New UA School Poised to Become National Leader

The School of Government and Public Policy, or SGPP, one of the new schools created as a result of the restructuring at the University of Arizona, has, according to its director, the scope and scale to compete with the nation's most prominent schools of government and public policy.

The school was created in February 2009 when a white paper proposed the union of the School of Public Administration and Policy in the Eller College of Management and the political science department in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The proposal is a direct result of the University transformation process and was approved by President Robert N. Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay.

Brint Milward, the director of the new school, said the merger combined the nine faculty members from the relatively small but highly recognized school that he headed in Eller with the 17-member political science department.

Together they now constitute one of the largest schools on campus, with more than 1,400 undergraduate majors, approximately 80 students in the master of public administration program and 37 doctoral students.

"We're one of the largest units in SBS," Milward said. "SGPP constitutes a large school with a big portfolio of professional and academic programs that could meet the needs of a lot of students." The school offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in both political science and public administration.

SGPP is geared toward training students interested in pursuing careers in the public and nonprofit sectors, or in the graduate evening MPA programs serving those who already are working there.

Milward said the school's research focus will center on collaborations across the public, private and nonprofit sectors, as well as governance and institutional design, especially as they relate to international relations and environmental issues. In these areas, as well as others, SGPP will collaborate with many other units on campus.

Currently SGPP and the sociology department collaborate on the specialization in criminal justice in the undergraduate program. The school eventaully will reach far into other units at the UA, especially in SBS, Milward said.

"Proximity makes a difference," he said. "I've had a joint appointment with the sociology department for years, but it is much easier to collaborate with people like (department head) Al Bergesen in the same building than when I was across campus in McClelland Hall.

"What I like about the new school is that you incorporate people who study the same thing. They may do it in different ways but we're all studying basically the same thing – governmental decision-making and public choice.

"Here the one thing political science and policy people agree on is studying both politics and the role of government in society, whether it is at the international or domestic level or on health care reform or sending more troops to Afghanistan," he said.

"Political science is extremely important to the success of SGPP, not only does it provide a strong academic base with noted scholars but it also brings international recognition with both the International Studies Association which through its journals and conferences has a world-wide reach and the Journal of Politics, one of the top three journals in political science. Both are headquartered at SGPP," he said.

Milward also said the UA has one of the strongest and largest groups in world studying social networks. "This is one of the hottest areas in the social sciences right now, with UA professors studying everything from terrorism to environmental collaboration. This is an area where SGPP is very strong and one goal is to work with scholars in other units like sociology, MIS and computer science to build a national center of excellence," he said.

In addition to new research avenues, Milward said students also stand to benefit from the new school.

"People should know that even before we created this school, its predecessor, the School of Public Administration and Policy, rose 10 places just in the 2008 rankings. This was tough because we were a small school and we couldn't do everything. By combining with political science to create SGPP, we really are poised to move up nationally to compete with much larger ones like the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California and the Evans School at the University of Washington," Milward said.

In that regard, he said, SGPP already has a unique collaboration with Washington and USC called the Consortium for Collaborative Governance that cooperates on curriculum, case writing, research and faculty exchanges.

"While many of these changes took place against the backdrop of the current financial challenges, we want to show that innovation is possible even in difficult times. We want to be a nexus for policy research on this campus. We want to collaborate with units like philosophy, sociology, geography and development, anthropology and many others. We are willing to work with anybody on critical public policy problems facing Arizona, the Southwest, the U.S. and the world," Milward said.
By Jeff Harrison, University Communications January 6, 2010