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USC MPP Acceptances 2014

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As a current MPA student, I'd say that it's a fair assessment to say the Price programs aren't designed to be immersive in the field of social justice studies. By and large, I would say we're more focused on questions of good governance. I think in terms of the faculty there is a clear bent toward political scientists, sociologists, and economists with a generally shared obsession with modeling and statistics; the MPP program is more heavy than the MPA program in this regard. As a "lefty" myself, I'm often more critical of these fields and the judgments they yield than many of my classmates (my undergrad major was History). 


That said, I think there is enormous opportunity at USC and Los Angeles in general to not just study social justice but put it into practice; doing, much less achieving social change/improvement can be very difficult. A big part of the university culture (besides football) is community service. USC does a lot of community programming at both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses. A number of schools (not Price) have their own outreach programs, there's also the USC Volunteer Center, and programs like the Joint Educational Project - https://dornsife.usc.edu/joint-educational-project/ 


I think if you throw a term like "non-profit industrial complex" at most people working in non-profits they're going to be confused, and our staff (such as admissions, career services, and student services are not trained to be intellectuals); that said I think most professors would grasp that without much explanation. 


If you're looking for rallies and protests, this is probably not the place (and that's perfectly okay). However, if you're looking to work in the trenches there's a lot of opportunity, I mean look at where USC is in geographic terms. USC Price students aren't tone deaf to these issues, but they are also not outwardly vocal by and large unless it's on topic; many of us do work in such fields and deeply care about the issues, but it's not always the central topic of discussion in class and outside of class. 


I think the best way to assess whether you can make the program work for you is to start looking at the degree requirements, who teaches what on the course schedule, and then start thinking about how you could incorporate internships/employment into capitalizing on what you're learning in class. http://classes.usc.edu/term-20143/ (both PPD and PPDE (E is for expanded). I'd also note  the faculty page doesn't show the number of excellent adjuncts we have so the class schedules are more useful in that regard. 


I would agree that USC Price is not particularly internationally focused outside of China/Korea and Mexico/Brazil. 


As an MPA, I actually just now looked again at the MPP requirements and they're definitely a lot more restrictive (not too late to switch before you have to take multivariate statistics). However, you can petition to have a course counted so long as there's a good reason. The MPP program is really designed to train you to do formal policy analysis for a government, private consulting, non-profits and organizations. The MPA program is more designed to train you to be the person "doing" public policy and making decisions based on the policy analysis produced by the MPP (warning, it becomes substantially harder to switch after you start).


Hope this was helpful and fair.  

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You should definitely contact Price and talk to them about this. The deadline for scholarship consideration was December 15, so that's two months afterwards for you. I would try Sarah Esquivel, who has been behind most of the communications (sesquive@price.usc.edu). Good luck.

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Thanks a lot @cheesecake! I'll wait until tomorrow. If still no response, I'll be in touch with Sarah.

Btw, the hardest part is still to come: which school to attend? Have you guys already made your minds up? 

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Well, the visit day has happened... What did you think?


My two cents are... Everyone seemed very enthusiastic about the program(s), and overall I felt that it was a well-qualified group of admitted students. Definitely smart people who are considering good offers at other highly-respected schools. The campus was lovely (not surprising), and the faculty seemed friendly and engaged. It also sounded like many students are able to find relevant jobs on campus, either as TAs and RAs, or within the various research centers. 


I didn't ask about this while I was there, but has anyone learned much about the exchange program with the Hertie School of Governance? Just curious!

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Looks like they only send two students, and considering the general rigidity of the core curriculum, it seems like it'd be hard to fit in.


On the other hand, Berlin is amazing and would be an amazing place to study urban policy...

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More feedback from anyone who attended Open House, please! My mind's almost made up, but there's no harm in getting extra information. We're all making expensive and difficult decisions here, so more data points are better.


@ZacharyObama, I gave your post a lot of thought after reading it. I think you make some very good and valid points; USC is simply strong in some areas and not in others which are more of a priority for me. For me, that cohort experience and having other people who are vocal and passionate about the same thing is extremely important. I will likely not be choosing USC this fall.


What I will say is that your differentiation of the MPP and MPA and what they prepare you for are largely adequate, and I am in pursuit of both sort of skill sets. I think that a detailed understanding of the mechanics of a policy and how they are constructed is integral to being a good policy administrator and manager in the future. The reason that I'm doing the MPP instead, though, is because I think classes do a better job of teaching you how to do robust policy analysis, and work experience is, in my experience, the better way of understanding how to manage, budget, and strategize. I suspect I'll end up taking a few classes on that too, but there's less of an option to do rigorous policy analysis as an MPA.

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Cheesecake, I attended the event and was in the MPP "about your degree" session. Here are some general thoughts: 


I did not get a strong private sector vibe from the school, so it's funny that that has come up so much in this thread. In fact, because some of my interests are in that area, I felt a little nervous about any private sector possibilities whatsoever until I had the chance to chat with an alum who currently works as a consultant.


As we all would expect, the MPP folks talked more about quant analysis, but I walked away feeling a little less nervous about the coursework, not because it isn't rigorous, but simply because there are others with limited quant background (like me) who struggled/worked hard through their first semester, and now feel good about what they learned. Those who came in with more quant skills were more likely to find an RA position as a first year student. 


One thing that a current student said is that the curriculum can look a little general, but that in each class, you'll be putting your analysis to work, and you can choose a topic or issue that interests you. So if social justice and social policy are your interests, you could build a portfolio of work that consistently relates to those topics over your two years at USC.


In terms of alumni who spoke, we heard from a community organizer, a city manager, a consultant, someone working with an international energy org, someone who did the MHA ... and several others (sorry, am forgetting specifics). Those involved in community-oriented fields were very passionate about their work and seem highly engaged in the social problems they work on. 

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