Tag: Global Campus

GIScience for Natural Resources: New Online Grad Cert. From CFRES

Dr. Parth Bhattin the field doing GIScience work.

Dr. Parth Bhatt at work.

Coming in Fall 2024, the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (CFRES) will be offering a new online graduate certificate: Foundations in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) for Natural Resources. Taught by Dr. Parth Bhatt, Associate Teaching Professor / Researcher at CFRES, this certificate consists of three foundational courses. They are GIS for Natural Resource Management (4 credits), Map Design With GIS (3 credits), and GPS Field Techniques (2 credits).

This certificate is the first of three that will form CFRES’s new online master’s degree in GIScience (currently under development). The others will be Advanced Geographic Information Science for Natural Resources and Remote Sensing for Natural Resources. These two will comprise rigorous courses in Python, Applied Spatial Statistics, GIS Project Management, Advanced Terrestrial Remote Sensing, Photogrammetry, and more. In other words, this online MS degree will equip graduates with a rich, varied skill set in GIScience. They will also acquire a holistic, deep understanding of the spatial dimensions of the world.

For a decade, CFRES has offered a respected, in-person MGIS. Like its predecessor, this interdisciplinary online master’s degree will emphasize practical skills in spatial visualization and analysis. Students will use real-world datasets and state-of-the-art GIS software and techniques to take on challenges in forestry, natural resources, and other disciplines.

The reputation of CFRES, the program’s emphasis on natural resources, and its robust curriculum promise to make this program a highly esteemed online GIS master’s degree. Global Campus is thrilled to be involved with it!

Applying GIScience in Forestry and Natural Resources

If you’re not familiar with Geographic Information Science, it is an exciting, growing, multidisciplinary field. It focuses on the study of geographic information, spatial data, as well as their applications. Combining principles from geography, computer science, mathematics, and other disciplines, GIScience has the ambitious goal of understanding, analyzing, and modelling the spatial aspects of the world.

GIS, or Geographical Information Systems, focuses on the what: the hardware and software that capture geographic information. In contrast, GIScience, focuses on the why: finding practical ways to improve GIS data, software, and professional practice.

This certificate and upcoming MGIS will provide fundamental GIScience expertise to foresters and natural resource experts. In Natural Resource Management, for example, professionals use GIScience for several purposes:

  • resource inventory and mapping
  • environmental impact assessment
  • habitat modeling and conservation planning
  • natural disaster management
  • sustainable land use planning
A forest, which is often managed by natural resource experts with GIScience experience.
GIScience is often used in forest management.

Take resource inventory and mapping. Natural resource managers turn to GIScience to create detailed inventories and maps of natural resources. This data then allows them to analyze the distribution and abundance of resources within an area: forest stands, wetlands, mineral deposits, endangered species habitats, and other important ecological features.

Alternatively, in habitat modeling and conservation planning, experts use GIScience tools to analyze the suitability of habitats for different species. This suitability is based on environmental variables such as temperature, precipitation, elevation, and vegetation cover. GIScience, in short, is crucial to conservation planning. It can help identify critical habitats, corridors for wildlife movement, and areas for habitat restoration or protection.

Solving Multiple Problems With GIScience

First and foremost, GIScience offers practical skills and tools for professionals in several natural resource fields. These include GIS Analysts/Technicians, foresters, civil and environmental engineers, spatial/transportation planners, wildlife ecologists, forest analysts, surveyors, geospatial specialists, water resources analysts, environmental scientists, geologists, community forest specialists, and urban forestry technicians.

Several, in fact, turn to this toolkit regularly. One previous alum from the in-person MGIS now works as a Senior GIS Analyst. In this role for Pine Gate Renewables, he uses GIS and Remote Sensing daily. These tools help him to identify risks for setting up solar farms, creating hydrology models, and locating wetlands.

Another alum with broad responsibilities also confirmed the daily use of GIScience. He oversees the creation of maps, spatial data analysis, surveying projects, data checks on road segments, and storm water analysis “to create pervious and impervious classification.” This person also admits to “diligently maintaining maps detailing water infrastructure” and managing and reviewing “various city assets, ensuring their accuracy and reliability through spatial data analysis.”

In other words, these alumni regularly manage several responsibilities with GIScience and Remote Sensing.

Contending With Climate Change

Regardless of their discipline, GIScience can also equip professionals with the tools and the strategies to predict and combat the effects of climate change.

This skillset is especially relevant now: 2023 was the warmest year on record. (The temperature was 1.18°C [2.12°F] above the 20th-century average of 13.9°C [57.0°F]. In fact, the last ten warmest years in the 174-year record have all occurred between 2014 and 2023. And with a heating planet come more impactful environmental events: floods, extreme weather, drought, and forest fires.

According to NOAA, 2023 also set another record–for natural disasters. During this year, there were 28 devastating weather and climate disasters. The price tag for these events was almost 93 billon dollars.

