Master of Public Policy Degree

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree program is designed to provide professional training in public policy for those seeking careers in the design, adoption, implementation, and evaluation of public policies.

The MPP degree provides students with substantive knowledge of the policy process and training in quantitative policy analysis and evaluation through the core curriculum, applied capstone experience, internships, and career placement.

Current areas of concentration include data/science analytics, education policyenvironmental policy, health policy, social policy, labor and employment relations, information technology, international public policy, gender equity and policy, racial justice and equityand criminal justice. The flexibility of Penn State’s MPP program allows students to choose an existing specialization or design a specialization that draws on the expertise of faculty from across the University Park campus.


Essential Skills:

The curriculum delivers the skills graduates will need as they enter the job market.

  • Policy Analysis

  • Data Analytics

  • Program Evaluation

  • Project and Research Design

  • Communication

  • Project Management

  • Problem Solving

  • Teamwork


Sample Plan of Study:

[1]All courses, including the capstone/thesis project, are 3 credits with the exception of the summer public policy internship (1 credit).  The MPP program as a whole is 43 credit hours (42 credits for working professionals who may be exempt from the internship requirement).

[2] Students are required to take four policy specialization courses. Generally, these will be drawn from other programs on campus. However, MPP faculty may also teach courses on substantive public policy issues or methods of policy analysis as PPOL 897: Special Topics in Public Policy.

Email with specific questions regarding curriculum. You can find general descriptions of courses in the University Graduate Course Bulletin

Fall 2021 Course Descriptions

PPOL 597/Soc 597Demographic Change & Family Policy – Andrew Fenelon (W 2:30—5:30 p.m. in Chambers Building 208) This course will examine the interplay between demographic trends and public policies, largely in the United States. Students will be exposed to the two-way relationship between public policy and demographic change, considering both the impact of policies on demographic outcomes as well as the effect of changing demographic structures on public policy development. The course will involve an introduction to demography and public policy and will cover topics including immigration, health policy and life expectancy, family policies, family structure and fertility, race and racism, housing and urban policy, population aging and pensions, social policy and inequality, and climate and environmental policy. Readings will be a mix of scholarly articles and popular press pieces. Students will complete a policy project that engages with a contemporary demographic issue.  Search class #29394 or PPOL 597 in LionPath.

PPOL 597 - Social Impact Financing Tima Moldogazíev (Tu 4:00—7:00 p.m in Sackett Building 322) So you want to address the big problems in your community like poverty, inequality, subpar education, lack of affordable housing and crumbling infrastructure. But fixing these problems is not cheap.  Social Impact Financing is a course on policy and management regarding external resources for social impact in public programs, social enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, and public-private projects. The course begins with an introduction to basic investment concepts, financial instruments, and credit risk management strategies. It then expands into concepts of impact finance, performance measurement & management, and pay-for-performance contracts. The course then evaluates the spectrum of existing impact financing alternatives from crowdsourcing to mutual funds, microfinance, to venture philanthropy. The course wraps up with a review of financial innovations with a distinct social impact objective: sustainable or green finance, community impact investments, Islamic and Christian finance, and social impact bonds. Search class #27186 or PPOL 597 in LionPath.

PPOL 503 – Statistics for Public Policy – Hilary Wething (M 4:00—7:00 p.m. Thomas Building 117) or Emily Pahktigian (M Noon—3:00 p.m. Thomas Building 217) This course provides an introduction to evaluating and conducting quantitative analysis of public policy. The first part of the course examines foundational concepts including basic elements of research design, research question development, measurement theory, and internal and external validity. The remainder of the course sequentially examines the intuition and implementation of basic statistical techniques in public policy analysis, including descriptive statistics, probability, inferential statistics, and the analysis of nominal and ordinal data. The course provides a foundation for studying more advanced quantitative analysis techniques, such as regression analysis. The course also introduces basic data management and programming using Microsoft Excel and R. Students will demonstrate knowledge of statistical analysis techniques through homework and application exercises, a policy report, and exams.  Search class #19580 or #28510 or PPOL 503 in LionPath.

