MPP Speaker Series

MPP Speaker Series: MSU Professor Dr. Amita Chudgar Shares Research on Education and Development

img_0616Dr. Amita Chudgar was the featured presenter at an engaging session of the MPP Speaker Series last Wednesday. Chudgar is an MSU specialist in education policy, particularly in the context of international development. Her open presentation style encouraged participation from our MPP students, who took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and comment on her ongoing research.

Dr. Chudgar’s work focuses on educational access and attainment in areas facing serious resource constraints. She utilizes both national and cross-national datasets to uncover how different environments and policy factors affect educational participation and achievement outcomes. Her academic training in economics and methods complement her knowledge of policy and social contexts.

Chudgar noted that, over the past two decades, primary school enrollment has risen dramatically around the world. Now that access has been improved, however, communities, teachers, and policymakers must face the challenge of ensuring that children receive quality instruction and attain learning goals. Keeping students enrolled in school as they move on to the secondary level is an additional difficulty.

Many countries lack a sufficient pipeline of students interested in becoming teachers. chudgar1Chudgar’s research has uncovered several reasons why this is the case. Attempts at solving any of these problems often affect other aspects of the educational environment. For this reason, education policy in the developing world is a complex and interesting field of research.

A recent project funded by UNICEF examined the demographics of those who teach the most marginalized students. As in other studies, Chudgar and her fellow researchers found that experience level among other factors is important in understanding teacher distribution.

In many countries, younger teachers are assigned to more rural or less desirable locations. As they gain experience and expertise, they transfer to more attractive positions. This leaves many marginalized students with the least experienced instructors. Many promising students are discouraged from becoming teachers and are instead pushed to enter other fields. Some countries, Chudgar explained, have reduced requirements for becoming a teacher in order to address shortages, but the tradeoff is that educational quality may suffer.

MPP students added to this discussion by sharing their own experiences with teaching and learning in North America, Europe, and Africa. Questions were raised about the role of technology in improving educational outcomes. This is connected to tendencies to package education in a uniform manner in hopes of more efficient delivery. Chudgar noted that this may raise ethical and pedagogical issues.

chudgar2One research note that students can take away from Chudgar’s presentation is the availability of large-scale databases that can be used to examine interesting policy questions. Making good use of existing data, often in the public domain, has been an important component of several of her recent projects.

Chudgar’s research brings to mind the fundamental policy question of balancing cost efficiency, equity, and quality. She believes that research can inform policy and that research on educational policy should also be responsive to ongoing policy debates and questions.

Dr. Chudgar is currently teaching a course on Economics of Education. This course focuses on American domestic issues and shows how economic tools can inform education. She encouraged first-year MPP students to consider taking this class next spring and to explore other special topics courses in MSU’s renowned Education Policy PhD program.

 

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Internships, Student Profiles

InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Featuring Jordon Newton

jordon-newton-photoThis summer, 26 MSU students, including 5 MPP students, participated in the InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Program, and played a key role in changing the way the City of Detroit addresses a complex set of issues. Jordon Newton, second-year MPP student, was placed with Data Driven Detroit (D3), and spent his summer using data and delving into analysis to drive informed decision-making.

Jordon is originally from Spokane, Washington, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Gonzaga University. Now at MSU, he is an assistant coach on the MSU Debate Team. Jordon has always enjoyed working with numbers and data, so being placed with Data Driven Detroit was a perfect fit.

D3’s mission is to provide accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision- making across our communities. Their primary focus is in the Detroit area, with a few projects spilling over to the rest of Wayne County. D3 works with community partners to help improve the availability of information and helps provide analytical services to help drive those decisions.

The primary project Jordon worked on is the Turning the Corner project. The Turning the Corner project is sponsored by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, in cooperation with the Urban Institute and the Federal Reserve, to find a way to better track neighborhood economic shifts across cities in the United States. Their effort is to help find datasets that are predictive of when a neighborhood is close to experiencing a drastic shift so policy makers can act to prevent potential negative effects, such as economic displacement or the collapse of a neighborhood, from those changes. Detroit is being used as a test case to build a national model. For this project, Jordon researched a few dozen potential data sources that could be used in this effort, and collected data.

In addition to the Turning the Corner project, Jordon also worked on data research and analysis for a local neighborhood’s application to receive Promise Neighborhood status. The vision of the Promise Neighborhood program is that all children and youth growing up in a Promise Neighborhood have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career. Jordon also worked on visual data development for a variety of projects (using ArcGIS), background research for a project to improve neighborhood outcomes, and surveyed housing parcels for a neighborhood organization to help prevent blight and clean up abandoned properties.

