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Recommended background courses for Public Policy undergraduates in pursuit of graduate school

I take my role as a mentor very seriously. Much of the time I spend contributing to the scholarly community is focused on helping scholars whose careers are more junior than mine (and given that I’m an early-ish career scholar, that usually means my undergraduate students, or PhD students in the same department I teach or in the department where I graduated from). Or, in some cases, PhD students from other universities worldwide who reach out to me because of my specific expertise. I also contribute frequently to the online forum #PhDChat.

Recently, a very bright student of mine (current) asked me which courses I would suggest that she takes BEFORE heading into graduate school. While my department (Political Science at The University of British Columbia) has an extremely well-rounded BA degree, I’m sure my students would benefit from taking other courses that would allow them to arrive to graduate school more prepared.

Given the recent emphasis in political science and public policy in quantitative methods, I suggested to my student to take a couple of courses in basic economics: microeconomics and macroeconomics. I also suggested an additional course in statistics (although our course in statistics in political science, taught by my colleague Dr. Fred Cutler, is a very robust course). Several of my fellow colleagues in the department have very strong quantitative and formal modeling backgrounds.

On a personal level (read: my own methodological preferences) I work with mixed research methods. I have about the same degree of fluency in discourse analysis and institutional ethnography as I do in multivariate analysis. I am (obviously) a fan of geographical information systems (GIS) and thus I enjoy and encourage my students to undertake spatial analysis.

I also suggested a course in econometrics, as it will definitely be valuable (honestly, it never hurts to know econometrics). Josh Greenberg and Wendy Waters both suggested additional courses, in discourse coalitions analysis, dramaturgy, public-private partnerships and some housing policy (although in my Public Policy course I do talk about housing). Janet De Luna (a graduate student at the University of Chicago, in Public Policy) also suggested political institutions and political economy. Reema Faris suggested courses in humanities (but I’m sure they DO already take those!).

If you were to suggest courses that undergraduate students could take to arrive to graduate school in public policy better prepared, which courses would you recommend? Feel free to add in the comments section.

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Posted in policy analysis, public policy theories, teaching.

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