Find out what RIT Liberal Arts graduates are doing
Public Policy
  by Glenn Bernius
A look at a new liberal arts program
Life after graduation
  by Andrew Quagliata
How do our grads adapt?
CLA teaching styles
  by Eileen Shannon
Students' and teachers' similar styles.
Trial run
  by Alison Liwush
An application of classroom knowledge
Experiencing criminal justice
  by Heather Savage
A solid program
The psychology club
  by Marci Savage
Reaching the community
Helping hands
  by Will Pendlebury
The Liberal Arts Support Department
Rochester Institute of Technology
College of Liberal Arts
Introducing public policy
by Glenn Bernius
Last September, RIT history was made when CLA initiated a new academic major dubbed public policy.

"Recognizing the manner in which innovations in science and technology change the ways we conduct business, educate ourselves, define our communities, and anticipate the future, the degree program draws significantly from disciplines and courses of study located in the other colleges," according to Professor Ann Howard, interim chair of the program.

The specific colleges she is referring to are the Colleges of Science, Business, and Applied Science and Technology. This program is to be offered on both an undergraduate and graduate level, in addition to featuring a five-year BS/MS option.

  Sheltered beneith the College of Liberal Arts, Jeff Clark (right) talks to a prospective student about RIT.

Along with the creation of any new degree, there naturally comes a need for enrollees. The first public policy student to matriculate is Jeff Clark. He places himself in the unique role that is part poster boy and part guinea pig.

While such a situation might seem daunting to many, Clark accepts it with open arms, eagerly taking on any responsibilities that accompany his unique status. "It is very exciting to be part of a program on the threshold," he said. And, though he admitted there is a part of him that "fears the unknown," he added that such reservations subside as he gets to see "the program take shape."

Already, Clark has taken a part in this "shaping," spending his winter quarter in classes required for the program. For those 10 weeks, his course schedule consisted of science, technology and policy, American politics, environmental issues, and economics. For spring, he has continued to take courses in those disciplines while also enrolling in a public policy course, the first in a series of five required of all students in the major.

Sheltered beneith the College of Liberal Arts, Jeff Clark (right) talks to a prospective student about RIT.

Such a diverse course load is fairly typical for the public policy student. Howard described the major as a unique hybrid of technology, liberal arts, and science. "The inderdisciplinary and inter-collegiality are the program's greatest strength," she says.

It is this same strength that much of the program is structured around. For instance, public policy students select a concentration of courses in one of two areas: environmental policy or information and communications policy. It is also this strength that makes public policy particularly appealing to Clark, wooing him from Boston University back to RIT where he began his college experience a few years earlier as an engineer. During those early years, he was skeptical of the emphasis the school placed on technology over the arts. After a stint with the career decision program, one he said was invaluable in helping him to decide on a career pathway, he left the campus.

Upon his return, Clark found his opinion regarding RIT's technology-driven atmosphere to be solidified. That is, with the exception of the public policy program.

"It is impossible to have technology without social impacts," he said. "Public policy speaks both the language of technology and the arts. It takes a qualitative and quantitative analysis of situations and problems and seeks the best solution using those methods."

Howard certainly agrees. "Policy responses too often lag well behind the introduction and diffusion of technological advances. In addition, existing policies may serve as barriers to innovation or may limit the potential benefits associated with new scientific understanding or technological innovations. Building from our strengths, RIT can be in the forefront as a generator of new ideas and thinking in applied science, technology and policy studies," she said.

Clark is working to spread the word regarding the public policy program, pitching the major to most every student he comes in contact with. It does not appear that he will need to work too hard on that front, though, as the program begins to catch on. Spring quarter has seen two additional people enrolling, one under-graduate and one graduate student. Another graduate student has already made a commitment to enroll (it is too early to determine undergraduate enrollment for the fall). The goal in five years, according to Howard, is to have 20 new undergraduates each year.

By that time, Jeff Clark will have received his diploma, very likely to be the first of its kind awarded to any student at RIT. Although he may be unsure of whether he will seek employment with the government, private industry, or a non-profit organization, Clark is certain that he will be working to unite the many issues each one of those three faces, showing people that the whole is indeed greater than its many parts.


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