K-School Reforms Curriculum, Begins Technology Initiatives

* Students Hail Review of MPP Requirements.

In a University that measures change in geologic time, the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) has made a tectonic shift this year, implementing an entirely new core, moving from an open curriculum to distribution requirements and beginning widespread changes in information technology use.

What some call the most striking of the recent changes is the implementation of new core requirements for the Masters of Public Policy (MPP) program.

Ratified in an April 29 faculty meeting and developed over the summer, the core plan establishes a new curriculum and reduces the number of required courses from 10 to eight.

MPP students need to take 18 courses to graduate and take the required core courses in the first of their two years.

A 'spring exercise' has replaced API-501, an interdisciplinary course that sought to unify the core but was instead regarded by students as being long on busy work and short on substantive analysis. In the new exercises, students will have two weeks when other spring core classes do not meet to prepare reports and briefs on a real world public policy problem.

"Simply put, the new core is more coherent and responsive and provides more flexibility," wrote the MPP students who served on the core curriculum review committee in a letter to the final issue of the Citizen the Kennedy School's student newspaper, last spring.

Jose "Tony" Gomez-Ibanez chaired the committee, which authored the first review of the core since 1990. Gomez-Ibanez was out of the country and could not be reached for comment last week.

The two year Master in Public Administration (MPA2) and the Mid-Career programs have also undergone massive changes, including the institution of distribution requirements.

In the past, students simply needed to take a required number of courses (16 for MPA2, eight for Mid-Career) and earn satisfactory grades.

Under the new proposal passed by the faculty last spring and taking effect in 1998, a set of distribution requirements will ensure that all students will take one course each in quantitative methods; public management; and politics, leadership and ethics. In addition, MPA2 students will have to take at least two courses from one of four policy "clusters."

"The reason [for the changes] is to ensure that MPA students are acquiring the range of skills that the Kennedy school considers central to careers in public affairs or public service," said Merilee S. Grindle, faculty chair of the MPA Programs and Mason professor of International Development.

Information Technology

In consultation with the consulting firm Cooper and Lybrand, the KSG has developed a new plan for information technology at the school which will be released in full in late September.

"[The plan calls for] more emphasis on uses of technology in instruction, upgrading our administered systems and faculty research support," said KSG Director of Information Technology Peter T. Farago.

More immediate changes include the creation of about 20 new ethernet jacks, which can be found throughout the school and supplement the 30 computers in the KSG lab. Farago says the jacks will be functional by mid-September.

Admissions Numbers

Reflecting a change in administrative direction, the admissions office has admitted fewer students directly from college into the MPP program this year.

In a May interview with The Crimson, KSG Dean Joseph S. Nye said he wanted to decrease the percentage of students admitted directly from college from 20 to 15 percent in an effort to make classroom discussions more pragmatic and less theoretical.

Although Associate Dean and Degree Program Director Joseph J. McCarthy noted that the school's central administration cannot do more than simply advise the admissions office of a direction in which it wants to move, the advising has produced marked changes: only 14 percent of students in this year's class are under the age of 22, according to KSG publications. In addition, McCarthy said that the average years of work experience in the MPP class increased from 1.8 last year to 2.8 this year.

McCarthy said that the KSG wanted to retain a group of students coming directly from college in part because many of the school's minority students come through a national program which draws heavily on undergraduate students. Sponsored by private foundations, the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) provides training and stipends to minority students who want to pursue degrees in public policy.

"Most [PPIA] students come directly from college to here and other schools [of government]. We want to increase minority representation in our student body, so we certainly would not want to too greatly diminish" the number of students accepted directly from college, McCarthy said.

This year's MPP class is 8.3 percent African-American, 10.3 percent Latino and 12.2 percent Asian, according to figures provided by the admissions office.

The MPA class is 12.5 percent African-American and 6.3 percent Latino. About 50 percent of the students are international, McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy, outreach to minorities remained a top priority of the school.

"We want to reach populations that we haven't reached, seek them out where they are," McCarthy said.

In addition to targeted recruiting at historically black universities, KSG representatives said they plan to advertise in national publications which have high minority readership, as well as in black and Latino sorority and fraternity newsletters.

A Sad Farewell

Marjorie S. Lucker, who was an assistant dean and registrar at the KSG for 14 years, died this summer at the age of 66. She had been at the Kennedy School since 1983 and was promoted to assistant dean a year later. Her responsibilities were expanded to include student services in 1990.

Lucker will be replaced in her capacity as registrar by Judy F. Kugel, who previously served as the director of career services for the two-year programs.

Kugel will be succeeded at the career placement office by John H. Noble, formerly the director of Duke's Career Development Center.