April 19, 2020

Master in Public Policy: A Program for Changemakers

April 19, 2020

We already know that public policy is important. Yet, one may think that public policy is irrelevant and obscure, that it would hardly affect our everyday life. They are wrong. Public policy plays a role in determining how clean the air we breathe, how we get to work in the morning, or whether or not we have a job at all.

Let’s take the COVID-19 pandemic for an example. Through each decision, public policy influences how quickly citizens get tested, how an infected patient can get treated, who gets to see a doctor and at what cost. If the proposed regulation on social distancing had not been enacted, restaurants and bars would still have been opened, taxi and Grab drivers would still have had a job, and businesses would not have had to face bankruptcy. As the economy recession prolongs, some of us may lose our homes or our jobs as a result.

While it may not always be this obvious, public policy affects our daily lives profoundly. We need to be informed, not only about what political decisions are made, but how can we contribute to make a change for the better.

MPP students, course 2017-2019

Bridging the public sector and private sector divide

The field of public policy has grown quickly in North America and Europe, largely in response to student demand. Young professionals embarking on careers in public service have discovered that a master’s degree in public policy provides them with the background they need to perform well in their jobs. While the value of such degree for the public sector is well-known, its value for graduates choosing a private sector career is often missed or understated. However, an understanding of public sector finance and economics seems to slowly become the key to bridge the public sector and private sector divide.

The question remains is why should private corporations, which are not the ‘government’, and are not political representatives of the people, value public policy graduates?

A public policy program tends to employ an interdisciplinary approach and is based on the principles of economics, political science, management, sociology, law, and other established academic disciplines. Therefore, a public policy graduate possesses skills that can be extremely useful to businesses working in partnership with the government, for example in infrastructure development, financial system development, and social sectors such as education and health.

In today’s everchanging world, no businesses can grow rapidly and sustainably without adhering to public policy. Because public policy acts as an ecosystem that can both nurture and hinder businesses’ growth, every business needs a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of how public policy agenda is set, how the policy process actually works, and also the specific implications of policies on the particular business of the corporation. This is why employees with an understanding of public policy – public policy graduates, are invaluable assets for any businesses or corporations which want to further expand their growth.

With the strong network acquired through their education, public policy graduates can help the company build strong, knowledge and trust-based relationships with key government actors. Public policy graduates who are specialized in quantitative methods can quantify potential effects of government’s actions on the economic value of the company.

After 25 years, the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) has trained more than 1,400 public policy graduates, and more than one-third of these graduates are making an impact in a diverse range of roles in business, finance, journalism, law, education and the not-for-profit sector. This shows that there is an increasing need for public policy knowledge, and public policy graduates are highly sought after in the private and non-profit sector.

MPP students, course 2018-2020

Who should study public policy?

Because public policy affects every aspect of our lives, an area of study such as public policy is an invitation to transform our future and construct the dream of a better Vietnam.

Let’s take the 1,400 FSPPM graduates as an example. FSPPM graduates are those who have an interest in making things better for the community and for Vietnam. Better yet, they devote their entire career to do so.

Some are very interested in social entrepreneurship and creating a business. Others want to lead mission-driven careers within non-governmental organizations. Many want to affect change in government, but through innovative and non-traditional ways. A good portion of FSPPM graduates and faculty members have careers in two or more sectors. What do they have in common? They all want to lead change, solve problems and make the world a little better through their careers. They are the changemakers.

Evidently, with such a strong network of alumni, FSPPM is optimistic about Vietnam’s future. The talent and energy of the Vietnamese people are precious resources that will continue to propel the country towards ever greater prosperity. Yet this confidence is also tempered by recognition of the immense challenges that still confront Vietnam.

As the economy develops, public sector managers will need more refined skills and a greater understanding of global, regional, and national trends. Building livable cities, providing quality education and healthcare to all, and creating the conditions for competitive industries to start up and thrive are just some of the issues that the government will contend with over the coming years.

MPP students, course 2019-2021

It’s increasingly clear that the solutions to these challenges won’t be found solely by looking to the traditional models of policymaking and business. The faculty of FSPPM understands this and continues refining its curriculum and teaching methods to equip its new generation of changemakers with a strategic mindset, problem-solving skills and leadership potential for a rapidly evolving world.

According to Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of the Fulbright School of Public Policy & Management, “the world currently faces various challenges, most recently the crisis of the healthcare system and the economic recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world after COVID-19 may not be the one we used to know. Now is the time for public policy schools to put their leadership and knowledge into good use, to recreate our society after the COVID-19 pandemic. This is how we can truly lead the public service values which we live by.”

Still don’t know whether you have what it takes to be a changemaker? Changemakers are those who focus on transforming the world around them into a better place for all. They are those who grasp opportunities, come from any walk of life and from anywhere in the world.

And at FSPPM, we believe that everyone has the potential to be a changemaker.

Thach Thao

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