Course Descriptions | Brown Master of Public Affairs (MPA)

Students take a total of 12 courses (10 credits). Ten are required core courses (described below), and the remaining three are electives. See the program schedule page for full sequence. Review all Brown course offerings on Brown’s website, Courses@Brown .

Required Courses

Economics for Public Policy

Examines issues in government spending and tax policy. Conceptual topics include the normative assignment of responsibility with federal systems and the equitable distribution of income. Specific policy applications are covered.
Summer Sequence 1

Statistics for Public Policy

Covers social and economic statistics and their role in public policy research. Among the topics explored are descriptive and inferential statistics, measurement, sampling, and multivariate analysis.
Summer Sequence 1

Economics of Government Intervention

This course provides an overview of macroeconomics for public policy. It builds on skills and concepts introduced in the statistics, microeconomics and program evaluation summer courses. We will introduce concepts around international trade, monetary and fiscal policies, business cycles as well as economic growth. Within the course, the segment on international trade will highlight the importance of the global economy. At the completion of this course students will be able to analyze and discuss how public policy interacts with the broader economy and how changes in the global economic conditions impact the economy as a whole. 
Summer Sequence 2

Statistics for Program Evaluation

Broad overview of public policy analysis and program evaluation with emphasis on methodological issues involved in the analysis and assessment of government programs. Illustrations are drawn from a variety of substantive policy areas.
Summer Sequence 2

Policy Analysis and Problem Solving

This course introduces students to concepts and tools relevant to making public decisions informed by social values. It equips students to define problems and to systematically develop and compare policy options available to public actors. In short, the course teaches students to “think like a policy analyst” and reason in the public interest. In addition, the course is attentive to the political and institutional context in which policy decisions are made.

The Politics of Policymaking in Comparative Perspective

This course provides a broad introduction to political forces which policymakers operate. Policymaking and politics are often held as separate spheres. There is a tendency to view politics as something to be recognized and controlled In reality, policymakers are often faced with unavoidable political issues. Issue areas that relate to the political context of policymaking include: Why do some countries have stable institutions while others are subject to frequent regime change? Why do some institutional arrangements facilitate compromise and negotiation, while others impose obstacles to effective governance? Why do some policies privilege certain groups and marginalize others? 

Policy-In-Action Consultancy

The Policy-In-Action experience is designed to provide a rigorous and practical immersion with a client in a domestic or global community-based or institutional setting. The consultancy focuses on experiential learning and creative problem solving. Real world, complex contemporary problems are addressed, policy and practice-based solutions explored, strategies identified and future approaches recommended. Students conduct research to understand contemporary problems and issues and develop policy and practice-related solutions to address these issues and/or enhance an organization’s capacity.

Management and Implementation in Public and Nonprofit Organizations

How and when can organizational leaders and staff become engines of policy and social change? How do the policies that elected officials, courts, and bureaucrats promulgate get put into practice? What affects whether those policies get put into practice? What affects whether those policies produce expected changes? This course is designed to help students identify and manage core challenges facing policy development, implementation, and sustainment in public organizations.

Policy Problems of the 21st Century 

This course examines efforts that work toward social justice in contemporary political and social life. The class begins by evaluating different perspectives on how to define social justice. We consider the special challenges involved in defining social justice across borders or in diverse communities. We then examine strategies and channels used to promote social change.