The McCourt School of Public Policy will introduce a Master in Data Science for Public Policy program next fall, increasing student knowledge of an evolving field.

The McCourt School of Public Policy will introduce a Master in Data Science for Public Policy program next fall, increasing McCourt students’ access to data science.

The new program will be housed in the McCourt School, but will feature a core curriculum that is split between public policy courses in the McCourt School and analytics courses in the Graduate Analytics Program through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Paasha Mahdavi, Assistant Professor at the McCourt School, said creating the core curriculum was a difficult but crucial aspect of the process of developing the new MDSPP program.

“We’ve crafted a holistic curriculum that combines courses in computer science, statistics, economics, and political science to equip our students with cutting-edge computational, analytical, and governance skills,” Mahdavi wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Dean of the McCourt School Michael Bailey said that, based on trends in policymaking toward an increased use of data, the timing is right to introduce this new program.

“There’s such a need for evidence-based research and we want people to have the best resources for that, and McCourt has historically always been very strong in evidence-based and quantitative methods so we have a nice base,” Bailey said.

Todd Leen, director of the Graduate Program in Data Analytics, said the program would prepare students to tackle both urban and federal policy-making issues with an emphasis on data analytics.

“It’s in part due to this increased activity at the urban level, and it is in part due to the hope that these techniques can make it into ultimately federal policy-making — state and federal policy-making. The work I’m most aware of is at the urban level where cities have been looking for statistical data analysis and data referencing towards improving their operations,” Leen said.

Leen said Georgetown University’s MDSPP program is one of two to three policy analytics programs in the entire country and that its strong data analytics and public policy programs, coupled with its location in Washington, D.C. make this program ripe for success.

“We do have connections in the federal government, several in the Department of Commerce, we’ve placed students in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, so we have connections in the government that we should be able to use,” Leen said.

Bailey and Leen both expressed an interest in having students work on real-life problems through the program.

“What we want, and this will build up over time, is to have more client-based work and community-based work where we can match these students with real-world projects and get them to be seeing how this stuff works in practice,” Bailey said.

Mahdavi said that he hopes that this new program would allow students to make a difference in policy through their employment after graduating from the program.

“My biggest hope for this program 5-10 years down the road is to have a lasting impact on the public, private, non-profit and multilateral sectors through successfully placing our students in top employment outcomes,” Mahdavi wrote.

Leen said he hopes this new analytics program sets the stage for Georgetown to introduce other interdisciplinary analytics programs, such as a business analytics program through the McDonough School of Business.

“The vision would be sort of a center atmosphere in which there are public policy students and students that participate in this joint data science and public policy program, as well as hardcore data scientists and business people addressing a whole range of societal problems,” Leen said.

Bailey said he believed that the university as a whole could benefit from the resources used by this program, including speaker sessions and panels that would be open to the university as a whole.

“We’re hoping to do things of interest to people outside of the program. This is a university program we won’t start until next year, but it will definitely be used as a university resource,” Bailey said.


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