For contending with climate change’s effects, then, GIScience can aid with hazard mapping, risk assessment, and emergency response planning. For instance, by analyzing spatial data related to factors such as terrain, vegetation, hydrology, and population density, professionals can identify areas prone to natural hazards. Whether these are floods, wildfires, and landslides, experts can develop strategies to mitigate risks and respond effectively during emergencies.

The Pakistan Flood Events

Dr. Parth Bhatt, himself, used GI Science to document the effects of Pakistan’s historic floods, which lasted from June 15 to October 2022.

A map of the Pakistan floods made with GIScience.
Map of the area affected by the floods in Pakistan.
A flooded street in a Pakistani province.
Citizens traverse a flooded street in Pakistan.

In these devastating flood events, waters inundated more than one million homes. The flood hit all four of the country’s provinces, resulting in at least two million houses destroyed.

In total, 33 million people were directly affected with 20.6 million requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. (Unfortunately, nine months later, the monsoons brought more flooding, further exacerbating the crisis.)

Looking Ahead to the Future of GIScience

GIScience, in short, can help professionals in many fields manage the world’s resources, plan infrastructure, mitigate and plan for natural hazards, and combat (or prepare for) the effects of climate change, and more.

However, its tools are also becoming increasingly integral in fields beyond traditional domains like urban planning and environmental science.

As GIScience “continues to evolve and adapt to new demands, its impact on industries and disciplines worldwide is set to expand. As such, it will drive “transformative change and unlocking new possibilities for spatial analysis and decision-making” (GIS Analyst II). For instance, some of the newer industries hiring GIS experts are construction, engineering, insurance, real estate, and oil and gas.

One Senior GIS Specialist (Pine Gate Renewables) further confirmed that in the solar industry, there are more people being hired with a GIScience background than there were before. More professionals use “GIS and remote sensing to help identify issues, notice change over time, help drive decisions, and keep projects moving forward.”

Another expert stated that proficiencies in ArcGIS, QGIS, Python, R, and Javscript are becoming increasingly essential in GIS specialist roles.

From agriculture to healthcare, smart cities to disaster management, GIS and Remote Sensing are revolutionizing how we analyze spatial data, make informed decisions, and address complex challenges. Integration with emerging technologies like AI, along with a focus on environmental monitoring, public health, and conservation, underscores their pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and interconnected world.

GIS Analyst II, Metro Consulting Associates

Learning From a Passionate Teacher

And it’s not just what you will learn in these programs but who you will learn it from. That is, Foundations in GI Science for Natural Resources (and the online MGIS) are both helmed and taught by Dr. Parth Bhatt, whose passion for the subject was covered in a previous blog.

Bhatt’s portfolio of GIScience skills is also diverse: he has expertise in Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing, digital image processing (Multispectral, LiDAR, UAV, Hyperspectral), land use/cover mapping, invasive species mapping, forest health and natural resource management, spatial data analysis, and Web GIS/ArcGIS Online.

Most recently, he has received a grant to put these skills to work: acting as a PI on research projects for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan.

Dr. Parth Bhatt in the classroom, teaching GI Science.
Dr. Parth Bhatt in the classroom

Bhatt has also been instructing the very popular, noncredit, professional development course, Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing. This course, which runs several times a year, has had rave reviews.

Taking the Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about GIScience or you require more information about the Online GIS Certificate from CFRES, please contact Program Director Parth Bhatt (ppbhatt@mtu.edu).

Alternatively, reach out to Program Assistant Marjorie Banovetz (marjorie@mtu.edu).

There is still plenty of time to get started for Fall 2024 and develop your versatile GIS toolkit! And accelerated options are also available.

Jacque Smith: Graduate School Champion and MTU Ambassador

Jacque Smith talks to Peter Lynch, CEO of MAHLE.
Director of Graduate School Operations and Enrollment Services and Global Campus team member, Jacque Smith, chats with MAHLE CEO and President Peter Lynch at the MAHLE Corporate Fellowship Signing Event.

1978. That was the year that a young Jacque Smith, a junior at Marist High School, stopped at a bulletin board. Why? His eye caught a flier for one of Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Programs.

Growing up in the busy city of Chicago, and fascinated by science, this flier spoke to him.

It offered the winning combination of an experience at a STEM school, a taste of the great outdoors, and, of course, a chance for many adventures.

So he just had to go.

That early taste of Tech, which also introduced Jacque to the UP, stuck with him.  So when it was time to apply to colleges, Michigan Tech was not at the top of his list; it was the only school on that list. Off he went, eventually graduating with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1985.

But his relationship with Michigan Tech did not end there. That is, as a valuable staff member, Jacque has been involved with and dedicated to MTU for over 18 years. During this time, he has graciously shared his substantial and varied talents with our Husky community. After beginning under Dave Reed, the Vice President for Research, he moved over to the Graduate School. While there, he has had multiple roles involving admissions and graduate education. He even, for seven years, leant his service to the Alumni Board.

