With the right tools any individual can effectuate change in the world, and that is exactly what the new public policy and administration major aims to do—provide students with the right tools to make a difference. In Fall 2017, the Department of History, Geography, and Political Science introduced the public policy and administration major. Since its inception a little more than a year ago, the major has grown to more than 80 students.
Degrees in public policy have historically only been available as graduate programs, but BYU-Idaho created an undergraduate option for its students to gain more practical experience. Chad Newswander, a faculty member in the Department of History, Geography, and Political Science, says the new program gives BYU-Idaho students a competitive advantage.
“We wanted a practical degree so that students who are interested in politics and public affairs could have the chance to directly transition into a field of employment,” Newswander said. “That is usually what a graduate degree in a Master of Public Administration or a Master of Public Policy do. We thought it would be good to give undergraduate students that opportunity.”
As a result, public policy and administration undergraduate students can develop the necessary skills to positively impact democracy at a local, state, national, or international level.
“The major is a business degree for the public sector,” Newswander said. “With it being a business degree for the public sector, what we try to teach is a mixture of management and politics. Some of the practical, hard skills are program evaluation, policy analysis, statistics, human resource skills, and communication. We also teach the soft skills of being able to lead, interact with others, being able to persuade, talk, and present oneself in a credible manner.”
By developing these skills as an undergraduate, students can expect to be prepared to enter the workforce directly after completing their undergraduate studies. A degree in public policy and administration can lead to careers in many areas within the public sector.
Some jobs in these areas include:
• Human Resources Officer
• Public Affairs Officer
• Program Evaluator
• Policy Analyst
• Foreign Services Officer
• Social Entrepreneur
• City Manager
• University Administrator
• Budget Analyst
• Urban Planner
• City Planner
• Program Director
• Nonprofit Director
While this program prepares students for the workplace, it simultaneously prepares them for post-grad programs.
“The goal of the major is to prepare students to enter into public service. The secondary goal is to allow those who are interested in continuing their education go on to graduate school. The degree is very useful for either getting a law degree, Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Policy, or even a traditional Master of Political Science.”
Students have two emphases to choose from: public policy or public administration. Students who choose to study public policy will gain an extensive understanding of how to create, evaluate, and implement policy. Those who seek a focus on public administration will build and strengthen their management skills to evaluate and implement public programs.
“Policy is essentially about what government decides and administration is figuring out how to implement those decisions,” Newswander said.
Kaitlyn Knapp, a student in the public policy and administration program, feels that she has been prepared to pursue her dream of serving the public.
“I have learned that I am not limited by this major in the slightest,” Knapp said. “My ultimate goal is to serve the public and whether that be as an advocate, a lawyer, a public information officer, or in any other position, this major is preparing me to do so by elevating my reasoning and encouraging me to think outside the box.”