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A real-time laboratory for learning

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As my spring MPA capstone students were winding up their project reports, questions came up about whether and how to incorporate the real-time impact of the coronavirus crisis into the recommendations students had crafted for their clients. How could they offer any useful insights for their clients about how to address the problem under study in an uncharted pandemic-stricken world? It got me thinking about the opportunity we have to share with our students what Emory University calls “extraordinary lessons in an extraordinary time.”

Colleges and universities across the country are incorporating the coronavirus pandemic into a wide variety of curricula, from the obvious medical, public health, and biology courses to those in media and journalism, social work, environmental science, philosophy, law, mathematics, and history. There’s no doubt that the real-time laboratory in which we find ourselves is rife with lessons for almost any field but, in particular, it offers us an unparalleled opportunity to arm our public administration and public policy students with critical skills in public crisis management. I’m working to figure out how to adapt the coursework in my Fundamentals of Public Administration and Strategic Planning classes that will be offered this summer to draw on the lessons that are coming at us fast and furious every day.

We don’t have to start from scratch. There are resources and material already coming online that faculty can use to begin incorporating discussions of the impacts of the pandemic into their coursework. For example, NASPAA’s website provides links to several video lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and articles related to pandemic-related leadership skills, systems theory, complexity theory, government innovation, technology and data use, strategy, and other topics relevant to public administration. The Open Government Partnership website offers examples and case studies on the ways in which governments and citizens across the globe are tackling the fallout from the pandemic. The Education Commission of the States website is sharing information on federal and state legislative response to the effects of the pandemic on education.

And should you think that these real-time lessons and resources may not be important, consider the note we received from a student who is scheduled to start the online MPA this summer:

There are few times in life when we get complete confirmation that we made the right choice. Tonight I received that with my choice and the opportunity to attend this MPA program. I stayed up late researching for my City job, reading Alternate Care Site information/plans from many states, FEMA information, and Federal Laws on FEMA Direct Care/Funding, etc., as I have been assigned to the Emergency Management Team during this time. I am working on Food Security and Housing/Alternate Care Sites (ESF 6 and 14 in the Emergency Plan). I finished and had too much coffee so decided to drudge online to spend my extra energy (about 20 minutes) on the orientation course. In the first five minutes I found information related to COVID-19 via professional organization links and immediately sent information to my City email that will help myself and my co-workers tomorrow…. it almost made me cry. I have not even started classes yet and the USC family and USC excellence is helping the community I serve today, not when I graduate, today!!

Thank you to whom it may concern for your amazing commitment to this cause of Public Administration.

COVID-19 Update: State Policy Responses and Other Executive Actions to the Coronavirus in Public Schools

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