University News

Taubman, Watson accelerate MPA program

One-year program likely to begin this summer and include policymaking experience abroad

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, October 17, 2014

The Watson Institute for International Studies will launch a newly designed, one-year Master of Public Affairs program this summer following its merger with the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, pending final approval from the Graduate Council this month.

An open house is scheduled for Monday, and applications are already being accepted, Morone said, adding that a “fast-track” application process for Brown undergraduates is still in the works.

Accelerated from Taubman’s current two-year model, the new program catches what “is almost certainly the wave of the future,” said James Morone, director of the Taubman Center and professor of political science, urban studies and public policy.

Many masters program directors believe a two-year program is not sustainable today, said Morone, who predicted that “10 years from now everybody will be following our model in the Ivies,” though the change may prove more difficult at other institutions, which Morone suggested may lack Brown’s flexibility and size.

If approved, the program will make Brown the only Ivy with a one-year MPA.

The new program condenses the traditional MPA curriculum to three semesters with a summer term that includes professional skills workshops, core classes and a two-and-a-half-week global policy immersion experience in Brazil, China, France or India. After taking advanced and elective coursework in the fall, students participate in a 12-week “Policy in Action” internship, either domestic or abroad, in their final semester.

Whether students aspire to work in national or foreign policy, the MPA requires and emphasizes an international comparative approach. Morone called any separation between national and foreign policy outdated — a major reason, along with additional resources, for Taubman’s integration with the Watson.

When he was named director in July, Morone immediately began to redesign the program with Richard Locke, director of the Watson Institute and professor of political science and public and international affairs. The team also worked closely with Associate Director for Academic Programs and Planning Shankar Prasad PhD’06. The design process relied on analyzing peer MPA structures and soliciting feedback from individuals at Brown and public policy program directors across the country, Morone said.

Though students are currently divided into the traditional two-year MPA or the Master of Public Policy program — the more quantitative option — Watson’s website now advertises only the new one-year MPA. Morone said Taubman will first focus on perfecting the accelerated MPA before considering the MPP option.

First-year MPA candidate Lauren Hassett GS said the Watson-Taubman merger’s progressiveness epitomizes what drew her to Brown. “That’s really important to remain on top and successful.”

But when applying to graduate schools, Hassett specifically sought a two-year program. She said she values the time that structure provides for her coursework — she is unsure that she could succeed in statistics in four weeks, for example — and for developing relationships with her peers.

On the other hand, “you save a lot of money in a one-year program,” said second-year MPP candidate Jonathan Wolinksy GS. But he added that “the primary goal is, of course, to make a program that creates top-caliber, top-tier graduate students.”