Readers have already learned about the busy schedule and ambitious initiatives of Vice President for Global Campus and continuing education, David Lawrence. They’ve learned about Brian Hannon’s hockey history, MTU origins, and KRC involvement. They’ve also caught a glimpse of Amanda Irwin’s commitment to students and online education. So it was time to introduce Jacque Smith, a crucial part-time team member of Global Campus.

I felt grateful, nay privileged, to catch up with this busy man (and very personable guy).

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. First, please state your title and your position at the Graduate School. What do you do in this role? And how is it connected to your role at Global Campus?

In the Graduate School, I am Director of Graduate School Operations and Enrollment Services where I’m involved with pretty much all the Graduate School processes and policies. Although I don’t have an official title in Global Campus, I feel directly connected to it because we have common goals. That is, I’m a liaison who’s trying to optimize processes and outcomes for Global Campus. Doing so then optimizes those same things for the Graduate School. We’re all trying to improve the admissions experience and get students into programs.

Jacque, give me a breakdown of what you do on a regular day.

I’m a morning person, so I am usually on campus before 7am. And I start my day reading my emails, looking at things that are going on, and then I have my first meeting every day at 8:15 AM with the rest of my admission colleagues and Amanda Irwin from Global Campus. This meeting is where we interact every day to solve problems and to help people. Then, there are various meetings, which could be with Faculty, Global Campus, corporate partners.

A big part of my day is admission matters, in which I’m helping students get to a completed application so they can, ultimately, get a decision. I also make admission decisions for multiple masters’ programs here on campus. So I’m reviewing students’ completed files and making decisions on which students we think will have the best chance of success for our programs.

Why get involved with graduate education? That is, why do YOU think that graduate education matters? What’s your personal motivation to help students get advanced degrees whether online or in-person?

I often tell students that it’s not a question of if you’re going to go on to an advanced degree; it’s a question of when you’re going to do it. In reality, I think advanced degrees are required for our students to get to where they want to go, to get into the types of positions they want, whether it’s management and so on.

Many of our students are striving for more and want different paths. So they need that extra degree. And some people who have their bachelor’s are moving along, they’re doing great things, but they decided they don’t want to do that job forever. I want to help people pivot in their lives, to move in different directions and hopefully be more satisfied.

Jacque, you’re also one of the most enthusiastic advocates, or maybe ambassadors, for Global Campus, Michigan Tech, and the Graduate School. Where have you traveled to recruit students?

I not only have been around the State and the country recruiting students for Michigan Tech, but also have traveled to Thailand, India, and Japan in search of students who are the right fit for this university. Tomorrow, on March 20, I’m traveling down to Chicago to take part in the national MANRRS conference. The mission of MANRRS is to “promote academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences.” While there, I will be representing Michigan Tech and trying to recruit students.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is helping students get through the admissions process and into programs that, I believe many times, are life-changing events. Students come in and when they come out the other side, they often have amazing careers and do amazing things. So helping people get started is probably one of the most rewarding things for me.

Then there is working in the Graduate School itself. I’m dealing with people all around the world: over 50 different nations. So it’s fascinating to sit at my desk and interact with people from all kinds of different countries, helping them out. Another thing I really like about being in the Graduate School is that it encompasses the whole campus. I’m not just dealing with one individual academic program; I’m dealing with all the different academic programs and all their nuances. So, on a daily basis, my job gets me more involved in MTU.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is choosing the best opportunities for Tech. That is, there are so many wonderful things we can be doing to improve the exposure of Michigan Tech, increase our enrollment, and make connections. The tough part is balancing the resources we have while deciding what will bring the best result for the university.

As part of MTU’s mission to support industry in the state of Michigan, Michigan Tech and Global Campus are involved with several corporate partners, which you occasionally get to meet during formal events. Jacque, can you speak of some of your experiences at these events?

Often when we visit these companies, we get to see their facilities. These companies are proud of what they do, just as Michigan Tech is, so they want to show it off. It’s always a privilege to get an inside peek at many of these corporations. We get to tour their facilities, their plants, and meet with their employees and leaders. And we see behind the scenes. It’s also impressive to see the Michigan Tech alumni who are working at these places, helping to build these technologies.

Why Michigan Tech? That is, what is it about this university and this area that make them a natural fit for you?

As I’ve said before, I’m both a graduate of the summer youth program and Michigan Tech, so I have a long history!

About Michigan Tech. I believe it’s the size and the resources and its focus on STEM, which were and are still appealing to me. I’ve always been interested in technical fields. But then I’ve always had an outdoor side to me too. And this university is like a natural extension of these interests. Along with the academics and the programs, there is the location. This area allows me the ability–and I know other people use this term, too–to have micro adventures. I don’t need two weeks to go do something. I can go out on an afternoon and have an amazing experience just because everything is so close in the Upper Peninsula.

When you’re not working for the Graduate School or Global Campus, what do you like to do in your free time? Where can we find you, for example, on the weekend?

