UMass developing new school of public policy

By Daniel Mahoney

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

As a result of a large scale modernization effort, the University of Massachusetts has recently begun the development of a new school of public policy.

The new school, which would be an evolution of the existing Center for Public Policy and Administration, seeks to bridge gaps between not only the curriculum of the social sciences but that of the entire university.

M.V. Lee Badgett, the current director of CCPA, outlined the motivations for the school, which she says will expand on CCPA’s previous focus.

“We are building up from CPPA and will be broadening our scope significantly as the school of public policy,” Badgett wrote in an email. “We want to expand our existing campus partnerships as well as develop new partnerships on campus, particularly related to science, food and environmental policy. We also will continue to build on our strength in research and teaching on family policy, social inequality and public management, as well as science, technology, and society.”

John A. Hird, interim dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and a professor of political science and public policy, also affirmed the new school’s possibilities in widespread research.

“Many faculty throughout the campus conduct research that’s relevant to public policy and we hope to engage as many as possible,” Hird wrote in an email.

According to Hird, the future School of Public Policy’s liberal arts background comes counter to the existing focus on science, technology, engineering and math concentrations seen at many universities across the United States.

The school is currently looking for a director, who would report to the dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and would oversee the creation of a new undergraduate major in public policy as well as the development of existing graduate programs.

When asked about the search process for the new director, Hird mentioned that he has already received inquiries from a number of very qualified applicants who seem very interested in the position.

“The prospect of leading this ambitious new school is very attractive to candidates and we anticipate a very strong pool of applications,” Hird said.  “The expectation is that the most successful candidates will be organizationally innovative as well as leading policy scholars.”

The search committee tasked with selecting the new director is currently being chaired by Ray La Raja, an associate professor of political science.

Both Hird and Badgett expressed their sincere enthusiasm regarding the future of the School of Public Policy. In particular, Hird is highly optimistic about the potential for creating a highly competitive research environment centered on finding ideas and solutions that target a better future, all through public policy.

Badgett, speaking in conjunction with Hird, added that she is hopeful the school will be “a destination of choice in New England for students who want to study public policy,” undergraduate and graduate students alike.

“We hope that people thinking about UMass as undergrads will be attracted to our major and to the five-year accelerated MPP program,” Badgett said. “We also want to expand our faculty with excellent scholars across many disciplines who will be excellent teachers and who do policy-related work.”

Currently, the School of Public Policy is not an official institution, awaiting the approval of the Board of Trustees. Despite this, Hird and Badgett are confident that the school has a strong foundation to offer future and current students the tools and resources to approach the next round of public policy challenges.

Daniel Mahoney can be reached at [email protected]