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.
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
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
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
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.