I’ve always been an adventurer: a hiker, a climber, and a camper. I’ve done many different activities and I still do a lot of them. Right now, you can often find me on jeeping adventures where I go off-roading to access out-of-the-way areas to camp and stay—to just kind of get out of town and find visually beautiful places. And I often meet great people on these adventures. There’s a certain camaraderie about these experiences. Luckily, I have a wonderful girlfriend who supports me and my jeep journeys!

Jacque standing in front of his jeep during one of his adventures.
Jacque standing in front of his jeep during one of his Upper Peninsula adventures.
Jacque on one of his jeeping adventures.
The reward at the end of the journey: a fire, a quiet place, and a view of the lake.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One thing has always struck me. Wherever I’ve traveled, it always seems that I find a link to Michigan Tech. Or I meet MTU alumni. It’s a very small world. That is, it seems like no matter where I go, I’m delighted to discover yet another Michigan Tech connection!

I’d like to end by saying that, again, I really enjoy having conversations with current and potential students, determining what their needs are and how Michigan Tech can help fulfill those needs. And I think that graduate school, whether online or in-person, allows students to achieve their goals and get them to where they need to be.

Jacque Smith

Eight Cool Public Policy Careers

Make a Difference With These Alternative Public Policy Jobs.

Two public policy professionals chake hands in an office setting

As previously noted, a public policy is a set of principles, guidelines, regulations, laws, and actions adopted and implemented by a governmental entity. The purpose of a public policy is addressing specific issues/needs or pursuing particular goals within a society. Those needs, for instance, might be making roads more safe. That is, a speed limit sign is an example of a common public policy encountered daily. Rules and ordinances for making annual homecoming events less riotous and destructive are also public policies. The ultimate goals of a public policy, then, are achieving desired outcomes, solving problems, or responding (or in some cases, not responding) to societal needs. Because these needs are so diverse, there are, correspondingly, numerous public policy careers.

Those with public policy experience often work in government, at all levels. There, they might take on roles as policy analysts, legislative assistants, government or public affairs specialists. Or they might find roles in non-governmental organizations or the non-profit sector as policy consultants, program evaluators, and directors.

Learn more about public policy.

Above are some of the typical public policy careers. However, there are other less common but equally satisfying career paths.

1. Urban Planner

Professionals in these roles, who are often civil, environmental, and structural engineers, focus on shaping the development of cities and communities. They strive to create sustainable, greener, and functional urban spaces by considering factors such as zoning, transportation, housing, and environmental impact.

Because urban planners must often abide by local laws and ordinances (or even suggest improved ones), they regularly collaborate with government officials at all levels. Therefore, knowledge of public policy is an asset to urban planners and their decision-making processes.

An image of an urban green space in Vancouver, BC.
An urban green space in Vancouver BC, Canada

2. Environmental Policy Consultant

Environmental engineers with public policy experience can also transition into roles as environmental policy consultants. Or they could even start their own environmental consulting companies, collaborating with governmental entities at all levels.

As these consultants, they might advise on public policies related to pollution, sustainable development, water resource management, and climate change. They might also bring their technical expertise to developing and evaluating environmental policies, as well as helping to create effective, scientifically sound regulations.

A symbol of a smart city, which might need those with public policy expertise.
An image of a smart city.

3. Smart City and IoT Specialist

A smart city is an urban area that uses advanced technology, carefully designed infrastructure, and data-driven solutions. The objectives are reducing costs and resource consumption, enhancing efficiency, and optimizing the lives of inhabitants.

Engineers with policy skills and expertise in both smart city technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) can help influence public policies related to smart cities. These could be regulations on land use, data privacy, accessibility, and so on. In these public policy careers, they might also ensure that smart city technologies abide by local and state ordinances.

4. Open Data Advocate

Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used, and redistributed by anyone. The most fundamental rules of Open Data are the following:

  • Availability and Access: As a whole, data must be available at a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading. Data must also be in a convenient and modifiable form.
  • Re-use and Redistribution: Data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution, which includes the intermixing with other datasets.
  • Universal Participation: Everyone must be able to use, re-use, and redistribute data without discrimination or restrictions. Open data advocates, for example, are against rules that say data is not for commercial use, only for education, and so on.

Therefore, open data advocates strive to develop public policies that promote the transparency and accessibility of government data. For instance, they might encourage the release of government information in open formats. They believe that open data fosters collaboration, innovation, and accountability.

Where does public policy come in? This role involves working with government agencies, tech communities, and the public to support and advance open data initiatives.

5. Healthcare Technology Policy Analyst

As healthcare grows more data-driven, there arise issues of cybersecurity and the protection of patient information. Biomedical engineers and professionals in the healthcare technology sector with public policy experience could work as this type of analyst.

