Political school pens growth plan

The plan:
The next five years in
the applied politics
graduate school

2013: Seek foundation funding to add case study courses, develop a course on state politics, increase international administrative travel to establish partnerships, add one new faculty position, convert two professors to full-time positions

2014: Develop joint degree programs with the GW Law School and GW School of Business, add director of case study research, add one new faculty position, bulk up research

2015: Launch first international advocacy master’s program, launch program in state politics in two states, add one new faculty position

2016 and 2017: Add two new states in state politics master’s program

Source: Graduate School of Political Management Strategic Plan

The Graduate School of Political Management is counting on international expansion, a new curriculum and a flurry of new hires as part of a strategic plan to turn around a school with slumping enrollment and what it calls a “skeletal” professor core.

Still in the draft process, the five-year plan offers director Mark Kennedy’s first sketch of the school’s future and points to program additions in countries like Brazil, Belgium and China along with U.S. state capitals by 2015, hoping to reverse a steady decline in student interest.

“There isn’t any [other school] doing the master’s programs for Tallahassee capital staffers or Sacramento capital staffers. There’s no one teaching international advocacy the way we can teach,” Kennedy said. “We’re the natural [school] to explore both of those, and if we don’t explore both of those, we create a cavity that someone can fill [and] that puts our core at risk.”

A driver for the programming expansion is the potential to win back student enrollment, which fell by 13 percent this year. Thirty percent fewer students enrolled in face-to-face programs, according to an internal document obtained by The Hatchet. The school counted 18 percent more students in its online courses.

A goal to add six full-time faculty roles by 2015 would double the number of full-time professors at a school whose faculty is made up almost entirely of adjuncts.

The plan is still undergoing budgetary approval.

Kennedy, a former Minnesota congressman, was hired in January and is the school’s first permanent director since July 2010. An 18-month search for the new leader restarted in February 2011 after professors sniped about being shut out of the vetting process.

The school’s focus on international growth also reflects the University-wide strategic plan, set for release this October.

Provost Steven Lerman, who will ultimately approve the plan but has the authority to reshape goals, said he thought it created a bold vision for the school and would bolster academics.

A five-year plan would be a significant investment, he added. Dean Doug Guthrie’s five-year plan for the GW School of Business required a $9 million investment approved by the Board of Trustees.


“In the bigger picture [the plan] has innovative ideas for growing GSPM and expanding its faculty in ways that are financially sustainable and increasing its impact on the field, which will be good for the program and good for the University,” Lerman, the University’s academic chief, said.

The master’s degree program in political management also gets special attention in the plan, which calls for doubling the amount of financial aid and a curriculum overhaul to jumpstart a program that has lost 28 percent of its enrollment since 2007.

“Reasons for this could include the high price of the program with minimal financial aid, prolonged inaction on long-standing student dissatisfaction with the program, apolitical marketing focus and perhaps growing disenchantment with politics as reflects in the low approval ratings of Congress,” according to a draft of the plan.

It also recommends starting joint master’s degrees with the GW School of Business and the GW Law School.

Kennedy said he would also raise the bar of the “quality of the educational experience” at GSPM with a business school-like curriculum that favors real-world studies over typical lectures. He hope to bring in directors and staff assistants in 2014 to craft case studies alongside professors.

David Rehr, who sits on GSPM’s advisory council, said he supports a curriculum shift.

“The school is moving away [from the idea that] graduate students show up, they get lectured to, they ask questions, everyone leaves,” he said. “Mark has emphasized to me when we talk about the case method that we want questions that force the students to take what they’ve learned to answer real-world questions.”

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