Editorial: Certificates in the Wilson School
Over the past few years, the Wilson School has undergone dramatic changes in its undergraduate program. These changes have included the discontinuation of selective admissions, the emphasis on specific policy tracks and the discontinuation of the certificate program. With this in mind, the Board, while recognizing that the previous certificate program posed numerous problems, recommends that the Wilson School create a new certificate program that would aid in the school’s aim to further collaboration between policymakers and those in other disciplines and departments. We believe that the School should offer certificates in specialized policy areas, such as security or health care policy, instead of offering a general certificate.
The former certificate program offered students from various departments the opportunity to study policymaking within the Wilson School. The certificate had required that students partake in two task forces during their junior year — producing two junior papers — alongside their home department’s independent work, as well as nearly as many classes required of students concentrating within the Wilson School. This led many to deem the certificate as essentially a “double major.”
While this concern about workload and requirements was a legitimate reason for terminating the Wilson School general certificate, the Board believes that the School now has an opportunity to create new certificate opportunities that will further the aim of expanding collaboration between policymakers and those in other disciplines, such as the sciences. In contrast with the previous certificate program, the Board believes that certificates in specialized policy areas would reduce the need to replicate the core concentration requirements of a Wilson School major; instead, it would require fewer total classes, but those classes would be directly related to a specialized policy area.
The University has already implemented a few certificate programs that can lend themselves as perfect examples: The Program in Information Technology and Society and the Program in Global Health and Health Policy represent a cross collaboration of policy and other disciplines — in this case computer and medical sciences. Within the Wilson School’s graduate programs, the School offers MPA/MPP students a choice of certificates that focus on particular policy areas: Urban Policy and Planning; Science, Technology and Environmental Policy; and Health and Health Policy. This focus on specificity for students of policy is now being transferred to the undergraduate program, as new concentrators will be required to select a track within the Wilson School major. But we believe it is time to extend this opportunity to pursue a specialized aspect of public policy to students of other concentrations. While future policymakers are being educated on the importance of information technology and the environment, future computer and environmental scientists should have the chance to learn how policy affects their own disciplines. Creating specialized certificates would offer such students this opportunity.
This cross collaboration would strengthen not only the Wilson School and various other departments, but also the University’s commitment to being in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations. By educating students about specific realms of public policy that may pertain to their concentration, the University would be acting to ensure that its students enter the workforce with an interdisciplinary perspective that increases their ability to contribute to their fields.
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