A new, interdisciplinary graduate program at The University of New Mexico hopes to train students to make an impact on the state through data-driven policy work.  

The Master in Public Policy (MPP) is an innovative program jointly administered by UNM’s School of Public Administration and the Departments of Economics, Political Science and Sociology. The hope is to develop graduates who can work in the New Mexico state legislature, state and local government, the national labs and the nonprofit and private sectors as program evaluators and policy analysts.

“There’s a real need to have this kind of professional policy program,” said Melissa Binder, associate professor of economics and the program’s director. “There’s this idea that we need to create a pipeline of well-trained students who can go into state government and do innovative, effective policy work.”

Binder says the idea for the MPP program goes back more than a decade and over time has evolved into what it is today. She says for years, students have expressed interest in getting this kind of applied education, but until now, have been unable to within a single discipline.

“We have students in master’s programs now who really wanted practical skills, being able to work with data, applied research and policy and we felt that we weren’t equipped to give them that experience,” said Binder. “So, by combining sociology, economics, political science and public administration we’re able to do that now.”

The MPP is a 42-credit hour program that would take most full-time students two years to complete. According to Binder, students are required to take a core curriculum consisting of economics, political science, sociology and public administration courses. The core also includes an econometrics sequence to increase students’ knowledge of high level statistics and become familiar with quantitative analysis. After that, students have the opportunity to focus in on a policy specialization in areas like data analysis, education, health or the environment.

MPP students will also have the chance to work within The New Mexico Evaluation Lab @ UNM, an arm of the University’s Institute for Social Research, which helps local non-profit social service programs evaluate and analyze the work they’re doing.

Binder says while the program will give students the knowledge they need to seek out policy positions across the country, the real hope of the MPP is to train graduates who will stay in New Mexico and make a difference here. She says they’ve heard from many people in Santa Fe who have expressed an interest and need for the type of employees the program will provide.

Applications for the MPP program are due by Feb. 15. The first cohort begins in Fall 2017.

To learn more about the Master in Public Policy, visit their website.