Data Analytics for Public Policy

The Maxwell School’s MPA program is recognized as the leader in the field of public management and policy analysis. Employers demand their employees have equally the ability to manage people and the skills to analyze modern data. Our MPA program has long contained both strong management and strong analytic components. 

Expertise in extracting, storing, and managing data, as well as an understanding of ways in which data can be analyzed to inform government decision making is increasingly in demand by public sector employers. Recent expansions to our coursework in Data Analytics for Public Policy will make employer demand for our MPA graduates in this field even stronger.

Data Analytics and Public Policy coursework prepares students for careers applying data science and data analytics to critical public policy issues. Future policymakers and managers also will gain familiarity with the governance and policy challenges raised by expanding use of big data, cognitive assistance technologies, and algorithmic decision making.

New technologies are generating tremendous amounts of real time data. Computer algorithms and sophisticated metrics are increasingly used to help convert these data into information that is useful for governmental decision making. In addition, the availability and sensitivity of these data, as well as the increasing reliance on algorithms to drive decisions, raises a host of public policy issues that governments need to address.

As emerging technologies and data continue to present public policy challenges and opportunities, public policy practitioners will need to develop advanced skills in managing and analyzing large amounts of data and must also gain familiarity with the policy and governance issues raised by the use of new technologies and forms of data. 

PAIA Courses

PAI 724: Data-Driven Decision Making with Professor Matt Young

  • Performance measurement and management
  • Introduction to R & Python
  • Data management
  • Data visualization

PAI 774: Public Policy & Program Evaluation with Professor Colleen Heflin

  • Outcome logic models
  • Validity and measurement
  • Research design
  • Implementation evaluation
  • Qualitative data collection

PAI 789: Policy and Decision Analysis with Professor Peter Wilcoxen

  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Decision Analysis
  • Linear programming
  • Policy simulation

PAI 793: Public Sector Predictive Analytics with Professor Len Lopoo (new in Fall 2020)

    Focus on understanding and use of predictive modeling using automated tools, including:
  • Predictive modeling
  • Machine Learning
  • Data mining
  • Classification methods, decision trees, random forests

Related Courses

Maxwell School

GEO 683: Geographic Information Systems
GEO 684: GIS for Urban Environments
GEO 687: Environmental Geostatistics

Syracuse University School of Information Studies

IST 664: Natural Language Processing
IST 718: Big Data Analytics
IST 719: Information Visualization
IST 736: Text Mining

Alumni Careers

The skills and knowledge that students will develop in the Data Analytics for Public Policy coursework are applicable to varied careers in local, state, and federal government, think tanks, consulting, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Past students who have completed coursework in Data Analytics for Public Policy hold positions at:

  • The World Bank, Data Scientist
  • US Office of Management and Budget, Senior Policy Analyst
  • NYC Department of Education, Director of Data Analysis
  • US Government Accountability Office, Senior Data Analyst
  • The Behavioral Insights Team, Associate Advisor
  • Maxwell X-Lab, Co-Founder and Managing Director
  • UN Women, Policy Specialist, Research and Data
  • Development Initiatives, Analyst
  • University of Chicago Poverty Lab, Senior Data Associate

The Faculty

Colleen Heflin, Professor, Public Administration and International Affairs.   Dr. Heflin is a leading expert on welfare policy and the well-being of vulnerable populations. She has received millions of dollars in grants to support her research from agencies including the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Len Lopoo, Maxwell Advisory Board Professor of Public Policy.  Dr. Lopoo is director of the Center for Policy Research, and the Director and co-founder of the Maxwell X Lab at Syracuse University. He has served for 10 years as the social policy co-editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.  Dr, Lopoo is the recipient of numerous awards for his research and teaching, including the Birkhead-Burkhead Teaching Excellence Award, a Meredith Professors Recognition Award, and the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize.

Peter Wilcoxen, Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, an Ajello Professor in Energy and Environmental Policy, and a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence. He also serves as Director of the Maxwell School's Center for Environmental Policy and Administration. Dr. Wilcoxen’s principal area of study is environmental economics and he has expertise in the development of economic simulation models. He has won several teaching awards including the Birkhead-Burkhead Teaching Excellence Award and the Leslie A. Whittington Excellence in Teaching Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). 

Matt Young, Assistant Professor, Public Administration and International Affairs.  His primary research interests include public management; public sector innovation and technology; and social justice.  He has experience working as a data scientist on an NIH-funded grant project and over ten years of experience in hardware and software technology startups, and consulting.