Healthcare technology policy analysts might undertake the following:

  • assess public policies in the regulatory landscape for medical technologies
  • contribute to the development of health IT policies
  • ensure that policies keep pace with advancements in medical research and technology
  • confirm that protocols in the healthcare industry align with public policies that safeguard patient data

In fact, the US has several privacy laws that protect all types of consumer data: fingerprints, retina scans, biometric data, financial data, names, and addresses. Probably one of the most well-known of these privacy protection laws is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) . This law, which applies to healthcare providers, hospitals, and insurance companies, safeguards an individual’s medical information. Healthcare technology policy analysts, then, might ensure that patients with biomedical devices connected to the IoT have their PHI protected.

An image of the USSF-52 rocket-launch mission. A space policy advisor is a possible public policy career.
Exploring Space safely and ethical will involve those with public policy expertise.

6. Space Policy Advisor

Space exploration and commercial space activities, which have accelerated recently, will require experts with public policy experience. These advisors might focus on issues related to space governance, international cooperation, and regulations. That is, they may be involved in ensuring that their organizations follow policies governing space exploration, satellite deployment, and space resource utilization.

For instance there are national space policies, commercial space launch policies, international space cooperation agreements, licensing and regulatory frameworks, satellite remote sensing policies. There are even policies for mitigating and remediating space debris. And these are just a few public policies related to the space industry.

7. Regulatory Sandbox Manager

This public policy career, which sounds too cool to be real, is ideal for those with previous business experience. More of a legal classification than a physical location, a regulatory sandbox is a space where businesses can play without following (most of the) rules. The objective is seeing whether the removal of restrictions produces innovative ideas and products.

Still, during the experimental phase, these sandboxes must respect basic regulations for public health, safety, and privacy. First, managers with public policy expertise must ensure that these essential regulations are followed during this phase. And when businesses transition out of the sandbox, managers must then confirm that they respect all relevant public policies.

8. Behavioral Economist / Policy Behavioralist

Those taking on this role work in many fields. As behavioral economists, they combine insights from economics, psychology, and/or cognitive science to analyze how people make decisions.

For instance, a policy behavioralist might work in the public health sector, analyzing data to evaluate a group’s potential response (acceptance? rejection? neutrality?) to a new vaccine policy.

In so doing, these policy experts might apply their analyses to help design interventions that positively influence human behavior. They could work to improve policy outcomes around pressing social issues, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Get Skills for Several Public Policy Careers.

Do these alternative public policy jobs sound fun? Fascinating? If they do, Michigan Tech’s Global Campus offers a versatile 9-credit Online Graduate Certificate in Public Policy that can add to/build on your current undergraduate degree.

This certificate consists of three, condensed, seven-week courses, which run several times a year.

  • The Policy Process (SS 5301): Offered Spring, Summer, and Fall 2024
  • Public Management (SS 5318): Offered Spring, Summer, and Fall 2024
  • Policy Analysis (SS 5350): Offered Summer, 2024

Because of this schedule, you can STILL start your certificate in Spring or Summer 2024 and complete it quickly.

Want to learn more about this certificate? Or how to get started on the application? Contact Dr. Adam Wellstead at awellste@mtu.edu.

Why Does Public Policy Matter?

Public policy experts at work in the government.

Public Policy Experts at Work in the Government

The dog license you must purchase; the sign on the road telling you to slow down in a school zone; the $325 fine your neighbor received for having an excessively large apple pile near his deer blind. Each one of these is a public policy. (Michigan’s DNR is pretty serious about its bait-pile fining, too. In fact, in 2018, several conservation officers used Google Maps to track down an apple pile that could be seen from space.)

The DNR-mandated size of a bait pile in Michigan is an example of a public policy.
A bait pile in Illinois (not the one seen from space).

How big is too big?

Well, there’s an answer for that: “Bait volume at any hunting site cannot exceed two gallons. Bait dispersal must be over a minimum 10-foot by 10-foot area.”

But this rule is just for Upper Michigan. Baiting, in fact, is banned in Lower Michigan unless hunters qualify for one of the exceptions.

And the size of the pile may vary between states.

Why do Michigan DNR officials hand out fines over bait piles? Well, excessively large bait piles cause an over-concentration of deer, which may then lead to other problems:

  • Disease Spread: Dense populations of deer can facilitate the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease that affects deer, elk, and moose.
  • Impact on Other Wildlife: Baiting may attract not only deer but also other wildlife species, disrupting natural foraging behaviors and leading to ecosystem imbalances.
  • Unnatural Behavior: Concentrating deer in one area through baiting can lead to unnatural behaviors and affect deer movement patterns, potentially making them more vulnerable to predation or accidents.
  • Management of Deer Population: Wildlife officials often aim to manage deer populations to maintain a balance with the ecosystem’s carrying capacity. Overly large bait piles might interfere with the effectiveness of population control measures.

Who Makes Policy in the US?

The above examples demonstrate that public policy is all around us.

