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Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration

From Interim Dean Andrew Giacomazzi

Ph.D. Program

Happy Veterans Day.  To our soldiers past and present–thank you for your service!

One of the more recent additions to the School of Public Service is our Ph.D. program in Public Policy and Administration.

The School of Public Service Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary program that prepares students to be senior-level leaders in public service fields such as government agencies, non-profit organizations and applied research environments. It is designed for full-time students and working professionals seeking enhanced policy analysis skills. While some of our graduates go on to academic careers, we work hard to ensure all of our graduates acquire skills needed to find solutions to complex real-world problems.

In this issue of Public Interest, we’ll introduce you to faculty, alumni and current students of our Ph.D. program. We’ll visit with our program’s director on a range of ideas. You’ll meet current students who are applying their creativity to public policy issues. And you’ll also meet a recent alumnus who discusses rural leadership, his research on child abuse reporting laws, and even his research on the art and science of happiness.

The problems we are facing are complex and difficult. But we’re confident that our faculty, staff and Ph.D. students are doing the hard work of tackling these and other public policy issues. Working, as always, in the public interest.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew Giacomazzi
Interim Dean, School of Public Service
Boise State University

With Ph.D. Director Steve Utych

Academics Talking Academics in Elevators

In another exciting edition of Academics Talking Academics in Elevators, School of Public Service Interim Dean Andy Giacomazzi and School of Public Service Ph.D. Director Stephen Utych discuss: 

  • At the School of Public Service, we also like to call ourselves the School of Problem Solving. What kind of problems are your students and faculty tackling?
  • How does the SPS Ph.D. program specifically benefit the people of Idaho?
  • Not all of our graduates go on to become professors, what are fields that our graduates are working in or preparing to work in?
  • What makes Boise a great place to study public policy?

Ph.D. student co-authors report on Idaho’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons

In the 2020 Idaho Legislative session, House Concurrent Resolution 33 passed, designed to recognize and raise awareness about the crisis that Idaho and other states are facing with the issue of missing and murdered indigenous persons (MMIP). HCR33 designated May 5 as a day of awareness and the resolution supported efforts to research the causes of MMIP and explore solutions through collaborations between the five federally recognized tribes within Idaho, entities which share criminal jurisdiction, and other appropriate partners, including the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance and the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Researchers with Boise State’s School of Public Service, Ph.D. student Melanie Fillmore, M.A. and a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, and Criminal Justice Associate Professor Dr. Lane Gillespie led the first statewide study specific to MMIP. The study report, released October 1st, is the culmination of more than a year’s work spent corresponding with relevant tribal, federal, state, county, city, and community stakeholders; formally interviewing key stakeholders; and collecting and analyzing administrative data relevant to better understanding MMIP in Idaho.

Read the HCR 33 Report: Idaho’s Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons
Ph.D. Student Spotlight

Jasmine Platt

Current Ph.D. student Jasmine Platt studied creative writing as an undergraduate. As part of a student spotlight interview, we asked her if being a creative person helps or hinders her 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.

Alumni Spotlight - Dr. Joel Vallett

The Art and Science of Happiness

In a recent Blue Review interview, Boise State Ph.D. alumnus Joel Vallett of Southern Utah University discussed rural leadership, Erin’s Laws, and the art and science of happiness.

“I am a firm believer that happiness is both a science and an art. Happiness is a science because it can be empirically studied and evaluated. Researchers are constantly learning more about happiness and how it influences many aspects of human life. As a science, the study of happiness is a continually developing field. We can look across some of the most prestigious academic institutions within the country and find that many have dedicated significant resources to studying happiness or a component of happiness on their campuses. As this academic field evolves, I am excited by the research that will come forward and how we will use the research to help humankind develop and grow. I am confident that we still have a lot to learn about happiness, but what we already do know can make a big difference in our lives.”

Read a full interview with Dr. Joel Vallett in The Blue Review

Ph.D. student Ryan Peck performs at Treefort

Ph.D. student Ryan Peck is also a songwriter and educator based in Boise, Idaho. Peck recently performed at Boise’s Treefort Music Fest. 

His three most recent albums are Progress (2016), Biggest Fights (2018) and Lost Year (2021). In addition to his solo project, he also still occasionally plays with collaborator Andrew Stensaas (of LED) in the band Edmond Dantes. 

Peck is also the co-founder and Managing Director of Juno Arts which is also known as Boise Rock School, a nonprofit after-school and outreach arts education organization that sees 600+ students every week. He is currently leading a capital campaign for the nonprofit. $1.1 MM has been raised to date. These funds are being used to create a 7000 square foot all-ages cultural hub in Boise. 

Peck also teaches for the Biology Department at Boise State University focused mostly on Anatomy and Physiology. 

His Ph.D. research focuses on climate change and environmental policy.

Ph.D. student selected to take part in Academy on Cultural and Creative Industries and Local Development

Current Ph.D. student Karen Bubb has been selected as one of 24 international participants in The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Summer Academy on Cultural and Creative Industries and Local Development, based in Italy. This year’s academy will take place remotely.

Read More About the Summer Academy

Support Student Success

At the School of Public Service, we are always looking for ways to increase financial support for our students in the form of undergraduate and graduate scholarships. Their success – throughout their lifetimes – is the single most important measure of Boise State’s commitment to students as a university. Scholarship support helps provide access to an affordable education for talented and committed students who are interested in public service.

To support provide resources for our students, please go to our giving page to make a tax deductible gift.