Dean's Message

Teaching Public Policy and Civic Leadership in Challenging Times

We don’t need polls to tell use that major national institutions – from Congress to Wall Street, from City Hall to broadcast news – are currently held in remarkably low repute. The balance between leaders and followers has shifted in favor of the latter. Many important issues—from health care and education to financial regulation and national security, from same-sex marriage to the national debt –arouse heated debate and polarized opinion. Powerful drivers are changing the context in which leadership is exercised and policy is made, both around the world and in the United States. These include globalization, climate change, the development of new technologies, demographic transitions, and cultural change. Thus public policy today must be studied and taught differently than was the case even a few decades ago.

Challenges like these create opportunities; the Batten School is determined to seize them.  Social psychology is generating profound new insights about both leadership and public policy. Big Data sets provide valuable materials for careful analysis of why some policies succeed while others fail. Controlled experimental trials can provide a systematic comparison of the pros and cons of alternative policy options.

The Batten School is one of the nation’s newest schools of public policy. Our aspirations for innovation and impact are bold.  The new policy agenda presents exciting areas for research and action by our students and faculty.  New knowledge about leadership enables us to understand and impart specific leadership skills, including advocacy, negotiation, strategic thinking, and effective, ethical decision-making in situations of uncertainty and competing moral values.

We are encouraging our students to consider a wide range of career paths, knowing that civic leadership will come from corporate leaders, non-governmental organizations, and social entrepreneurs, not only from government officials .  We seek to be collaborative, engaging colleagues from across Grounds and leaders across the political spectrum.  We seek to produce leaders who are dedicated to advancing ideals, while grounding their proposed solutions in what is achievable because coalitions and consensus are attainable.

Harry Harding, Dean