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Portland Tribune: PSU's new Master's program aims to make ripples in Oregon policy
Author: Shasta Kearns Moore, Portland Tribune
Posted: January 20, 2015

Read the original story in the Portland Tribune.

Our lives are shaped and influenced by public policy every day. As Oregon’s policy landscape gets increasingly complex, Portland State University says it’s time for a masters degree program devoted to this orphan discipline.

“It’s a field that has always fallen through the cracks,” says Bruce Gilley, associate professor of political science in the Hatfield School of Government and director of the university’s new Master's of Public Policy

Gilley says while more popular areas of study such as political science, economics, law and public administration all touch on public policy, they don’t make it their focus. By starting a program in Portland, he says he also hopes to attract people outside the state who are looking for a nontraditional approach or who would like to go into leadership and advocacy positions, making change from within.

“Although,” adds Gilley, “they’re not going to get out of this program without a solid foundation in policy analysis.”

Oregon State University is the only other university in Oregon to offer a Master’s in Public Policy, though the degree is more common in California, Washington and on the East Coast.

Brent Steel, director of OSU’s public policy graduate program, says they are looking forward to collaborating with PSU. Steel says he could even see a “policy triangle” of research collaboration with the University of Oregon’s Master’s of Public Administration program.

“This is a great place to have a policy program because Oregon does so many innovative things,” Steel says. The director noted that students in his program focus on energy, environmental and international policy, while PSU hopes to attract those interested in urban issues.

But Gilley says the degree program — which will start graduating its first class of 10 to 20 students in 2017 — is just the tip of the iceberg.

“The bigger picture is that Oregon is deficient in public policy expertise and research, and yet as a state we have increasingly complex public policy issues,” he says. “The larger aim is to have real public policy in Oregon, which we don’t really have right now.”

Gilley hopes the nonpartisan research arm of the project will help improve Oregon governance.

“We would love to see a good proportion of graduates end up in the state or even to feed people into the federal government,” he says. Or even, he adds, in politics developing platforms and policy statements.

“The two major parties in Oregon are pretty thin on that capacity right now,” he says.

Initial applications are due March 1 with a final deadline of April 30.

>>Learn more about the Hatfield School's Master of Public Policy degree.