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George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government

Accessible Program Empowers Future Policymakers with Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Opportunities


Justin Gest, Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

The future of responsible policymaking will depend on our leaders’ ability to understand complex new problems, says Justin Gest, associate professor and director of George Mason University’s Master of Public Policy Program. “It’s never been more important to help students from diverse backgrounds and knowledge sets develop the skills they need to enact real change,” he says.

Gest identifies three major hurdles facing future policymakers. The first is “the government’s ability to keep up with technological change,” ensuring regulation and equality as new advancements proliferate. The second is how states and multinational businesses collectively seek innovative solutions when confronted with global phenomena, such as climate change, pandemics, and migration. The last is assuring that democratic institutions “reinforce themselves against the forces that undermine their integrity: misinformation, science skepticism, corruption, and ethnic and religious nationalism.”

Our Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree is one of the most student-centered and customizable programs in the world. Students can go fast or slow. Full-time or part-time. In-person or online. And with dozens of subjects, students can build the credentials and the career they aspire to achieve.Justin Gest

George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government graduates are poised to address these challenges head-on with a multidisciplinary program that stresses critical thinking, clear communication, and evidence-based decisions, while providing students with room to explore and craft focus areas based on individual strengths and interests. Likewise, the school’s proximity to Washington, D.C., grants them exclusive access to leading public policy experts and professional opportunities post-graduation.

Gest and his colleagues take great pride in supporting Schar School’s diverse student population, made up of recent college graduates as well as mid-career professionals looking to transition. “Because students have so much freedom to chart their own path and careers, we make ourselves available for the guidance they may need along the way,” Gest explains. While earning a degree from a leading research university, students can also take advantage of low R1 tuition fees and flexible hybrid programming designed to allow students to earn a Master of Public Policy (MPP) without interrupting their career. Students also benefit from the cross-pollination of ideas between programs, which include biodefense, international security, and public administration.

Dedicated Professors Connect Students to Big Ideas and Professional Networks

Kathleen Sowder plans to be a program analyst to research political violence and the onset of civil wars in Francophone Africa. Her Schar School professors ensure that she’s not only well informed on issues threatening national security, but also connected to the people shaping policy. The school has hosted guest speakers from the National Security Council, CIA, World Bank, State Department, and Council on Foreign Relations.
>>>She credits Ronald Marks, a visiting professor, for giving her “the confidence to analyze modern science and technology issues and effectively provide policy recommendations on how emerging technologies are disrupting and enhancing national security decision making.” As a result, Sowder is looking at internships with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government
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