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MPP Curriculum

The McGeorge Master of Public Policy Program (MPP) is a two-year full-time degree program. Students are required to complete 48 units of interdisciplinary courses to earn the degree. Year One curriculum includes seven required courses and an externship. In the fall semester of year one, students will receive limited tuition waiver support to participate as research assistants analyzing features or California water and health policy arenas. During the summer after Year One, students will participate in a required internship with a policy focus. Year Two features six required courses, three elective courses in concentration areas such as water, health and sustainability, and an internship.


Areas of concentration include:

  • Water Policy
  • Health Policy, Finance and Management
  • Public Finance
  • Sustainability Policy and Practice
  • Policy Change and Institutional Reform
  • Public Data and Analytics for Executives
  • Judicial Administration
  • Decision Tools
  • State Government
  • Local Government
  • Intersectoral Leadership
  • Social Policy


The core requirements of the program by year are as follows:

Year One

Year Two

Course Descriptions

Introduction to Legal Analysis
This course provides students with an overview of the American legal system, including the sources and development of law as well as the dispute resolution process. The course further focuses on developing an understanding of how lawyers read and analyze cases, statutes, and legal documents and provides an introduction to legal reasoning.  A primer on legal research with a focus on locating and evaluating the weight of legal sources is also included. (MSL, MPP and MPA only)

Conflicted, Complex, Uncertain
Sets public policy making and implementation in context of value conflicts, complexity and uncertainty as addressed in US democratic system of governance. Starts with structural design of US constitution (separation of powers, federal system, and limited government). Includes analysis of major changes in structures, powers and activities with emphasis on roles and responsibilities of public professionals. Establishes importance of analyses from differing perspectives: individual/household, communities (of place or interest), firms/organizations, public agencies and public interest, including intergenerational. Introduction to tools premised on rational public policy making and implementation. Major attention to tools of analysis and instruments of action that explicitly incorporate value conflict, complexity and uncertainty.

Economic Concepts and Tools
Develops competence in economic concepts and tools. Draws from microeconomics. Key concepts include efficiency, equity, opportunity cost, and the role of incentives, marginal analysis, competition, and market failure. Provides opportunity for students to discuss the effectiveness of various government programs and regulation or de-regulation strategies from an economic point of view.

Public Policy Statistics
This course introduces students to descriptive and inferential statistics often used in public policy analyses. The course aims to provide students with a solid foundation for analyzing data, conveying analyses in convincing and appropriate ways. Topics covered include: measures of central tendency and dispersion, probability and probability distributions, random variables, hypothesis testing and confidence intervals, statistical power, correlation, simple regression, and an introduction to multivariate regression.

Statutes and Regulations
This course introduces students to strategies and techniques for interpreting and applying statutes and regulations in the modern administrative state. Topics include foundational issues important to public law, such as the legislative process, doctrines of statutory interpretation, the structure of administrative law, and the role of agencies in interpreting and enforcing statutory schemes.

Budgets, Financial Management
Develops understanding of budget types and processes in public and nonprofit organizations. Examines the politics of budgeting and the relationship of budgeting to other decision processes. Develops competencies in core budgetary processes, such as preparation of Budget Letters or Budget Change Proposals. Also covers budget implementation as a fiscal and programmatic control system. Introduction to audit function. Develops competence to analyze a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Finance for Public Policies
Develops competence to use concepts and tools of public finance common to professionals in public policy arena. Analysis of the efficiency, equity and incentives of various taxes.  Other topics include revenue estimation, public goods, benefit-cost analysis, and financial structures for public investments. Relationships to budget processes and decisions analyzed.   Attention also paid to institutions critical to public finance.

Enhancing Societal Capacity
Enhanced societal capacity is an overarching goal of public policy. Today's quality of life, economic competitiveness and opportunity, or use of natural resources, reflect past choices. Societal capacity to choose and to act will determine our futures and should be viewed globally. Progress here is not synonymous with "larger" or more "active" government as very important public purposes are achieved by actions which protect the liberty of or empower individuals, households, firms and communities. However, important societal purposes are achieved by public action which requires capacity derived from legal authority, technical competencies, fiscal resources, political support and networked relationships. Examination of a broad, global range of policy making and implementation tools, ranging from individual or family choice (e.g., in schools), through expertise (e.g., scientists) and a variety of techniques to learn from assessment of policy and program implementation, all analyzed from different perspectives.

Public Policy Research Tools
Emphasizes importance of accurate information about the right phenomena to democracy and to effective public policy. Develops skills for use of qualitative and quantitative research methods, including construction and analyses of purposive samples, interviews and surveys. Includes techniques useful in providing information from the different perspectives introduced in Pub x11. Develops competencies in program or policy evaluation. Attention is given to unobtrusive measures found in common public policy processes and to effective presentation of results to different audiences.

Strategic Leadership
Analysis and developing skills relevant to strategic leadership of public organizations and outside into intersectoral networks and public policy processes. Explicit attention to successful leadership in contexts characterized by conflict, complexity and uncertainty. Collaborative tools and techniques are included. The perspective taken is of the public executive.

Public Authority in Use
Examines capacity for effective authoritative decisions beyond single jurisdictions or agencies, such as joint powers authorities, MOUs, contracts, statutes or court determinations (e.g., preemption) and others. Also examines devices for joint actions across sectors or which seek to direct individual behaviors.

A Complex Public Policy Case
Examines capacity for effective action beyond single jurisdictions or agencies. Also examines devices for joint actions across sectors, including inter-sectoral and inter-governmental, such as specific area plans, joint powers, financing districts or purposeful networks. Explicit attention is given to allocation of risks as a public policy tool, often seen in financing of large projects and programs.

Systemic Change
Analysis and developing skills relevant to purposeful, enduring change of public policies and public institutions. Roles and strategies of policy entrepreneurs analyzed. Actions which strengthen policies are contrasted with those which weaken policies. Explicit attention not only to public executives, but also to strategies of elected officials, stakeholders, and advocacy groups. Identifying and understanding the articulation of a variety of tools, such as strategic communications or facilitated processes, as well as more specific policy tools, such as changed laws, new decision arenas, or changed financial incentives.

Students will perform on-site public policy work as externs under the supervision of field placement supervisors in government agencies or non-profit entities engaged in public policy processes. The Field Placement Director will help students find an appropriate placement, and must approve each student's registration. (P/F)


Contact Casey Heinzen, Assistant Director, Public Policy Programs
Email | 916.340.6192