Public policies specifically refer to the set of principles, guidelines, regulations, laws, and actions adopted and implemented by various government entities (school officials, city council members, DNR representatives, governors, etc.) to address specific issues or pursue particular goals within a society. A systematic approach to decision-making and governance, public policy aims to achieve desired outcomes, solve problems, or respond (or in some cases, not respond) to societal needs. And its scope is wide, touching on economic, environmental, health, and education areas, and more. Like deer hunting.

Because public policies exist at the municipal, state, regional, or national level, they may sometimes clash. Consider, for instance, the conflict between state and federal COVID-19 public policies during the pandemic. Or what would happen if you were a hunter who didn’t meet one of the exceptions and travelled down to Lower Michigan to set up your bait pile.

However, public policies should be distinguished from just policies, which are rules and regulations enacted by non-governmental representatives, such as businesses, universities, and so on.

How is Public Policy Created?

But public policy, despite having such a wide scope, is far from simple. There is significant critical thinking, planning, research, and legwork involved in public policy. And much of this legwork involves getting input from stakeholders: various members of the public and subject matter experts at all stages of the policy process.

First, those working in public policy must have a goal or objective (agenda setting). That is, an objective might be addressing social justice, public safety, pollution, the health of the deer population, and so on. And those creating policies (or advocating for their creation) must use a structured decision-making process. This process involves identifying issues, conducting research and analysis, and considering alternative solutions. The final objective is making decisions and creating a policy (formulation) based on the best available information. But these are just the first two steps in the policy process.

The six stages of the policy process:

  • Agenda Setting
  • Formulation
  • Adoption/Legitimation
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation
  • Policy Maintenance, Succession, or Termination

Source: Paul Cairney, Five Image of the Policy Process

However, Paul Cairney contends that the nice, clean cycle above is more of a metaphor than a realistic depiction of how REAL policy unfolds. Instead, the process is messy and confusing. In a blog from 2017, he offers other visual depictions of the policy making process.

Learn more about policy making and other topics related to public policy.

What is an Example of the Policy Process?

In July 2022, Dr. Adam Wellstead (MTU Department of Social Sciences and Director of the Online Public Policy Graduate Certificate) traveled to Queen’s University. His job was to set up a PIL (policy innovation lab) with Public Administration students at the Queen’s School of Policy Studies. The goal was analyzing and making recommendations about a problematic event rattling the local community: Queen’s homecoming.

Loud drunken parties, acts of public vandalism, and even episodes of couch tossing were regular features.

Afterwards, Dr. Wellstead and his team produced a 195-page report, which addressed various stakeholder perspectives and made recommendations. Or to put it another way, this report was meant to get this troublesome event on the agenda (Agenda Setting).

In other words, the report was just the beginning of the process. Getting a problem on the agenda does not mean that anyone is going to do anything about it. That is, after agenda setting, policies must be formulated, adopted, implemented, evaluated, as well as formalized, updated, or rejected. In other words, transforming policy goals into actions is a messy, iterative process involving the coordination between multiple agencies and stakeholders.

A party at the noisy Queen's homecoming, which necessitated a public policy intervention.
Couch tossing at the party during Queen’s homecoming, an annual event that required a public policy intervention.

There is a tremendous gap between public opinion and public policy.

Noam Chomsky

Improving the qualities of our lives should be the ultimate goal of public policies. But public policies can only deliver best fruit if they are based on reliable tools to measure the improvement they seek to produce in our lives.

Jose Angel Gurria

What Are Some Careers in Public Policy?

Therefore, it’s fair to say that those with public policy experience are needed in several fields. Below are some of the most common public policy careers.

  • Policy Analyst/Researcher: Your objective is to analyze data, conduct research, and provide evidence-based recommendations to inform policy decisions. You would most likely also evaluate other public policies.
  • Legislative Assistant: In this position, you would assist legislators in researching and drafting legislation, managing constituent inquiries, and coordinating legislative activities.
  • Government Affairs Specialist: As this type of specialist, you would advocate for the interests of an organization or industry to government officials and policymakers, often involving lobbying efforts. You’d also use your expertise to build relationships with key decision-makers and navigate the legislative process.
  • Public Affairs Specialist: Your role would be managing communication between organizations and the public, including media relations, public relations, and strategic communication in order to shape public opinion on policy issues.
  • Program Evaluator: In this position, you would assess the effectiveness and impact of public programs and policies, providing recommendations for improvement.
  • International Development Specialist: If you took on this role, you’d collaborate with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations to address global issues such as poverty, health, education, and environmental sustainability.
  • Non-profit Director: In this career, you’d focus on advancing the mission of the organization and addressing social challenges through policy advocacy, community engagement, and program implementation.
  • Consultant: Whatever your background, a knowledge of public policy will help you leverage your specialized expertise on several projects. For instance, civil engineers with policy experience often work as urban planners and environmental consultants.

Dive deeper into other public policy roles and opportunities that make an impact on the world. Discover the aptitudes, knowledge, and skills that are central to those in public policy fields.

Start Your Online Public Policy Program at Michigan Tech.

