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.