MPA Student on Regional Winning Team at NASPAA Competition!

March 8 Tuesday 12:13 PM

This past weekend, Nathan and Sarah Smith represented the Martin School at NASPAA’s second annual student simulation competition, taking on international climate change policy. Students from all over the midwest region participated at IUPUI’s campus in Indianapolis.

Each was assigned a sector whose interests they were to represent as they negotiated with six other sectors to create a policy package reducing global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. All the teams not only negotiated with each other, but also used a sophisticated climate change simulator to test their ideas and solidify their plans. At the end of the day, each of the three teams produced a policy package, presentation, memo, and staffing suggestion for their recommendations.

“I was assigned to the Climate Hawks sector, which represents environmental interest groups like Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), The Nature Conservancy, for example,” Nathan shares. This sector was unique in that it didn’t have any decision-making power, unlike Sarah’s sector– global average carbon pricing. Both Sarah and Nathan enjoyed working directly with MPP and MPA students from all over the midwest on such a timely issue.

In the end, Nathan’s team was the regional winner! Nathan felt that his team’s presentation, focus on feasibility, and achievement of a very difficult objective set his team apart. Nathan describes some of the major features of their package below:

“There were a few key features of our plan that required some sacrifices from nearly everyone involved in order to effectively curb climate change.  Some of these features that we, after much debate, came to an agreement on were a $100/ton price on carbon, significant reductions in agriculture land use, an accelerated nationwide retirement of coal, new regulations on automobile and building efficiency standards, and significant long-term subsidies for renewable energy sources and new technology.”

While working on one of the toughest international policy questions of our time was taxing, both Nathan and Sarah walked away from the competition hopeful. To achieve success in climate change globally, everyone must come to the table ready to work together.

PhD Student in Action: Zihe Guo

March 3 Thursday 02:20 PM

Zihe (Lauren) Guo is a Ph.D. candidate at the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration. We asked her a few questions about her work!

My research interests include public budgeting, financial management, and nonprofit finance and management. My previous studies focused on a series of questions such as, how do debts impact fiscal volatility of local governments? Do nonprofit organizations have systematic and nonsystematic financial risk? My dissertation focuses on borrowing costs of local governments in the U.S. and China, particularly paying attention to debts issued through conduits. As an alternative way to issuing bonds, the conduit debt financing has been widely used by local governments and nonprofit organizations.  Since most of local governments have been burdened with heavy debts, understanding whether or not the conduit debt financing actually decrease borrowing costs is very important.

Discovering my favorite research area is an incremental process. I have broad interests and strong curiosity for lots of issues. In the process of conducting research, I am more and more aware of my “true love” research topics. Discovering a great idea is always very exciting, but the most exciting moments appear when I find that exploring this idea will answer important questions and lead to some unprecedented research.

Challenges and opportunities are always hand in hand. For example, data is not always easily accessed and unpredictable and confused research results are often discovered. But it is a great pleasure to solve all kinds of problems and finish an excellent research project.

Except my own interests, another important reason I really enjoy the experience of studying and doing research here is that I always receive the support from faculty and students in the Martin School. They are always supportive to each other, and their infinite potentials are inspiring me every day. Pursuing a Ph.D. degree is like drinking a cup of coffee, a little bitter, but very mellow. Thanks to the Martin School, these years have been memorable and valuable.

Capstone Chronicles, Part 1

February 19 Friday 10:22 AM

"What's fun about research is it can take you in directions you aren't expecting. As you uncover things in your lit review, you learn so much you never knew. I love to learn!" - Maddy Oritt, MPA class of 2016

When you think about the spring, what comes to mind? For many students, March Madness, spring break, and balmier weather are at the top of the list. For the Martin School, spring brings something special-- Capstone Projects. A cornerstone of the MPA and MPP programs, the Capstone Project is the culmination of 4 semesters of learning. This semester, we will follow the MPA and MPP class of 2016 through their journey in a blog series.

What's a Capstone?

