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Curriculum

An MPA Designed for Changemakers

The Presidio Graduate School MPA degree program that serves professionals seeking to build a more just and sustainable world through roles in the public sector. This is a modern, forward-looking degree that will equip you to address some of the biggest challenges facing the world today: climate change, technological disruption, and social injustice and inequity. Rooted in real-life examples and projects, the program will give you the knowledge, skills, and tools you need to manage and lead effectively in the public sector.

The part-time, online program is flexible and accessible. It consists of 10 required courses and a Capstone so you can complete the program in a year and half. Our program helps you hone essential skills and gain critical knowledge by leveraging coursework that builds throughout the program. The Presidio MPA program integrates climate change solutions and social justice, and uses real-world case studies and applications to provide meaningful opportunities to implement new knowledge and skills in real time. As a Presidio student, you’ll benefit from the support of a dedicated mentor in residence and have opportunities to build meaningful connections with real-world practitioners.

Engage with an active and well-positioned alumni community that is creating tangible, positive impact by forging successful public-private partnerships, leading nonprofit organizations, launching social ventures, and serving in state and local government.

This course explores leadership and capacity-building to achieve systems-wide transformation. We will examine both individual and collective responsibility as the underpinning of effective public service in a democratic society. This course also focuses on leaders’ personal development; knowing their passion; and honing skills for humility, listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence. Students will look at responsibility for authenticity, accepting responsibility, and doing the right thing under difficult circumstances. Furthermore, skills for creating and managing effective teams that collaborate with diverse stakeholders are developed though team projects and case studies. We also critically examine the social and political structures that contribute to the current understanding of leadership and the ways that this understanding may reinforce systems of domination, such as patriarchy and white supremacy. The principles of anti-racism, sustainability, and social justice guide the leadership practice and decision-making.

In this course, we will focus on the fundamentals of systems thinking and analysis for solving environmental and social issues. We will examine systems thinking principles to frame and define problems and to innovate solutions to interrelated social and environmental problems such as climate change and social inequity. We will use dynamic systems modeling techniques to explore solutions to complex issues. We will also explore the prevalent practice of applying observations and mental models in decision-making and assess the strengths and weaknesses of system models. The systems analysis theories and practice in this course are applied to social and ecological systems for well-being through case studies and experiential learning projects.

In this course, students will develop and practice effective communications, both written and oral, as well as public presence via social media and the application of communication technologies. We will explore how to bring people with diverse perspectives to the table, to build trust, and to negotiate across differences through empathic listening, and giving and receiving feedback. Relationship building and collaboration across business, government, and civil society sectors will be emphasized. We will explore coalition building skills based on principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In this course, we study how data is collected, analyzed, and visualized to effectively communicate information and to support decision-making in the public and non-profit sectors with an emphasis on social justice and climate change issues. Students learn the most common statistical and quantitative methods used in policy analysis, including probability, regression analysis, and multivariate optimization, using Excel and Tableau for visualization. The course also develops critical skills to reveal how data collection and analysis can be biased or misleading, resulting in misplaced priorities in addressing social and environmental challenges. We will explore the increasing impact of big data analysis and artificial intelligence technologies on public policy decision-making and implementation.

This course focuses on both qualitative and quantitative research methods in the public sector including how to set research objectives and gather evidence through primary and secondary research.  Methods explored include community-based, participatory-action research and data synthesis to inform holistic decision-making processes. The focus of the research methods in this course will be on the evaluation of selected policies and whether the intended policy outcomes could be achieved. The students will deepen their understanding of the research and policy evaluation methods discussed in this course through case studies and engagement in experiential learning projects.

This course starts with the principles of macro-, micro-, and ecological economics, and how tools and concepts from economics can be used to analyze and better understand challenging social problems, as well as to help develop and analyze policy solutions. The prevalent neoclassical economic system is analyzed in relation to the distribution of resources, economic and political power, social injustice, climate change, and other environmental challenges. We examine alternatives to prevalent market fundamentalism, including government policy intervention and alternate theories of governing the common resources. Students will imagine new economic systems that are in harmony with the ecological systems and that enable equitable and anti-racist well-being on both local and global scales—without compromising the ability of future generations to realize their own well-being.

In this course we focus on the policy-making process and how holistic, effective, and cutting-edge policy solutions can be designed and implemented in consideration of business, government, and civil society. We explore the power of policy in shaping social outcomes and the structural and institutional obstacles to policy change. We will discuss policy-relevant cause-and-effect relationships in solving climate change, systemic racism, and economic inequity issues, and assess whether a particular policy agenda can be achieved within existing political and judicial structures or requires the reform of those structures. The course will also cover the role of courts and administrative law in policy development and implementation. We examine the regulatory regimes, including the creation and protection of  rule of law and threats to the practice of democracy in America.

This course on public financing reviews prevalent practices and explores forward-thinking approaches to public budgeting through civic engagement. We will discuss both public finance sources and budget allocation methodology. We will critically review the sources of public capital including taxation and private sources through private-public partnership to consider benefits, risks, ethics, and political influences. An important task of public organizations is to prioritize decisions about the allocation of resources for projects, including establishing the criteria and assessment methodology through systems thinking for holistic and equitable outcomes. We will discuss the tension between projects with short-term benefits to political leaders and the financing of projects of long-term social value, such as adaptation to impacts of climate change, and the importance of community engagement.

This course focuses on the organizational and bureaucratic structures involved in program development and implementation. It explores effective systems of public organizations, business processes, decision-making, change negotiation, and change management. We review the best practices for inclusive hiring, employee motivation, and equitable performance assessment in public service. Students will learn how to conduct strategic planning, program design, and impact analysis with an equity lens in an inclusive public organization.  We also focus on skills development in public budgeting and finance. Moreover, this course covers project management and effective leadership of public projects.

This course provides a critical examination of policy design in steering technological innovation for social well-being as well as the use of digital technology for policy design and implementation. Harnessing technology to support sustainable well-being requires thoughtful planning and a deep understanding of the promises and pitfalls of digital technologies. Digital technologies impact healthcare, security, the nature of work, the environment, and equitable economic and social progress. In this course, students will learn both how to harness big data to help with global challenges such as climate change and world hunger, as well as to avoid biases that can inadvertently be part of the algorithm of data systems used by public agencies. The course will also survey the range of digital technologies used by public agencies and consider challenges related to cybersecurity and protection of privacy. The students will explore long-term horizon technology policy solutions that promote social justice and environmental sustainability.

This Term-5 and 6 course integrates student learnings throughout the program. Students will choose an important social problem in the public and nonprofit sector and develop creative solutions based on systems thinking principles. The focus will be on contemporary public issues of critical importance such as physical, mental, or social health issues; sustainable transportation; impact of structural racism on healthcare and anti-racist policy solutions; climate change adaptation and mitigation; workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); technology policies for protecting privacy or promoting racial justice; and protection of biodiversity. Students will select their topic in Term 5 and will then develop the project in Term 6.

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