Grad school aids governance abroad

Clara Richards’ summer nights were filled with tests, projects and homework; she was a typical graduate student working towards a degree. But during the day, Richards went to work – in Argentina.

Richards is one of many students from the Political Management and Governability program within the Graduate School of Political Management. The curriculum focuses on public officials and policy makers in South America.

Sponsored by the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), GSPM has developed a set of courses to train leaders from seven Latin American countries on ways to affect democratic change. Most participants are either local or state officials, supporting staff or political advisors, hoping to improve communication and governance in their community.

Richards works at the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth, a think-tank based in Argentina, whose goal is to “improve the quality of life for all Argentine citizens,” the CIPPEC’s Web site says.

“I work in data based policies, in projects related to bridging research and policy so [the course was] very useful [in] understanding the political management, and how it is best articulated with the state,” Richards wrote in an e-mail.

GSPM provides a six-month online course and partners with 15 local universities like Universidad Autonoma de Mexico and Universidad de Rosario in Argentina, to provide on-site training. GW Professors occasionally visit these universities to make live presentations.

Through courses like Basics of Political Strategy, Political Leadership, and Ethics and Politics, participants learn how to build alliances, invoke positive democratic change, and govern more effectively, said Israel Navarro, the projects coordinator for the program. When students reach the end of the course, they apply the skills learned and examine a local problem and propose solutions.

“The idea of preparing a project for the improvement of local government is enriching,” said Richards.

“We finished a program that trained us for a better administration,” Basilia Paz, representative of the Etnia Aymara group in Bolivia said in a testimonial for the program.

Officials, who are from both the public and private sector, must apply to the program. This year, over 1,600 leaders will be trained.

Past students include mayors, councilmen, a secretary of the treasury for a municipality and executive presidents of private companies.

Since the program’s inception nine years ago, CAF has asked the GSPM to expand into other countries, including Brazil and the Dominican Republic, Navarro said.

“We have been very successful. We have a 95 percent completion rate which is quite remarkable,” GSPM Dean Arteron said.

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