Through his internship, the most eye-opening lesson was the difficulties in coordination and communication among the organizations within the community. According to Jordon, this problem goes far beyond individual actors, as there are dozens of organizations looking to help on any given issue, but in many instances they keep their actions uncoordinated, which can decrease the effectiveness of each organizations action.

Upon graduation from the MPP program, Jordon would like to do academic policy research, either as a faculty member at a research institution or for a primarily research-based organization, and would like to enter a PhD program in the future.

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Internships, Student Profiles

MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Yusri Jamaluddin

 

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Yusri Jamaluddin is a second year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Yusri has a strong background in business and information technology, and was a research assistant in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University. Before starting the MPP, Yusri also interned as a Policy Analyst in the Performance Management and Delivery Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department in Malaysia.

This summer, Yusri served as a policy analyst intern at Cybersecurity Malaysia, which is an agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Tasks of the Cybersecurity Office include implementing the National Cyber Security policy, conducting strategic research on cyber security issues, as well as developing digital forensics capabilities and cyber emergency response support for Malaysia.

During his internship, Yusri has been tasked with creating a benchmark study on international cyber security policies and strategies and reviewing the National Security Policy, as well as providing policy recommendations moving forward. He has also conducted research on local and international cyber security issues and solutions and presented his research to relevant stakeholders. Through his internship, Yusri has learned that while skills in public policy analysis like logic models and statistical techniques are excellent tools for analyzing policy, they can be of limited use without a depth of knowledge in the relevant field of policy.

Coming from an information technology background, he has been fortunate to be able to study Malaysia’s cyber security policy and apply information from his previous background while also applying his public policy education. He has also learned the importance of feedback and review while conducting policy research. The feedback he has received during his internship has given him a deeper understanding of cybersecurity policy. According to Yusri, if a policy is only analyzed based on quantitative data, it can only tell so much, potentially leading to a surface-level understanding of the policy or program and ignoring the context that lies in the details. Obtaining feedback allows for less biased views and a broader understanding of the issues around the policy of interest.

Upon graduation, Yusri is looking for a position that allows him to exercise and develop his data analytics and visualization capabilities in a policy research and design environment. Ideally, he hopes to obtain a position in research think tanks or government agencies where he can be involved in program evaluation, policy analysis, or policy design while having fun playing with data.

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Internships

MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Marcus, Juan, Sean

This summer, three of Michigan State Master of Public Policy program students have taken on the City of Detroit’s Finance Department, Income Tax division. Marcus Coffin, Juan Loaiza and Sean Tobin are working in the Economic Policy Planning and Strategy office under Deputy Mayor Carol O’Cleireacain. This office is responsible for overseeing numerous aspects of Detroit’s tax collection process, from identifying non-filers to processing returns and providing customer service.

The project they have been working on is referred to as the Landlord-Tenant Project, in which they seek to identify city income tax non-filers in Greater Downtown Detroit with data obtained from the landlords and from the city’s tax software. This task involves a large amount of direct landlord contact and a huge data collection and cleaning operation. The goal is to develop a database that will give complete and accurate information in one place of residents that are subject to income tax and how to contact them. In finding the most effective method to do this each has played a part in offering new approaches. In particular Sean has had the opportunity to introduce and utilize his GIS skills to the current system to map income tax compliance in downtown neighborhoods over the past five years.

The MPP students were part of the inaugural class of InnovateGov, a program developed by Assistant Professor of Political Science Josh Sapotichne and MSU Extension faculty member Eric Scorsone to help students gain real-world experience in local government while assisting urban governments with complex problems. Sapotichne and Scorsone, who lead an ongoing research project on municipal fiscal distress and state intervention, worked with students throughout the summer to help connect their academic work to their experience at the city.

From the internship experience Marcus finds he has learned a great deal about how city bureaucracies function day-to-day. It has also taught him about how data is used in city government, and the importance of maintaining up-to-date data. When initially arriving in the city they were assigned to build a database from the ground up using data from disparate sources. Had their been a place where all of this data is collected and kept would have made the job far easier.

Juan has also come to find the importance of cities collecting data at present in order to ease future operations, programs and facilitate the leadership decision-making. In addition Juan has learned how to identify solutions to problems involving large amounts and incomplete data. He hopes moving forward through work such as this, more effective methods will be adapted in the public sector and cut back on current inefficiencies.

Through their time with the City of Detroit, Marcus, Juan and Sean have all come to gain a better understanding of bureaucratic operations and team building to accomplish set end goals. Their work is extremely important to the city and has come to be mutually beneficial.

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