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

Spring 2021 

PUBPL 497 – Race and Public Policy – Niki vonLockette (Tu/Th 4:35 p.m. – 5:50 p.m.) Segregation has been described as the most effective policy in US history. Almost half of black children from middle-class families become poor or near-poor by the time they reach adulthood, at levels higher than white children from poor families (Pew Charitable Trusts 2007). How does policy contribute the creation and maintenance of racial inequality? How does and how can policy address racial inequality? The topics we will cover--poverty, employment, housing and segregation, education, health, legal/political, and incarceration--will help us investigate racial policy issues such as sentencing disparities for two chemically similar drugs crack and cocaine, as well as the school-to-prison pipeline. We will examine public support for (or lack of) support for remedial policy to address these problems, such as reparations, Head Start, or ban the box initiatives. Search class #25735 or PUBPL 497 in LionPath.

PUBPL 497 - The Moral Economy of Public Policy (Honors) – Anthony Bertelli (Tu/Th 10:35 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.) Alexis de Tocqueville called association the “mother science” of politics and saw voluntary associations as a pillar of American democracy.  These associations must compete in what might be called a moral economy of public policy that preserves the value of equality.  This course brings together ideas from political philosophy, social history, political science, sociology and economics to address an important question: How do voluntary, non-governmental associations help to shape and implement public policy?  The class begins with the antecedents of Tocqueville’s argument in political thought, explores the argument itself, and then traces it through to contemporary ideas about of civil society, social capital and communitarianism that span the political spectrum. After critically assessing these ideas, each of you will work to integrate them into a theory the process of making public policy.  Arguments in class will be illustrated through cases drawn from contexts throughout the world and students will also apply the theory in their own original fieldwork to assess its strengths and limitations. Search class #27085 or PUBPL 497 in LionPath.

PPOL 597 – Policy and the Pandemic – Simon Haeder (W 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.) The coronavirus has swept the globe for almost a year now. More than 40 million have been infected and more than 1 million have died. Countries from Germany to South Korea have felt the blow to their societies and economies. Yet nowhere has the devastation been as extensive as in the U.S. where the global outbreak collided with a political system brimming with partisanship and polarization and a society and healthcare system ripe with inequities. By year’s end 400,000 Americans might be dead and the U.S. economy will have lost $8 trillion. How did we get here, and is there a way forward? Policy and the Pandemic will take a closer look how we got to this place by combining insights from political science, public policy, and health policy and services research. The course will also analyze the U.S. response to the pandemic as well as implications for the future of U.S. politics and healthcare. Search class #27660 or PPOL 597 in LionPath.

PPOL 801 – The Public Policy Process – Simon Haeder (T 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.) 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 #25537 or PPOL 801 in LionPath.

PPOL 805 – Bureaucracy and the Public Policy Process – Anthony Bertelli (Tu/Th 1:35 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.) 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. Search class #25604 or PPOL 805 in LionPath.

PPOL 809 – Policy Analysis – Julio Ramos Pastrana (W 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.) 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. Search class #25542 or PPOL 809 in LionPath.

PPOL 810 – Program Evaluation – Johabed G. Olvera (TH 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.) 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. Search class #19157 or PPOL 810 in LionPath.

PPOL 897 – Special Topics: Environmental Policy – Emily Pakhtigian (T 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.)  This course provides an overview of environmental policy, from an economic perspective, with a focus on practical applications of environmental problem solving. In this course, we will characterize environment problems and examine arguments for policy intervention. The course will cover methods including environmental policy evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, and nonmarket valuation. Policy topics covered include, but are not limited to: air, water, climate, sustainability, development, and environmental justice. The class focuses on US environmental policy; however, topics of global environmental policy will be incorporated. Search class #29678 or PPOL 897 in LionPath.

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