USC Price School of Public Policy

To meet the needs of today’s leaders, Price relaunches professional doctorate

December 8, 2015

By Matthew Kredell

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Photo by Philip Channing

The USC Price School of Public Policy is relaunching its professional doctorate degree program – the Doctor of Policy, Planning and Development – in the fall 2016 semester.

“The DPPD is the highest level of professional training offered in the Price School,” said Professor Marlon Boarnet, who served as vice dean for academic affairs during the program’s revision. “USC Price has graduated students from the professional doctorate in policy, planning and development and predecessor professional doctorates for several decades, and we are thrilled to be relaunching a new and greatly improved degree. We seek leaders in their fields who are willing to take time to learn with leading scholars, reflect on their practice and forge new and innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems. The DPPD will bring a select group of leaders into the Price School, and those students will have access to the scholarly resources of a leading policy school and the university.”

DPPD Director Deborah Natoli explained, “the core objective of the professional doctoral degree program is to enhance and leverage the skills of practitioners, already highly accomplished as leaders in their fields and organizations, so as to prime them at the apex of their careers to more effectively solve the complex social problems of today.”

To that end, she and others at the Price School led an exhaustive review process that included interviews and focus groups with the current student population, surveys of alumni, meetings with students and leadership of similar programs at peer universities and faculty committees to revise the program. USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott met personally with DPPD students.

Bridging theory and practice

DPPD Director Deborah Natoli (Photo by Tom Queally)

DPPD Director Deborah Natoli
(Photo by Tom Queally)

In contrast to PhD programs that prepare students for university tenure-track positions, Dr. Natoli clarified, “our DPPD degree primarily focuses on bridging the theory-practice divide and sends senior managers in public, private and nonprofit sectors back into the world with deeper knowledge and skills for problem-solving to be more effective in their jobs and with stakeholders in the community.

“The result of our collective efforts,” she added, “is a program designed for seasoned leaders who want to strengthen research skills of an applied nature, build disciplinary knowledge, and further improve capacities for critical and reflective thinking so as to implement practical solutions and policy reforms.”

USC Price’s professional doctorate is an interdisciplinary program with appeal to students across sectors and disciplines ranging from health care to city planning, from public utilities and local politics to nonprofits and NGO’s, from education to business and social work.

“It is the interdisciplinary nature of our degree that enriches the cohort experience,” Natoli said, “and the essential bond that connects our doctoral students is their desire to make an original and innovative contribution to practice as a life’s work.”

The DPPD program continued to operate during the redesign process, with admissions on hold since 2012. Applications for the first group of students admitted to the revamped program are due Feb. 1, 2016. More information is available on the DPPD website (http://priceschool.usc.edu/programs/doctoral).

Training impactful leaders

DPPD alumnus Erroll Southers (Photo by Tom Queally)

DPPD alumnus Erroll Southers
(Photo by Tom Queally)

The innovative, revamped curriculum will include four new courses: Public Policy and Globalization; Applied Research Design and Inquiry; Place, Institutions, and Governance; and Leading Change and Innovation in Urban Communities. Students will also be brought into the community to have in-depth conversations with a broad range of key stakeholders.

Another change in the four-year program is that students will now spend three of the four years with their cohort. The goal is to encourage students to complete the program within the intended time frame, enabling them to get back into their professional lives and put those takeaways into action.

“It gives me great pride to see the DPPD program relaunched and available,” said Erroll Southers, a DPPD alumnus, who is now director of homegrown violent extremism studies at the USC Safe Communities Institute and an adjunct professor at Price. “Not just because of the opportunities it has afforded me and other alumni, but because of the extraordinarily accomplished individuals who have spoken to me about their interest in applying to the program.”

He added, “The DPPD program attracts incredible professionals from diverse backgrounds, who will have the opportunity to take their careers in bold, new directions.”