Nonetheless, these roles above comprise a selection of the most common public-policy careers. So look out for a future blog that will discuss the diverse and sometimes unexpected intersections between public policy and other disciplines. That is, as societal needs and technologies evolve, new and unconventional public policy jobs will likewise continue to emerge.

If you want to plan for the future AND make a difference by acquiring public policy skills, MTU has just the program for you.

Michigan Tech’s Global Campus offers a versatile 9-credit Online Graduate Certificate in Public Policy. It consists of three, condensed, seven-week courses, which run several times a year:

  • The Policy Process (SS 5301): Runs Spring, Summer, and Fall 2024
  • Public Management (SS 5318): Runs Spring, Summer, and Fall 2024
  • Policy Analysis (SS 5350): Runs Summer, 2024

Because of this schedule, you can start your online certificate in Spring 2024, complete it in record time, allowing you to put your public policy skills to work!

Want to learn more about this certificate? Or what you can do with versatile, in-demand public policy skills? Contact Dr. Adam Wellstead at awellste@mtu.edu.

In the meantime, (and if you want to go a little deeper), check out Dr. Paul Cairney’s awesome Politics and Public Policy Blog. Here, he graciously (and clearly!) unpacks several key public policy terms and concepts.

Also, you should know that deer hunting is still on, at least in Michigan; we’re in late antlerless firearm and archery seasons now. So make sure you remind your neighbors (and maybe yourself) about the mandated size of bait piles.

Online MBAs Grow in Popularity

Potential online TechMBA® students sharing data visualizations.

45,038 is the number of students enrolled in online MBA programs in the 2020-2021 academic year. For the first time ever, the online student population outnumbered the in-person full-time one (43,740). At last count, in fact, there were 1,095 online MBA programs offered by US higher-ed institutions alone. MTU’s TechMBA® ranks well among this crowd.

Why the rapid increase in both online MBA programs and enrollment? Well, one of the main reasons is that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the education game. At first, universities were forced to offer online and hybrid options. But then they kept rolling these out. In other words, the coronavirus crisis made both prospective students and employers more receptive of online programs. A New America poll also found that the belief in the quality of online learning actually increased by 16% during the pandemic.

Furthermore, 83 percent of the hiring executives in a CNN survey affirmed that an accredited online degree is as credible as an on-campus program. When it comes to online MBA degrees, a survey from the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy Fund had similar findings. That is, 71 percent of employers now view the quality of business degrees earned online as equal to or even better than traditional in-person programs.

So Why Earn MTU’s TechMBA®?

Back in July 2022, in my first blog, I introduced Michigan Tech’s newest online program: the TechMBA®. This program is still going strong. And there are several reasons for both its popularity and credibility.

Accreditation

Only 248 percentage of the 1,095 online MBA programs (less than 25%) offered by US institutions are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. MTU’s TechMBA® is one of these select programs. In other words, the TechMBA® is not only accredited but also respected by industry, business, and STEM professionals. In fact, MTU’s online MBA program regularly ranks as one of the top in the state.

Stem Focus

Michigan Tech’s online MBA is not just business (adminstration) as usual. The TechMBA® is also one of the 24% of US online MBAs that have a STEM focus. That is, MTU’s online MBA degree allows students to leverage their STEM backgrounds and technological competencies. Students develop the fundamental business administration, project management, and communication skills required for STEM-professional roles. These skills qualify graduates for leadership roles in their chosen engineering fields. Those who complete the TechMBA® program are also adept at taking on project management, technical sales, and entrepreneurship positions in STEM-related workplaces.

Flexibility

The US News reports that when it comes to in-person MBA programs, the average age of students is 27. For online programs, however, that age rises to 33.

And 91% of online MBA students even worked full time while pursuing their degree.

What these numbers mean is that online MBA programs, like the TechMBA®, attract older students seeking flexibility in their education. Online learning, for sure, does involve an adjustment period. But there is no need to relocate, readjust your schedule, or leave your job. (There is also no need to frantically dig out from a snowstorm only to arrive to class a late, sweaty mess.)

Smaller, Tighter Class Community

Online learning often means increased interactivity. Research has shown that online learning is as good as if not better than face-to-face instruction. When it comes to peer-to-peer interaction and discussions, online classes may even surpass the effectiveness of their in-person versions. And in a smaller program, such as that of the TechMBA®, there are even more opportunities to connect with peers and instructors. More opportunities to develop those communication skills that are central to leadership roles.

Career Advancement

As early as 2016, Fast Company reported on how several employers began increasing their education requirements. A later CareerBuilder survey revealed that this trend has continued. In other words, an advanced degree may help you not only get that job in the first place but also move up the corporate ladder more easily.

Then there is the matter of salaries. According to a study done by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, those holding advanced degrees may earn over 30% more over the span of their career than employees with only bachelor’s degrees.

Strong Return on Investment

Investopedia has noted that MBA graduates who specialize in consulting, finances, and technology management earn the most. And according to one Fortune article, the median salaries for those with MBA degrees are substantially higher than those without them.

