For Rutgers-Camden master’s students, research skills key to jobs in politics

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Sponsored: A program offering the opportunity to conduct doctoral-level research and then apply those research skills in the field.

Research skills are essential for future careers in public policy. Rutgers-Camden University has built the MS in Public Affairs and Community Development to ensure its graduates are competitive in this environment.

The evidence-based movement demands that public servants be able to keep up with academic research. Program evaluation requires nonprofit staff to design the research. Grants require an evidence base to win, and even more evidence of success to keep. But many master’s programs have given up on teaching research skills. In response, Rutgers-Camden University has built a master’s degree that provides students with world-class research training, with programming that links that training to real-world application.

For freshman Jonetta White, the practical orientation is already paying off. Jonetta White describes her first year on the program saying:

Best of all, the work I do is mission-driven; it is a work of purpose that goes beyond intellectual curiosity into a kind of philanthropy through which I can bring my talents and passion to do research that creates real change in the world.

at Rutgers Camden The MA in Public Affairs and Community Development guarantees students world-class research skills in two ways that set them apart from their competitors:

  1. Masters students take core courses in a cohort with a Ph.D. students — ensuring not only that master’s students leave the program with doctoral-level research skills, but also that students are immersed in a research culture with peers conducting original research. The cohort model leads to a peer effect, where students are constantly engaged in high-level conversations that spill over from the classroom and create a culture of sharing research with each other.

    For students who fall in love with this culture, the degree offers a flexible 2+3 model, where each course taken in the two-year MS counts towards a five-year PhD. program. For practitioners, it not only gives people the opportunity to develop doctoral-level research skills, but also significantly reduces the time needed to obtain a doctorate, making it feasible for those who want to continue in the program and carry out their own research.

  2. The program provides professional development opportunities focused on the use of research skills in the field as practitioners. Too often, research-oriented degrees focus on academic jobs such as professorships. In a tight academic job market, this is both untenable and undesirable, especially for public policy departments where so many graduates will use their research skills as practitioners. While graduates of the program have a fantastic track record of securing tenure-track positions (see Dr Prentiss Danzler, Dr Rasheda Weaver, Dr Ashley Nickels), the program also has a fantastic track record of supporting practitioners and helping them find employment (see Dr Christopher Wheeler, Jazmyne McNeese). This support includes: professional development on leadership by Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago; our Ph.Ds over Pints ​​program which supports students by helping them understand what it means to be community-engaged scholars; and a partnership that places students on research teams at United Way for ALICE and Rising Tide Capital. The latter program helps students build professional networks while providing opportunities to use the research skills developed in the program.

At Rising Tide Capital, Jazmyne McNeese was assigned to conduct research on entrepreneurs. She says of the experience:

“Not only were my clients already doing the critical work, but their commitment to the work allowed for some really deep conversations about what it means to blend theory and practice. I was able to put my research skills and my client management skills to the test.

At United Way, Kathy Lopez works for a data-driven research team to ALICE families (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) – an essential area of ​​research for those feeling the pressure of the modern economy. She says of the experience:

As a non-traditional student who also changed careers in my 40s, I was delighted to be assigned to the United for ALICE Scholars Program at Rutgers University Camden. Being assigned to the United for ALICE research team allowed me to step back and look at work from a different perspective, and helped guide my thinking to examine what broader societal factors influence work that must be done.

For these students and more, Rutgers-Camden University The MA in Public Affairs and Community Development is a place to both develop research skills and apply them. It is a national leader in community development research, where students can take the same bet as the program: that research skills will advance their own careers in public policy.

Applications for the The MA in Public Affairs and Community Development is scheduled for March 1, 2022. Contact Dr. Stephen Danley for details.

Dr. Stephen Danley is Director of Graduate Studies for the MS/PhD in Public Affairs and Community Development at Rutgers University Camden. He is a Marshall Scholar, Oxford and Penn graduate, and author of A Neighborhood Politics of Last Resort: Post-Katrina New Orleans and the Right to the City.

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