The Capstone is not just a master's thesis. Using the skills and knowledge developed in the classroom and in internships, students select a research question of interest to them that assesses a policy problem. The finished product is a research paper that provides quantitative and qualitative analysis. These papers are then presented to a panel of practitioners from the community.

Class of 2016

Dr. Petrovsky is working with this year's cohort of students on their projects. At this time, most students have defined their research question. Many have chosen issues of equity and education to study. We spoke with MPA students Maddy Oritt and Lauren Kesselring about their projects focusing on finance. Maddy will be graduating with concentrations in healthcare and financial management, and Lauren with a concentration in financial management. Both are being advised by Dr. Denison on their projects.

Asking the Right Question

Maddy is researching the financial implications of Medicaid expansion, especially on hospital revenues. "The ACA is a big topic right now. But because there's a lag on data, and since the expansion just went in to effect in 2014, I am doing a preliminary analysis," she explains. As a highly politicized and complex policy area, she is excited to further her knowledge through her research. Maddy started thinking about her Capstone Project last summer when she interned at a hospital. Like Maddy, Lauren also developed her Capstone Project based on her experiences outside the classroom. Put simply, Lauren's research question centers around the optimal contingency fund size for a municipality. This very question came up at the mayor's office, where Lauren works, for the city of Lexington.

The To Do List

Now that they've done the heavy lifting of defining the scope of their projects, both ladies are busy with their next steps. Lauren says she's currently "doing data collection, pulling information from CAFRs, and contacting people from other municipalities to fill in missing data." Maddy is juggling finishing up her literature review, finalizing her methodology, and collecting data.

Bumps in the Road

It's rare that worthwhile projects are easy. Each Capstone presents its own unique challenges. Data lag is at the top of the list for Maddy with Medicaid expansion. "It's easy to get excited about current issues, but if data isn't available yet, it's hard to dive in. Figuring out the controls will be interesting, too," Maddy says. Lauren's biggest mountain to climb is the opposite-- comparing changing government standards over decades. "How do you make 15 - 20 years' worth of data conform to one standard?" she asks. She plans on working closely with her Capstone advisor, Dr. Denison, to address that.

Passion Motivates

Although they have a lot of work ahead of them, both students are looking forward to it. Maddy finds it rewarding to do research in such a relevant policy area that affects people today. Lauren expressed a similar sentiment-- "Literature has a void in municipal contingency fund research. No one has addressed question in my scope. It's something that policy makers at work don't really have a good answer to, and it can impact everyone in the county." We look forward to their contributions to public administration!

The Spirit of Service

February 19 Friday 11:32 AM

SJ Harris is a second-year MPA student at the Martin School. In this post, she shares her passions and her journey to and through the Martin School.

What's your background?
My background is in Arts Administration with minors in Art History and English. I have always been passionate about the arts and really enjoyed learning about the nonprofit sector in my undergraduate program. During my undergraduate studies, I was involved in various social organizations that also highly valued philanthropy work. I interned with the Lexington Philharmonic orchestra, worked on a project with UK Arts in Healthcare, was involved in many service projects with my social organizations, and ultimately knew that I wanted to make an impact on my community with my career.

When doing some research on graduate programs, the Martin School's website said, "Make a difference with your degree!" I'm very much hoping to do just that. The Martin School has shaped me in fundamental ways, providing me with the necessary tools and skills for a successful career in public service. I have found that the knowledge I have gained at the Martin School is directly transferable to the work that I have completed at the Council of State Governments, the Kentucky League of Cities, in my leadership of the Association of Fundraising Professionals collegiate chapter, and at the law firm I worked at throughout grad school.

In my time at the Martin School I have found my niche in health policy, though I also remain passionate about the nonprofit sector and community and economic development. I currently am a Health Policy & Research Fellow at the Council of State Governments. In this role, I conduct research and prepare research briefs and newsletters for CSG's publications, Capitol Ideas, and for the weekly listserv email to members. Thus far, I have had the opportunity to attend a Medicaid Policy Academy in Washington D.C. and learn from highly respected individuals in the health policy field, along with legislators from many of our states and have written pieces about prescription drug costs, healthcare reform, and state employee wellness programs. I have also written grant reports to CSG's sponsors.