PPOL 801 – The Public Policy Process – Johabed Olvera (T 6:00—9:00 p.m. Walker Building 004) The policy process refers to the development of public policy over time and the actors, events, and contexts surrounding this development. Trying to understand and explain the policy process requires an understanding of the relationships among an uncountable number of factors in a dynamic system with nested levels of interactions and uncertain inputs and outputs. This course decomposes this complexity by first considering the political conceptualization of public policy problems, the tools by which public policies -- laws, regulations, and markets -- are expressed, and the formal and informal actors (voters, legislators, executives, courts, bureaucracies, the media, and interest organizations) engaged in the policy process. The course then examines a number of broad models of the policy process as a whole, including the policy streams, institutional, incremental, advocacy coalition, and punctuated equilibrium models. The course also examines these actors and models at several stages of the policy process running from agenda setting, through policy formulation and adoption, to policy evaluation. The goal of the course is to enable students to identify the wide variety of actors in the policy process, understand the institutional contexts they operate in and the tools of policy influence they seek to employ at several distinct stages of the policy process, and critically assess the implications and empirical veracity of a variety of conceptual models of the policy process. Search class #19581 or PPOL 801 in LionPath.

PPOL 802 – Economic Analysis for Public Policy – Julio Ramos Pastrana (Th 5:00—8:00 p.m. Walker Building 003) Search class #19582 or PPOL 802 in LionPath.

PPOL 805 – Bureaucracy and the Public Policy Process How does representative government function when the implementation of public policy has the authority to reshape democracy? This course links public administration—its function of implementing policies—to representative government by carefully examining the normative requirements for both.  We then examine four typical structures for implementing policies that differ on the extent to which they respect accountability to the people through their representatives and the process values of democracy.  These structures incorporate a broad cast of characters from bureaucrats to non-governmental organizations to citizens themselves.  We gather and explore real-world evidence to assess a hypothesis of value reinforcement: the way that policy is implemented reinforces the values representative government.  Our evidence comes from Pennsylvania, the United States and a variety of other nations.  The course engages both normative and positive theories and students’ own research into revealing the harmonies and tensions between democratic politics and public policies. 

PPOL 807 – Managing Public Organizations – Niki vonLockette (W 4:00—7:00 p.m. Borland Building 110) This course examines the underpinnings of effective management of public sector organizations. Students will gain an understanding of the dynamics of organizations and the role of people who comprise them. It will provide students a working knowledge of how public sector organizations work. This course offers a special emphasis on the organizational and workplace dynamics associated with diverse workplaces.  The course will provide students with the ability to situate workplace dynamics within larger industry-level, institutional, economic and political forces that drive diversity-related issues both nationally and globally. Search class #20115 or PPOL 807 in LionPath.

PPOL 810 – Program Evaluation This course provides students an overview of public policy and program evaluation as a scientifically-based means of assessing whether such programs and polices are effective after they have been adopted and implemented. The scientific logic underlying evaluation research is discussed before turning to conceptualizing public policies and programs as testable hypotheses. After then reviewing measurement theory and its application to public policies and programs, the course discusses the inferential validity criteria used to assess a variety of research designs. A major portion of the course will entail an in-depth discussion of several different research designs, including their logic, implementation, strengths, and weaknesses. These will include discussions of pre-experimental, experimental, correlational, interrupted time series, regression discontinuity, comparison group, case study, and nested research designs. Ethical and other practical problems of constructing evaluation research in the field are examined. Finally, the reporting of evaluation research results along with utilization problems associated with evaluation reports are discussed. The goals of the course include enabling students to both critically interpret evaluation research reports and to design, conduct, and report evaluation studies of public policies and programs. 

PPOL 809 – Policy Analysis This course provides students an overview of prospective public policy analysis as a means of informing public policy choice. That is, it examines how analysis techniques can be used to assess whether proposed policy solution are likely to solve policy problems. The scientific logic underlying formal prospective public policy analysis is discussed before turning to identifying policy problems, conceptualizing public policies from economic, organizational, and political perspectives, and identifying public policy alternatives as well as the criteria for assessing their likely policy consequences and political and organizational feasibility. Several formal methods of prospective public policy analysis are discussed, including a family of back-of-the-envelope techniques, forecasting methods, simulation methods, discounting for probability, risk, and time, cost-benefit analysis, and political and organizational analysis addressing feasibility. Such formal analyses are not, of course, the only type of information used in the policy formulation and adoption process. Thus, the limits on the role of formal analysis in the policy process are discussed along with the effective reporting of formal prospective public policy analyses. 

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