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Masters in Public Policy at Duke University - started 2003

How did you choose the graduate school you attended? Knowing what you know now, would you make a different decision? Why?
My choice was based on faculty expertise/research, program ranking/reputation, flexibility of degree requirements to incorporate classes to meet my professional objectives, and local employment opportunities for my spouse. I would not change my choice. I would have, however, asked more questions about how narrow policy fields (health, social, international policy etc) are integrated into required courses--which determines how applied your course work will be to your area of interest--as well as how the policy areas translate into research funding, internship opportunities, and job placement.

Where did you get information about graduate school options? What would be the best way for our current students to find information about their options?
A UWEC professor recommended I consider public affairs; public affairs led me to public policy. A useful way to learn about graduate fields of study is to look into the background of people in the news, magazines etc whose jobs interest you. Check out company websites; they often post employees' professional backgrounds/bios. If you've identified a field of study, use US news, school websites, and professional organizations to obtain deeper information and assessments of the educational institutions.

What advice would you give current students about courses they should take at UWEC before graduation if they're planning to enter a graduate program like yours?
Beyond basic economics, have a strong working knowledge of statistics and econometrics. Courses that emphasize structured analytic techniques as well as clear, concise writing skills are also valuable.

What advice would you give current students about other preparation they should complete before graduation if they're planning to enter a graduate program like yours?
In public policy, and in particular in a global policy specialization, students and faculty presume you regularly read major newspapers like the New York Times and periodicals such as the Economist; they also anticipate a familiarity with leading social/current event commentators, economists and the like, including Friedman, Easterly etc. It is not enough to read these; you should make a practive of throughful considering the perspectives and shaping a personal, informed opinion; also, learn how to critique these articles -- for example, hae they misused or represented data in the text or in graphics to support their analytic point? Further, you should have a strong working knowledge of the role and reputation of international institutions such as the UN, WB, IMF, WTO, ICJ etc. Most of my classmates were also well versed in philosophy and ethics.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in your first year of graduate studies? Do you feel that your years at UWEC prepared you well to face these challenges?
Transitioning from right/wrong learning--every economics, accounting, even astronomy question on a test had a right answer in undergrad--to free, creative solution, unstructured thinking was challenging and exciting. At the same time, even courses such as statistics and economics that were along the lines of right/wrong were purely applied analysis; the stakes seemed higher when the application to the "real world" was staring you in the face.

What were the most important textbooks you used in your first year of graduate studies?
Policy Analysis, Concepts and Practice, 3rd Edition (Weiner and Vining)
A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis (Eugene Bardach)


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