SPPUA in Action | October 2015
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Dear friends,

Now that the fall semester is in full swing, it is my pleasure to bring to the spotlight our Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, which has been forming leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors since 1969.

Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds, but they are united by our common commitment to public service. This year, we have the most diverse student body to date with students from China, Pakistan, Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Liberia, South Korea, Brazil, Kuwait, and the UK.
Through the MPA program, students attain in-depth skills in budgeting and human resources, organizational management and leadership, and norms of ethics and accountability. The program’s unique, interdisciplinary and customizable curriculum creates capable managers and effective leaders, and prepares students to innovate in a diverse range of fields.
Students participate in interdisciplinary work, applied research with government and community partners, create social change, and address the emerging challenges affecting the quality of life in cities through the research by our labs and centers – The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, The Resilient Cities Lab, and The Social Impact Lab.

Matthias Ruth, Director and Professor, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Watch Video

In the Classroom: Training the next generation of public servants

Every Tuesday evening, about 22 graduate students gather in a typical classroom in Ryder Hall to debate famous public policy case studies and the decisions made by leaders with former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. The goal is simple, yet ambitious: To learn from past decision makers and train the next generation of public servants.
“It’s a hands-on course. This is not theoretical stuff. What I’m trying to do is to help potential public managers, and some who already are public managers, to develop the skills you need to be extremely effective as a public manager,” Dukakis said Tuesday, Sept. 29, after his Institutional Leadership class. “I find case studies the best and really the only way to teach this, and I try to engage the class. I couldn’t sit up here for three hours and just talk.” Read more.

Shaping tomorrow's leaders

The School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs Master of Public Administration (MPA) program can be summed up in five powerful words: Network. Faculty excellence. Experiential opportunities. According to MPA Director Tom Vicino, students have access to a 40-year global network of alumni, faculty and leaders in the field. The program’s top-notch faculty members bring a wealth of knowledge into the classroom through their cutting-edge research, and students have countless project-based learning opportunities. Read more.

Get to Know

Nick Dantzer, MPA alum (2012), Budget Director, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Boston. Before starting his new position in August, Dantzer was the assistant budget director for the Massachusetts Executive Office for Administration and Finance. Here, he discusses his position at the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Read more.
Andrew Bryant, MPA student, Military Active Duty. Andrew Bryant sees the transition from military to public service to be a natural one—despite common misconceptions. “I think many people feel the military is an organization of mindless robots who are designed to just follow orders,” Bryant said. “In fact, the exact opposite is true. The Army teaches its leaders to think independently, ask ‘why’ and devise creative solutions to solve problems. I believe this often makes men and women who have served as leaders in the military extremely successful in other fields." Read more.

4 questions with LaTasha Smith, MPA alum (2012), Director of Communications, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Ga.
Q: What is one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned through the MPA program?
A: I’m an introvert. Being able to proactively get out there and find ways to connect with people through different projects and events at Northeastern really helped me with that. It was hard to really put myself out there at first, and now I’m comfortable with it. Read more.

Q&A with Professor John Auerbach

Distinguished Professor of Practice in Health Sciences John Auerbach, right, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Distinguished Professor of Practice in Health Sciences John Auerbach is on a two-year academic leave to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here, he discusses how his initial interest in public health has led him to CDC and how he plans to bring his wealth of knowledge into the classroom when he returns to Northeastern in September 2016. Read more.

Guest Column: 3 surprises about studying public policy

By Benjamin Irwin, MPA part-time student and employee at Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Cambridge, Mass.

1. One of the ways committing to a graduate program is similar to developing a policy initiative is that you have to work incrementally to realize a long-term goal. This formalizes a concept I have learned through experience in my professional life: It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the steps along the way matter, deserve our attention and can be a source of great satisfaction. Read more.

Student News

Graduate student and former Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy Research Assistant Lauren Costello is currently on exchange at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She is sharing her wonderful experiences with us through her weekly blog, 6 Hours Ahead.
Mass Transit, a magazine exclusively dedicated to public transportation, recently announced its Mass Transit Top 40 Under 40 list, honoring professionals who have made significant contributions to the public transit industry. One of the winners is Northeastern alum Heather Hume, who is the superintendent of workforce/logistic support for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Learn more about Hume and her transportation career here.

Faculty Focus

Timothy Hoff, professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy, and Helen and Patrick Walsh research professor in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, has been appointed as a visiting associate fellow at Oxford University’s Green-Templeton College. Read more.

Alicia Sasser Modestino, associate professor of public policy and urban affairs and economics, recently helped the city of Boston win a $250,000 grant from Citi for a youth credit-building project. The city will partner with four non-profits that provide year-round employment for young adults to help them build or improve their credit records. Read more.

Starting this academic year, Daniel Kim, associate professor of health sciences and social epidemiology, joins the School as faculty affiliate. His research focuses on the social and economic determinants of population health. Learn more about Dr. Kim here.

In the Media

The faculty and staff at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs continue to be reliable sources of expertise on current pressing issues. Click here for a list of articles during the month of September that reference our knowledgeable staff and their research.

Upcoming Events

The Myra Kraft Open Classroom, a free semester-long seminar series for graduate students and ordinary citizens alike, is well underway. This fall, the course is entirely devoted to closely examining the extraordinary transformative decade of the 1960s, from the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 to landing on the moon in 1969. Together with invited experts, we explore the politics, economics and social movements of the decade, celebrate music, art, media, and film, and we draw connections to the many transformations underway today. Classes are held on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. in West Village F, room 20. Visit our website for the course schedule, directions and materials from past sessions. Tell us what you think by using #OCNEU and #SPPUA on social media sites.

Alicia Sasser Modestino, associate professor of public policy and urban affairs and economics, will host the State Task Force on Economic Opportunity for Persons Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment on Monday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to noon, at 310 Renaissance Park, room 909. The task force was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker. Sasser Modestino will then discuss “Upskilling: Do Employers Demand Greater Skill when Workers are Plentiful” on Oct. 5, from 12-1 p.m., at the Faculty Works-in-Progress Colloquium Series.



Lives in Law and Public Policy,” an annual speaker series that allows members of the Northeastern community to meet leading figures in the law and policy arena. This year’s lineup includes:
  • Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who is a faculty affiliate at the School and teaches in the Northeastern Political Science Department, on Oct. 15;
  • Michael Goldman, political strategist and adviser to Mayor Marty Walsh, on Oct. 29;
  • Joanne Goldstein, Massachusetts Labor Secretary, on Nov. 5;
  • Eric Lesser, current Massachusetts State Senator, on Nov. 12.
Join us on Thursdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at 310 Renaissance Park. Goldman’s presentation will be held at 415 Shillman Hall. Use #NULawPolicySpeakers on social media sites.


SPPUA Detective Do you know where this is?

If you know the answer, send your name and location of the subject in the photo to Your name will appear in the forthcoming newsletter!

Do you have what it takes to become a detective and stump the SPPUA community? We are looking for mystery photo submissions for the SPPUA Detective series. Email your mystery photos to Be sure to include the location of the image in the photograph.

The Northeastern Way

Our graduate policy programs create leaders through experiential learning, research and education.


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