Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration
Boise State University’s PhD Program in Public Policy and Administration is for students wanting to be organizational leaders in public policy and administration environments.
The application deadline is January 15.
You studied creative writing as an undergraduate. Does being a creative person help or hinder you in studying public policy issues?
One of my favorite quotes has always acted as both a professional justification and theoretical bridge between my creative and regulatory interests:
“Poetry is about the grief; politics is about the grievance.” – Robert Frost
This quote posits poetry as reactionary. But if the personal truly is political, is there really a difference? The proliferation and polarization of contemporary identity politics makes telling apart the grief from the grievance—or poetry from politics—much more difficult. I believe that creative interpretations of policymaking sympathize with the strife of the creators, like that of the poets’ readership analyzing his/her motive, diction, and metaphor. Creativity helps us to see—or better yet, feel—that grievance more clearly, giving researchers another psychological lens from which to view political decision-making and irrational behavior.
But for all that creativity is praised for in modern policy arenas (e.g. innovation and fresh perspectives to stagnant issues), it also brings drawbacks seemingly incompatible with formalized environments in which policymaking occurs: idealism, curiosity, wishful thinking, and nonconformity. Creative thinkers struggle to find and maintain political identities when their own may be more fluid. Creative thinkers must hope for the best but prepare for the worst, tempering their big ideas with pragmatism. But there is a place for creativity in this field: while the canonical oeuvre of public policy and administration may be a science, the field’s technical skill is still considered by many to be an art—and our interpretation of art changes much faster than public policy.
Why did you decide to study Public Policy and Administration at Boise State?
As an undergraduate student here at Boise State, I got the opportunity to talk to Dr. Hill and Dr. Fredericksen about the Master of Public Administration program, and their advice encouraged me to apply to that program, and the graduate research assistant program. Through the graduate research assistant program, I got to work at the Idaho Policy Institute, which led to my current job with IPI. The support I got through my job and the relationships I built in the MPA program encouraged me to apply for the PhD in Public Policy and Administration program, which I’m currently in.
What makes Boise State a good place to study Public Policy and Administration?
Right from the beginning, since entering into the MPA program, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work on interesting, hands-on projects through my classes and my research assistantship/job. The faculty and students in the MPA and PhD programs also have a broad array of interests and projects that they are working on, which provides plenty of chances to learn new approaches and expand one’s horizons. Most importantly, it’s a supportive community – there is always another PhD student to talk about writing struggles with, or a professor willing to provide additional perspective on a challenging question.
What are the most important things you’ve learned in the program so far?
Ask lots of questions, and then ask questions about your questions. Every question, and every answer, has assumptions behind it. Don’t be afraid to let your assumptions be wrong. In addition, a second perspective is always valuable – graduate research does not need to be a solitary experience. And valuable information can come from anywhere – always look for new perspectives and opportunities to apply them to your own work. Finally, make regular time for writing and reading.
How have you been able to apply what you’ve been learning in the classroom to work outside the classroom?
I’m lucky, because I got a job as an applied policy researcher while in the program. So I get the chance to apply what I’ve been learning in the classroom almost every day, which has been incredibly valuable for my learning both in the classroom and outside of it. As an example, I’ve gotten to design and implement a number of surveys, and I recently helped to conduct a financial analysis of the cost to maintain Idaho’s public roadways.
Kym Couch: Sew Much Impact
During my Zoom interview with Kym Couch, I heard scissors cutting fabric and the humming of a sewing machine in my headphones. It was clear that there was hardly a moment where she didn’t see an opportunity to multitask. I saw a bookshelf behind her, against the wall filled with piles of neatly folded fabric. Between us (her camera and my screen) was an ironing board used as a makeshift table.
Before masks became available in stores, Kym felt an urgency to do what she could to help provide masks to her friends. She bought hundreds of dollars worth of fabric and got to work with her sewing machine. She began by asking her friends if they wanted masks and she let them choose which kind of fabric they would like. She heard how hard it was to get people, and especially toddlers, to wear masks, so she thought of a way to get them to want to wear them. “If people see them as something that is theirs, their own thing that they picked for themselves in exactly the style and fabric they like, they are going to wear them. It can be hard to get kids to do something they don’t want to do, but if you put Paw Patrol on their face, they’re gonna be stoked. That’s something I care a lot about.”