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University News | 01.03.23

Redesigned Chicago graduate program in public policy and administration will build ‘social change agents’

Prospective students seeking to create impact and change the world through the expanding world of policy, with the goal of influencing systemic social change — whether globally or locally, can enroll in the Adler University Chicago campus’ latest graduate program.

The Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA), the only non-clinical program on the Chicago campus, will begin in Fall 2023 and  aims to promote a philosophy of integrating “the head, the heart, and the hands” to make a positive impact in communities and our world, said Sandra Song, Ph.D., department chair of Public Policy and Administration Programs, Vancouver and Chicago.

“All three parts to us as humans come together to address complex and deep problems in our communities, and these communities can be immediate and local, but also global in its context,” she said. “It’s what I call a ‘glo-cal’ approach to the training ground.”

The MPPA program builds on Adler’s long-standing tradition of a social justice core infused in each of its degrees with knowledge and skills relevant to policy work. The program focuses on applied research and analysis, program evaluation and management, and the deep understanding of politics necessary to work for the public good. It includes work in national, state, and local governments, policy research centers, consulting firms, community-action groups, and direct-service providers in the U.S. and abroad.

As a global leader in understanding the connections and disparities between human and societal health, Adler’s Chicago Campus MPPA offers a concentration in health and human rights. The MPPA program is not just the result of merging two previous graduate programs, Master’s in Public Policy and Master’s in Public Administration, but a completely new vision for the future of policy.

To implement this new vision, faculty have been busy recalibrating, restructuring, and redesigning the program to move away from only reading or learning about pure theory and towards gaining more practice-based and experiential learning.

The creation of the program in Chicago is a direct result of the success of its counterpart in the Vancouver campus, which Dr. Song also led as program director.

“In a relatively short period of time in Vancouver, we trained a new generation of social change agents,” she said. “Some of our graduates quickly found roles in the nonprofit and government sectors to help make the world a better place.”

As the Vancouver program has continued to grow, Dr. Song said, “it started to gain attention across the University. Then, an opportunity opened up to create a similar program in the Chicago Campus.”

Dr. Song quickly saw it as a program for innovation, and to train graduates in making the biggest social impact in Chicago and beyond. This includes building international partnerships with organizations and think tanks that have multi-lateral presence around the world, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a legal research think tank in Lagos, Nigeria, or exploring opportunities in Latin America.

“We’re very intentional in bringing the world to Chicago, but also to share Chicago with the rest of the world,” Dr. Song said.

The Chicago program requires 36 hours of course work with a minimum of 27 hours of public policy and administration core course work, and 9 hours of concentration course work.

The MPPA program also offers two opportunities for students to participate in real-life training and experience. First through Adler’s Social Justice Practicum (SJP), which provides students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge during 200 hours of work with local partners. Students will then finish their program with more real-world practice through their collaborative policy internship and capstone courses.

“Prospective students should consider this program because we are centered and focused on the social justice mission,” Dr. Song said. “You’ll get opportunities to leverage experiential learning and projects-based work to hopefully be part in solving real-life problems in our communities.”

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