Policy Analysis Practicum
The Policy Analysis Practicum is USC’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) capstone in which students apply skills and knowledge gained in the program to a real-world policy problem. The primary objective of the Practicum is to give students practical consulting experience in policy analysis. Students work collaboratively in small teams to conduct research on an important policy issue and identify policy opportunities on behalf of their client. The ambition is to help students polish their skills while producing actionable public policy analysis.
Clients are recruited by the instructor, and group assignments are made based on an assessment of student skills and interests. Most projects employ a mixed-methodology approach that reflects the breadth of methodological preparation that is characteristic of our MPP program. Hence we particularly value projects that can employ a combination of quantitative methods (statistical analysis, operations research, or cost-benefit analysis) and qualitative methods such as interviewing, focus groups and archival research. The array of projects we have sponsored is summarized in our table of recent Practicum projects.
About the MPP Practicum
The Practicum is conducted over two semesters to allow for an iterative process of research, analysis and presentation. In September students are assigned into groups of three or four and meet with the client to begin scoping the project. Students work independently to conduct a review of published literature on the assigned topic, and collaborate to identify appropriate methods and structure a proposal and work plan. Research is continued into the Spring semester, during which the students produce at least two drafts of the report for review prior to completing the final report. Student efforts are supervised by the instructors, although students are expected to meet several times with the client, or as necessary, at the convenience of the client. The group activities constitute about 10 hours per week of consulting time in Fall and 30 hours per week in the Spring.
Deliverables include a five-to-seven single-spaced literature review and proposal (to be approved by the client), a draft report to instructors (mid-April), and subsequently a draft report to the client. In early May, student groups will make a formal PowerPoint presentation and deliver the final report and a summary brief of findings. Work is concluded by the end of the first week in May. The client will receive a well-written and professional policy report with accompanying documents (negotiated among client, students and instructor) such as a press release or an implementation plan (as appropriate).
MPP Practicum Clients
Past clients include non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, private firms, and government agencies.
In 2012, practicum clients included: U.S. Congressional Research Service; RAND Corporation; Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative; U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; International Finance Corporation, a World Bank affiliate; United Way of Greater Los Angeles; Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood; Los Angeles Emergency Management Department/ Red Cross Los Angeles Region; Los Angeles Food Policy Council; National PKU Alliance; Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer; Coalition for Responsible Community Development.
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