Course Descriptions

  • MSPE 501: Introduction to Public Policy Public- resources are limited, and decisions regarding how to use these scarce public resources must be informed by an understanding of how well public programs and policies produce their desired outcomes. This course will introduce students to concepts, research questions, and important readings in the study of public policy. The course will cover topics on the formation and implementation of public policy in the United States and in a cross national and comparative perspective. An introductory course such as this one typically aims to acquaint students with the breadth of work in the field at the expense of depth. The focus is on acquainting students with some of the classics in the field as well as highlighting current controversies in each area.

  • MSPE 502: Applications of Program Evaluation: Criminal Justice- This course introduces students to the program evaluation literature in the area of criminal justice. There are reform projects underway at every stage of the American criminal justice system. Understanding the impact of these reforms is crucial for the future of criminal justice in the United States. We will study policies and interventions at various stages of criminal justice, from policing to reintegration.

  • MSPE 503: Quantitative Methods for Program Evaluation + Lab- This course provides an in-depth introduction to the methods of program evaluation. The associated lab provides concrete examples for the students to gain practical experience in applying these methods. The methods presented will include: Randomized Controlled Trials, Instrumental Variables, Difference in Difference, Propensity Score Matching and Regression Discontinuity Design.

  • MSPE 504: Applications of Program Evaluation: Labor Markets- This course introduces students to the program evaluation literature in the area of labor markets. Students will critically read existing evaluations of labor market policies and evaluate for various types of validity and for generalizability, draw on methodological best practices and apply empirical tools to their own evaluations of labor market policies, identify and access important datasets commonly used in influential employment-related research, and discuss with policy professionals the salience, outcomes, workings, and broader context of a variety of public programs designed to improve labor markets.

  • MSPE 505: Microeconomics for Policy Evaluation- This course will introduce students to economic principles and tools relevant for policy analysis. The course covers topics such as household decision-making, the economics of information, risk and uncertainty, markets and market structure, externalities and other types of market failure, behavioral economics, game theory, and welfare economics. Students will see how the application of economic theory to policy questions informs and guides social policy analysis.

  • MSPE 506: Applications of Program Evaluation: Health- Public health and healthcare service delivery play a crucial role in shaping population health and in influencing health systems at the federal, state, regional, and local levels. The ability to systematically and critically assess the health program evaluation literature is requisite for understanding how to identify and implement effective, evidence-based legislation, policies, and reforms. This course will provide a framework for analyzing the evidence base for public health programs and interventions can impact health policy and affect the health of populations and individuals.

  • MSPE 508-:Applications of Program Evaluation: Early Childhood and Youth Development- This course introduces students to the program evaluation literature in the area of early childhood education. In recent years, significant investments have been made in increasing and improving early learning opportunities for children. The course will provide students with an understanding of the evidence on the extent to which early childhood education program offerings have long term impacts on later success. It will examine the policy contexts of early childhood education and discuss the importance of using evidence in driving decision making at all policy levels, from school districts to the U.S. Department of Education.

  • MSPE 510: Developing Research-Practice Partnerships- This course will prepare students to work in partnerships with policy makers and practitioners. The emphasis will be on partnerships within education, including significant participation from local school districts.

  • MSPE 512: Laboratory Coding, Software, Data Collection Methods- This lab course introduces students to relevant programming languages and enhances their knowledge of statistical software packages.

  • MSPE 513: Practicum I- The practicum project asks students to integrate and synthesize many components of the curriculum by undertaking a major policy evaluation project of value to an external client from the Texas Policy Lab, HERC or other university research center. During the project, students engage in the entire process of solving a real-world evaluation project. Students will produce IRB documents, write a literature review, clean data and propose an analysis.

  • MSPE 514: Practicum II- A continuation of MSPE 519, the student will perform their proposed analysis and write a final report. The report must address both the strengths and weaknesses of the analysis and clearly state the conclusions that can be drawn.