Graduate assistants currently are working with Ada County commissioners, Boise City, the city of Jerome and the Association of Idaho Cities
Dr. Jen Schneider
“Our students are generally interested in applying sophisticated research skills and technique to complex applied policy and administrative problems. Our focus is balancing public policy theory and applied research techniques to issues of public concern.”
– Dr. Greg Hill, associate professor
The Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration prepares students for senior level positions in public, non-profit and international organizations or positions in an academic or research setting. The degree provides a sound foundation in current administrative practices within the fields of public policy and management, and its students already are impacting all levels of local, state and regional government.
Imagine worrying that your personal political beliefs could cost you your job, or at the very least, kneecap your career. Doctoral candidate Matthew May is focusing his dissertation on whether Idaho’s political system causes public employees to disengage from the democratic political process.
“I’m exploring whether [partisan] policymakers use employees’ party affiliation as shorthand, like ‘should I listen to this person,’” explained May. “Does that actually happen? Or do state employees fear that could happen and self disenfranchise?”
May points out that the employees of the nonpartisan Legislative Services Office in the state capitol, an office that serves both Democrat and Republican legislators, have opted to recuse themselves from partisan primaries to avoid the appearance of political bias. The nonpartisan state Office of Performance Evaluations has similarly self-disenfranchised.
“I’m curious to know if it’s happened at other agencies,” said May, who plans to defend his dissertation this fall.
Sometimes the politics at play in the public arena are more subtle. Doctoral candidate Stephanie Lenhart is writing her dissertation on the Western states’ push to regionalize the electricity grid. “The western half of the electricity grid isn’t regionalized the way it is in most of the U.S.,” Lenhart explained. “The grid is transforming, thanks to renewable energies like wind and solar, and changes in technology.”
Idaho Power recently just agreed to join the regional market. However, organizing a regionalized system raises many questions, including “Who’s going to govern this market and make decisions moving forward?”
“What we’re trying to pull out in this case is, what are the kinds of social skills these organizations are using as they negotiate this process together?” Lenhart said.