The Corporate Recruiter Survey survey (Graduate Management Admission Council) also found that the median 2022 starting salary of new MBA hires was $115,000. And that salary, which is a historically high figure, doesn’t include the median signing bonus of $10,500.

And you also get that ROI faster with an MBA. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of federal student loan data found that 98 percent of MBA programs leave students with more manageable debt loads than graduates of other programs.

Other Benefits of the TechMBA®

The short list of why you might pursue an advanced degree, such as an MBA, includes the following: acquiring the necessary credentials, pursuing your interests, moving into more fulfilling, impactful roles, gaining additional job security,and increasing your compensation.

But there are other, more personal incentives. Whatever your current degree or desired career path, we’ve summarized some of the advantages for pursuing an advanced degree or earning an MBA degree.

Learn More About the TechMBA®.

If you’d like to learn more about the in-demand MTU’s online MBA degree, come listen to the experts.

That is, Mari Buche (College of Business), David Lawrence (Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education), as well as members of the Global Campus team will be holding a virtual interest session on the TechMBA®.

This online event will be on April 11, 2023, at 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM. Please bring your curiosity and your questions.

Michigan Tech + Stellantis: Collaboration and Innovation

Michigan Tech university students standing up and learning in one of the automotive labs at Stellantis.

(Writer’s note: this is a slightly revised, previously published article.)

Opening Up New Educational Pathways for Michigan Tech Students

The main initiatives of the Michigan Tech Global Campus are growing programs, promoting online learning, and raising awareness of Tech’s online offerings. Along with these, though, David Lawrence, Vice-President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, is always searching for additional opportunities. He strives to develop mutually beneficial partnerships between academia and industry. He seeks new educational pathways for all students, whether they are undergraduates or graduates.

Meeting these latter two goals is the main purpose of Stellantis’ PReP. PReP, or the Propulsion System Readiness Engineering Program, is an educational partnership between Michigan Tech and automotive company Stellantis. If you haven’t heard of Stellantis, it is a global company that comprises several European and American-rooted iconic brands. Its brands include, but are not limited to, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, Peugeot, and Ram. Stellantis is also a respected automotive industry leader. It aspires to be “the greatest sustainability mobility tech company” as well as a front runner in advancing technology for the mobility revolution. Several Michigan Tech alumni also work at this innovative organization.

PReP: Preparing Michigan Tech Students for the Mobility Revolution

PReP will benefit both Michigan Tech students and Stellantis. That is, students will acquire automotive systems knowledge, work experience, and applicable skills. The end result: having the necessary tools to transition into a Stellantis position, spring boarding their careers.

This program, targeted at incoming Michigan Tech Junior students, will supplement the last two years of their engineering degrees. That is, on top of their regular program courses, students will take both core (year three) and advanced courses (year four) that focus on vehicle electrification. For instance, some of the core courses in the first semester include Propulsion Architecture, Engine/eMotor, Transmission/Axle, Battery, Fuel economy/Emissions, Power Electronics, and Communication.

Along with attending weekly lectures from Stellantis propulsion experts, students will also get valuable hands-on experience. They will take facility tours, participate in teardowns, and have paid summer and senior-year internships. Through these experiences and mentorships with industry experts, they will develop communication, leadership, and professional skills.

Partnering with an Industry Leader

Michigan Tech’s mission is to strive to

create solutions for society’s challenges by delivering action-based undergraduate and graduate education, discovering new knowledge through research, and launching new technologies through innovation.

Michigan Tech Vision/Mission

Similar to Michigan Tech, Stellantis is also committed to developing advanced technology while promoting sustainability and transparency. Stellantis strives to balance financial and environmental needs. Its Dare Forward initiative (March 2022) further expanded and quantified these goals. That is, the company has pledged to increase its remote workforce, put more battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) on American roads, and reduce its carbon footprint by 50%. In other words, sustainability is not solely a buzzword for Stellantis, but similar to our university’s sustainability promise, part of its ongoing strategic initiatives.

Both Michigan Tech and Stellantis value diversity, equity, and inclusivity. Stellantis’ community of employees spans over six regions and comprises over 170 nationalities. And the company is not stopping here. It is also striving to create a more equitable workplace for women. In fact, by 2030, its goal is having women holding at least 35% of all leadership positions.

Applying to the PReP

The PReP program, which should start in Fall 2023, will be available to a limited number of Michigan Tech students who

  • are enrolled as either electrical or mechanical engineering majors
  • sophomores who have at least two years available in their degree program
  • have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA

Students must commit to participating enthusiastically in the program, attending all the lectures and events, and meeting other rigorous criteria.

Stay tuned for more announcements about eligibility and application.

And while you are here, please extend a big thank-you to the bridge-building and creative thinking of David Lawrence. In his role as Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, Lawrence is not only looking out for Michigan Tech’s online programs, but also the entire university community. When opportunity knocks, Lawrence does his best to be there, making sure our university is right there alongside him.