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Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

State and Local Policy at Pepperdine: Where Things Happen

Dr. Michael Shires and Shelby SPP Student

State and local policy at Pepperdine is about making local communities better places to live. The School of Public Policy (SPP) is training a new generation of leaders ready to step in and help the needs of the diverse array of communities found throughout the world.  Whether in the United States or internationally, local governments like school districts, cities, and counties, are the places where the most basic of human needs are being met.  Our students and faculty are active participants in the process of crafting locally-led solutions to many of the most important problems we face, including food, housing, health care delivery, public safety, economic development, and education.

Unlike the federal and international policy domains, state and local leaders must closely respond face-to-face with those whose lives are impacted by their actions. And they see first-hand the problems they must address—whether it is the homeless person on the corner, the unemployed workers after a business closes, or the schoolchildren learning in dilapidated, understaffed classrooms.  In fact, the vast majority of any individual's interactions with government will be at the local level. SPP is committed to educating leaders who can respond to these needs and craft locally-supported solutions to the wide range of problems that our local communities face.

Learn in a Leadership-Focused Curriculum

The curriculum in the master of public policy (MPP) program at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy is about the students. Our specially-crafted curriculum is designed to equip students with the analytic and problem-solving skills needed to flourish in today's rapidly-shifting environment. It helps students to actively engage constituencies and incorporate their academics and become partners in finding solutions. We build a comprehensive, "big-picture" perspective where students work collaboratively to identify the right problems before seeking solutions. We emphasize systems-level thinking to help our leaders-in-training to help communities identify common values and the sources of stress. We then layer on top of that top-notch communications skills to produce policy innovators who are able to synthesize and convey a clear sense of common purposes as they advocate for solutions.

Engage a Faculty Who Know How to Make Things Happen

To complement this strong foundation, SPP uses faculty who are active leaders in the state and local public policy processes—not just academics who study it from afar. Even our PhD faculty members are actively engaged in crafting legislation and policy solutions to current policy challenges. Some are actively engaged with legislators to design policy solutions while others are actively running for office and speaking for those whose voices are often muted. In every case, state and local coursework is taught with an eye to helping students make an actual, tangible difference.

Thrive in a University That Cares About Your Learning

Unlike large research universities where teaching is an after-thought, Pepperdine University's strong liberal arts roots means that every teacher takes their craft seriously. Even tenure decisions at the School of Public Policy are driven heavily by teaching. Our class sizes are small and the intimate setting allows for deep engagement with the complexity that comes with community-based problems. At the same time, our faculty are serious contributors to the policy literature in their fields and active leaders in their relevant professional associations across the nation. This recognition by their peers is a hallmark of their professional leadership.

SPP student raising hand in class


Build Partnerships That Connect Students to Amazing Opportunities

The Pepperdine School of Public Policy has strong connections to a wide range of institutes and institutions that give students real access to organizations that are transforming the local policy space.  The school's Davenport of Institute for Civic Leadership and Public Engagement, for example, is a national leader in helping local government leaders actively create and harness local community engagement and energy.  The school's Homeland Security Advisory Council and the school's project for Cross-Sector Leaders ties directly into opportunities for students to engage leaders in forging new approaches and alternatives to critical issues. SPP's close relationship with the world's top-ranked dispute resolution program, the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, gives our students access to the very best at finding ways to bridge the widening ideological gaps we see opening in our communities.

Make Connections to the Leaders Who Have Come Before

State and local policy at SPP has an impressive record at raising up leaders who have and are redefining community solutions across the nation. Whether it is the deputy chief of staff for innovation and policy for one of the nation's largest cities, the founder of a state-level thinktank that redefined a major national policy debate, the former Secretary of Education for two states, the founder of a charter school that has revolutionized how inner-city children are educated, SPP students have access to a huge network of current and former local leaders who are excited to help launch the next generation of problem solvers and Wavemakers.

Find A Space for You to Make Your Contribution

As you can see, state and local policy at SPP is an exciting space with a rich set of teachers, students, alumni, and friends who are committed to improving the future by training its next generation of problem-solving innovators. SPP is a place where passionate people come to hone their ideas and to identify and build the solutions they seek. The MPP at Pepperdine is a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you will both be transformed and transform how you see the world. Want to learn more about our school or program? Contact us today!