New school of policy to be among largest in the nation

The School of Public Policy and the Department of Government & International Affairs have merged to become the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs (SPGIA).

The Board of Visitors approved the merger on May 30, with the State Council of Higher Education giving their approval in July. The new school is now one of the largest schools of its kind, with 14 degree programs, including two preexisting undergraduate degrees in Government & International Politics and Public Administration, which are now separate from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as master’s and Ph.D. programs.

Graphic by Walter Martinez

Graphic by Walter Martinez

According to Matt Green, the academic coordinator for SPGIA, the merger has been discussed many times since the School of Public Policy spun-off of the Department of Government & International Relations in 2000, but this is the first time the merger has been attempted.

Ann Ludwick, the undergraduate internship faculty advisor for SPGIA, sees the merger as a positive way to consolidate Mason’s political science programs.

“By combining our efforts, we conserve our students in a much better capacity and in a wide variety,” Ludwick said. “What’s really neat is for the School of Public Policy, this is their first exposure to the undergraduate world, so it’s fun to integrate together in this new school and bring this undergraduate piece in a new way.”

Green emphasized the school’s ability to become more efficient and provide students with unique learning opportunities.

“We’re getting bigger, which means we’re going to be more efficient and have more resources and contacts through the School of Public Policy,” Green said.

For undergraduates, the merger will provide the opportunity to work with more faculty members with different areas of expertise and provide them with connections to the graduate school. The school is also looking into providing accelerated master’s programs for undergraduate students, starting with the Masters in Public Policy program.

Green hopes that, in gaining more access to resources and contacts through the School of Public Policy, undergraduate students can begin working with adjunct faculty to gain exposure to their desired job field.

“We’re hoping to work on initiatives where some of the adjunct faculty who work in D.C. might be able to host students and give them a look around [and give] students the opportunity from the experts in the area to get our students to be standing next to what they hope to be doing,” Green said.

According to Ludwick, the merger will also bring new internship opportunities for undergraduate students. Prior to the merger, the School of Public Policy had a formal internship program that it can now share with the undergraduates and provide a more unified approach to finding internships.

“I’m able to learn from a new model and have a new approach to internships and that will then, in turn, open the door for more opportunities as well,” Ludwick said.

Green also mentioned that SPGIA has started working with INTO Mason and hopes to develop a pathway program that would allow more connection with international students.

Emily Pellen, a senior and Government and International Politics major, is excited for the opportunities that the merger will provide for students.

“I think that the department will have more to offer to its students, and I think I will have more opportunities to learn in a diverse field while also focusing on government and politics,” Pellen said.

A lot of this opportunity, Green emphasized, comes from Mason’s close proximity to Washington D.C.

“There’s no real reason not to go here if you’re interested in international politics or American government because we’re right next to all of that,” Green said.

Green also added that Mason’s tuition prices, even for out of state students, is still competitive compared to the other universities with access to Washington D.C.

“We have as good or better [programs], but you don’t have to pay for as much for it,” Green said.

According to Ludwick, this merger opens a lot of opportunity from growth and change within SPGIA.

“I hope that it continues to grow and support student interests in political science for Mason students and prospective students…we have a strong backbone on [the Government & International Politics] program now,” Ludwick said. “We would like to see it grow and continue the traditional political science-type program.”

As a student, Pellen also hopes to see SPGIA grow to become a competitive school within the university.

“Our department will be a more sought-out field and will offer so much more to its students,” Pellen said. “I am excited to see how this merger plays into effects now and in years to come after I have graduated. I expect great things.”