Faculty Spotlight: Paul Weinstein Jr.

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Paul Weinstein Jr.
Q: You have been the Director of the Public Management program for three years. What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?

A: My favorite part of the job remains interacting with students, particularly in the classroom. Too often taking on management responsibilities in academia means one has less opportunities to teach. Fortunately, I am still able to teach at least 1 to 2 courses a semester.

Q: In your opinion, what sets the MA in Public Management program apart?

A: The MA in Public Management is unique because it is a hybrid of Public Policy and Public Administration curricula. While some programs try to delineate between public policy and public management, we believe the two are inextricably intertwined and thus we require our students to become highly proficient in both disciplines.

Q: Do you have any advice for students interested in shifting their careers towards policy development and management?

A: There is a growing demand in government and the nonprofit sector for individuals who have both a broad understanding of policy issues – such as education reform, tax policy, and intelligence studies – along with real, tangible skills. These tangible skills include knowledge of financial management and accounting, policy evaluation techniques, economics, and quantitative methods. In the past if you needed these skills, you could learn them on the job. Today, in order to” get your foot in the door” at federal or state agencies, Hill offices, think tanks, and nonprofits, students need to be well-versed in these fields.

Q: Since you are also a part of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies faculty, what types of courses do you teach?

A: Twice a year I teach two Public Management core courses – Public Policy Evaluation and the Policy Process and the Capstone for Public Management. In addition, I also teach or have taught Presidential Policymaking, The Budgetary Process, and Government and the American Economy. Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, I lectured in public policy at Columbia University and Georgetown University.

Q: As a veteran of two Presidential Administrations, what is your favorite memory of working in the White House?

A: There are so many. The first time I briefed President Clinton in the Oval Office was something I will never forget. I also was the last person to brief Vice President Gore on a policy matter the day the Supreme Court announced its decision in Bush v. Gore (that is a tougher memory). Being around so many talented people, and being challenged every day, is something that still amazes me when I think about it. Flying on Air Force One was pretty sweet too.

Q: How have you applied your experience as a senior advisor to President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles) to your work as an educator?

A: The work I did for Simpson-Bowles is something of which I am incredibly proud. While the final product failed to gain the super majority needed to require a vote in Congress, we still got 60 percent of the vote and an equal number of Republican and Democratic Members to vote for the proposal, something pretty rare in Washington these days. The experience also gave me new insights into modern day policymaking, concepts I get to share with my students.

Q: You recently published a policy brief for the Progressive Policy Institute titled, “Give Our Kids a Break: How Three-Year Degrees Can Cut the Cost of College”. What led you to this research focus?

A: College and graduate school simply cost too much. I believe that institutions of higher learning and the student loan program are largely responsible for this. First, schools have been unwilling to tighten their belts and increase productivity, something most other industries have been forced to do. Second, the student loan program has enabled schools to raise tuition without penalty and students and parents to choose schools without the full consideration of price. Most higher education reform proposals would only exacerbate the problem. So I began looking to develop a policy concept that would actually roll back the cost of college without bankrupting most schools. Making a three-year degree the norm is the best (but not perfect) way to lower the price of tuition and ensure America’s higher education schools remain the top in the world.

Q: What are some key take-aways you hope people learn from your brief?

A: That the problem is not insurmountable, and that we have to recognize for most students, college is no longer the end of their studies as growing numbers go on to do some type of post-graduate work. As educators we must find ways to expedite the learning process and reduce the cost.

Q: What does the higher education system of 5-10 years from now look like?

A: That depends on whether we make changes now or later. But at some point the majority of colleges and universities will have to become leaner and more productive, or they won’t survive. That means fewer campus construction projects, higher teaching loads for faculty, fewer administrative services and positions, campuses in use year round, and in some cases a divestment of property as we move to a “less frills” model of higher education.

Q: Your program offers some courses online, what are your views on the shift towards online learning?

A: Public Management is primarily an on-the-ground program in Washington, DC, however we plan on offering a “lean” online path to a degree for those students who want that option. I believe that direct, in person education in a group setting is still the best way to learn. But online courses are valuable and growing in importance. Online learning gives educators a chance to offer greater flexibility to students who may be forced to relocate or to the student whose job responsibilities have increased. Online courses also allow us to provide a “Johns Hopkins” education to those who can’t (or don’t have the resources to) move to the Washington, DC area.

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