In addition to core courses in policy analysis and research methods, economics, public policy and sociology, students in the interdisciplinary Public Policy Program complete courses in a particular policy or disciplinary concentration.
Students may select from five policy tracks: educational policy, evaluation and analytical methods, health policy, public management, and urban policy; or two disciplinary concentrations: economics, and policy history (Ph.D. only).
For most state and local governments, education is one of the most important policy areas and a very large budget item. Federal educational policies are often on the frontiers of policy development. The educational policy concentration permits students to focus on various types of educational policies made at every level of government. Courses are taken at UMBC and at the School of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Students in the educational policy concentration may find positions with school systems and other academic institutions, educational associations, and governmental and research organizations. Dr. George LaNoue is the track advisor.
How do policymakers know if the programs they design and implement to solve society’s problems are having their intended effects? This type of question is the primary focus of the evaluation and analytical methods concentration. Through class instruction and practical experiences, evaluation and analytical methods students acquire a variety of skills that enable them to be informed consumers and proficient producers of evaluation research. In an environment that increasingly emphasizes evidence-based decision making, such skills are very marketable.
Students learn to design studies that enable researchers to draw causal inferences about the impacts of programs and policies, as well as to make use of a variety of analytical methods, including statistics, qualitative methods, operations research, and benefit-cost analysis. The program then trains students to apply these skills to public policy and management issues. Evaluation research could involve a large scale assessment, such as the extent to which a federal disability program improves the quality of life for disabled people; and on a smaller, more local scale, whether mediation affects court case dispositions. Dr. Marvin Mandell and Dr. Dave Marcotte are the track advisors.
The health policy education and research activities at UMBC focus on finding solutions to the critical problems facing our health care system. Health policy is the largest study concentration in the public policy program, accounting for 35% of PhD degrees and 18% of MPP degrees awarded since the program began. Students study topics such as health care finance and delivery, the politics of health, and social epidemiology.
Through partnerships across campus (MIPAR and The Hilltop Institute), and with agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, UMBC faculty, researchers and students are using their knowledge to improve health care systems and enhance the quality of life for all populations. Dr. Adele Kirk, Dr. Nancy Miller and Dr. David Salkever are the track advisors.
Managers in public organizations are responsible for translating government policy into action within their own organizations and through interaction with external organizations and groups. The field of public management is concerned with the concrete skills and strategies that managers require to complete their work, as well as the operating environment of the public sector. The public manager must understand not only organizational systems, but also how the political environment may shape or constrain approaches to management and implementation.
The public management concentration introduces students to a toolbox of management skills drawn from management professionals in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. Students take courses in public management as well as budgeting, organizations and leadership, and program evaluation. Dr. Eric Zeemering is the track advisor.
Many of the nation’s most serious problems, such as poverty, unemployment, crime, and inadequate education, are centered in our urban areas. Concerns about these problems have made urban issues the focus of public policy discussions in the U.S. and the world.
The urban policy concentration combines analytic training with opportunities for applied research and real world experience. Operating in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area, one of the nation’s most strategic urban corridors, the program exposes students to urban issues in neighborhoods, cities, suburbs, and metropolitan areas. This concentration provides students with an understanding of the nature and causes of urban problems and the policy options for addressing them. Students take courses in public policy, economics, environment and history, learning to not only to formulate questions about pressing urban issues, but also contribute to the solutions. Dr. John Rennie Short is the track advisor.
The economics track provides students with basic graduate level training in the theory and applications of microeconomics and econometrics. Students may use the elective courses to strengthen their analytic abilities (e.g., through taking courses in Benefit-Cost Evaluation, Managerial Economics, or Forecasting), and/or to deepen their understanding of policy relevant areas such as human resources, health, the environment, public finance, and international economics. Dr. Tim Gindling is the track advisor.
Policy History involves interdisciplinary analysis of policy development and implementation. Grounded in historical research, the history of public policy includes a variety of social science analytical methodologies. Topics areas cover any aspect of the history of public policy, such as legislation, public health, social welfare, and science and technology. Policy history provides an avenue for studying the hows and whys in public policy shifts over time, and explores paths to comparative analysis for informing current debates. Dr. Marjoleine Kars is the track advisor.
*UMBC offers an M.A. in Economic Policy Analysis and an M.A. in History.