designed to handle a cohort of up to 30 students in each year, for a total of 60 students in the two-year program.

“The program responds in some measure to the escalation of credentialing that we’ve seen throughout society during the past 20 years,” Breneman said. “But its five-year structure provides students with an economically feasible opportunity to acquire a professional credential at a minimal cost.”

The MPP program was envisioned by Provost Gene Block and Robert Sweeney, senior vice president for development and public affairs, and developed by a Universitywide faculty committee co-chaired by Breneman and Arthur Garson Jr., vice president and dean of the School of Medicine. It was endorsed last spring by the College of Arts & Sciences, the Faculty Senate and the Board of Visitors. It received final approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia on Oct. 17.

Given President John T. Casteen III’s interest in foreign service, and the number of U.Va. graduates who join the Peace Corps and the Department of State, the program is likely to add an international track in the future, Breneman said.

“The tie-in to Thomas Jefferson and his emphasis on public service is obvious,” Breneman said of the University’s founder. “How could we have gone so long without such a program?”

For more information, call David Breneman, director of the MPP program, at (434) 924-3332, or contact him by email at dbreneman@virginia.edu; or Eric Patashnik, associate director, at (434) 924-3602, or by email at ericpat@virginia.edu.

Information Session on U.Va.’s New Five-Year Master’s Program in Public Policy
Tuesday, Oct. 24
7 to 9 p.m.
Harrison Institute/ Small Special Collections Library
Keynote speaker:  Frederick Hitz, former CIA official
Information Session
Q&A’sˇWhat Can I do with an MPP?