This past summer I completed an internship with the Community Consulting Services department at the Kentucky League of Cities where I assisted in the creation of strategic plans for Kentucky's cities and was able to meet many of our cities' leaders. I found this work to be very valuable and look forward to completing a legal internship with KLC this spring that will involve creating a city ordinance resource manual for city leaders to use. I will also be assisting the Community Consulting Services department with a special analytical project for a client.

I look forward to completing my capstone project this year which will be an implementation study of Kentucky's SB192, more widely referred to as the Heroin Bill, that was passed in March of 2015.

What's your passion? What do you want to be when you "grow up"?
My main passion in life is service. I care deeply for people and I just want to help. That might be through simply being a good friend, being a helpful coworker, writing policies that make a difference, producing publications that might influence legislation, or giving a voice to issues I am passionate about.

When I "grow up," I want to be known someone who is reliable and helpful. I want to be able to say that I did something-- that I contributed in meaningful ways to make things better for people, wherever that may be and on whichever scale that might be.

I'd really like to travel and conduct research. I'm also considering pursuing a doctoral degree. I'd like to work as a health policy research analyst and really contribute to the conversation at an arms length with decision makers. Maybe one day I could even be a decision maker, who knows!

Which class(es) have been your favorites?
All of the classes! All of them! (My professors are reading this, right?)

But truly, every class I've taken has been interesting and valuable in some way. From Analysis to Z-stats in econometrics, we've covered it. I've learned how to prepare memos, analyze policies and data, use STATA, interpret economic decision making, promote organizational change, and I've also learned the ins and outs of strategic planning.

Not only are the Martin School faculty exceptionally well versed in policy, but they are also expert teachers and leaders who take special interest in their students' development. The Martin School really has such a strong community and I am very grateful to be a part of it.

What have you found most compelling or interesting about your study here?
My favorite thing about my study at the Martin School is the amount of practical knowledge we obtain. All of the skills I have learned in class have directly transferred into my work at CSG, KLC, in AFP, and at the law firm. It's really rewarding to see that what you're working so hard on in the classroom really does make a difference in the "real world." I'll miss grad school, I've had a ball!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Anywhere in the world? Oh boy. If I could live anywhere in the world I would live in Lexington, Kentucky! I love my home state. That being said, I am certainly entertaining the idea of living in Washington, D.C. or going abroad. I might just spin the globe and go wherever my finger lands!

Do you see yourself here?

February 19 Friday 03:37 PM

At the Martin School we prepare leaders and produce research that improves lives, communities and organizations through the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Our alumni lead government organizations large and small. They manage non-profit agencies and are among the foremost faculty and researchers dedicated to investigating problems in the public sector. If you are considering an MPA, MPP, or Ph.D to further your career in public service, we invite you to take a closer look at the Martin School. Imagine yourself here.


Our Academics Are Top Notch

U.S. News & World Report ranks our program #25 in the nation overall, #4 for Public Finance and Budgeting, and #28 for public policy analysis. As a top-25 program, we challenge our students and prepare them to be leaders in their field. If you'd like to know more about our rigorous curriculum, check out our program descriptions under the "Prospective Students" tab above.


It's Personal

Ask any of our students or faculty, and they can tell you about the warmth of our community. Walking around the office, you can see it. Students regularly stop by professors' offices and hang out in the computer lab to work on homework together. Our faculty get to know our students' interests and goals. You just simply cannot be anonymous around the Martin School; if you envision yourself at a personal program, come visit with us. 


Leading by Example

We embrace our institution's promise to our Commonwealth as a public land-grant university. Our faculty have served in prominent roles in Kentucky's government, including the state's budget office. Our alumni are also leading the way in research and administration. If you want to learn from those that have served in the trenches in the classroom, through our mentor program, or at networking opportunities, consider the Martin School.