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Making the Case for Public Policy Education

News Type College News

(From left) Ford School Towsley Policymaker in Residence Hardy Vieux; McCourt School of Public Policy Dean Maria Cancian, Ford School Interim Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes, and Glenn College Dean Trevor Brown (Credit: Cheriss May / Ndemay Media Group)

John Glenn College of Public Affairs Dean Trevor Brown and peer deans across the country recently told Capitol Hill staffers and other D.C. professionals that a public policy education can lead to community impact.

Brown joined Ford School Interim Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes and McCourt School of Public Policy Dean Maria Cancian at the Washington, D.C., event, “Public policy for good: Building a just and inclusive society.”

Co-sponsored by Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) chair U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty and the Ford School, the event was open to Capitol Hill staffers, D.C. professionals, and CBC fellows and other prospective graduate students of the three participating schools. Ford School Towsley Policymaker in Residence Hardy Vieux moderated the Dec. 5 discussion.

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that our individual experiences are grounded in institutions and structures, and really understanding how those things are related and how we can intervene to help make people’s lives better is really at the heart of what a policy school does,” Watkins-Hayes said.

Each of the three deans provided advice and highlighted considerations for prospective students as they think about applying to a policy school.

Brown emphasized that in addition to curricular and co-curricular aspects of a program, prospective students should consider life after graduation and consider their network of fellow graduates and professionals.

“We’re proud to say that one of the largest concentrations of our alums is right here in Washington, D.C.,” Brown said. “That’s empowering, because that means when you finish this degree, there are people to connect with who will open some doors, continue enriching conversations and help advance your career.”

Commenting on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for public policy professionals, Watkins-Hayes said, “Whether you are implementing policy on the front lines or in the middle management of an organization, or if you’re in a leadership position, you are going to have to think about how you implement public policy in an increasingly diverse society.”

Watkins-Hayes is the founding director of the Ford School’s Center for Racial Justice, where part of its charge is working with professors to think through how to integrate DEI into their courses.

“If we’re talking about housing policy, it’s not enough just to talk about a particular public policy and to look at the cost-benefit analysis and the financing, we also have to take a step back and recognize the historical trajectory that got us to where we are,” she said.

Cancian also spoke to the importance of being able to work across differences. “At McCourt we call them power skills….One of our core aspirations is to be inclusive, across race and ethnicity, and also across other forms of lived experience. So one of the things we try really hard to do is for students to learn from people who have different intellectual and ideological perspectives.”

Ultimately, as Cancian said, “You can’t go wrong with any of these schools. You will have lots of good choices…. There is a path to great success at any one of these schools.”

Learn more about the “Public policy for good: Building a just and inclusive society” event from the University of Michigan Ford School.