Meeting emerging needs in public affairs

SPEA’s IUPUI campus responds to societal shifts with innovative new programs

A view of the IUPUI campus

In the 40 years that IU SPEA has been in existence, many aspects of public affairs have been transformed, from the communications technology to the theories and methods behind security efforts at the local, state, and federal levels. SPEA’s IUPUI campus is responding to these societal shifts with innovative programs that equip today’s graduates with the skills for 21st-century leadership.

Media and Public Affairs

Believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., this new undergraduate program combines SPEA studies with courses in journalism, informatics, and political science to give public affairs students the tools to communicate in the digital age. The program began this academic year and leads to a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs. Sheila Suess Kennedy, director of public affairs programs at IUPUI, says the Media and Public Affairs degree gives students the theoretical and practical grounding to operate in a rapidly evolving communications landscape.

“We are asking questions that aren’t just geared toward one particular technology,” she explains. “We want students to understand the ways in which people get their information and the consequences of this incredible morphing of media for public management. It’s not just about teaching students how to use Twitter, it’s about giving them a very broad interdisciplinary understanding of the basic landscape of media, so they know where to look for the skills they need as the platforms keep evolving.”

The program started as a single “Media and Public Affairs” class about ten years ago, Kennedy says. At that time, she and former Journalism Dean Jim Brown were concerned about public affairs students and journalism students failing to comprehend the connections between their respective fields. “The point was to get journalism students to understand that what they decide to report on has an effect on public policy, and to help public affairs students understand what journalists think is news and how reporters make those decisions,” she says.

By the time Brown retired in 2010, however, “We didn’t even know what media was anymore,” Kennedy says. “We realized at SPEA that we needed something more than our original concept of helping public affairs students and journalism students understand each other. It used to be that the press was the vehicle through which public managers communicated – if you had something to announce, you called a press conference. But at this point, people are getting their information any number of ways, and students going into public policy need to know how to communicate in an environment that is dramatically different from everything that came before.”

The program includes courses like “Digital Paradigm Shift: Effects on International Culture and Society,” offered through the School of Informatics; the School of Journalism’s “Media as Social Institutions”; political science coursework including “Voting, Elections, and Public Opinion”; and SPEA classes in government, law, and civic engagement. Kennedy explains that the program gives students a firm grounding in democratic processes before examining how information delivery affects the operation of public affairs.

Sarah Coomer, a sophomore, transferred from IU’s Columbus campus in order to pursue the Media and Public Affairs degree. She plans to pursue a position as a media director for a nonprofit, but says the degree will give her great flexibility as her career evolves. “I’m glad SPEA offers this program because it is so versatile,” she says. “There are many different career choices that can come about with this degree and I’m not going to be held down into one path after I graduate.”

Kennedy concurs, pointing out that many types of employers are looking for people with the skills the new degree provides. “There are a lot of jobs available for people who understand the interaction between public affairs and new media,” she says. “This is something you can’t outsource.”

Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Public Safety

Now in its second full year, the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Public Safety (MSCJPS) offers a graduate–level integration of prevention, correction, and rehabilitation management geared toward front-line careers. “This program deals with the substance of criminal justice and public safety while retaining SPEA’s focus on management,” says Tom Stucky, the program’s director. The MSCJPS is the first program in Indiana to offer a graduate degree in public safety. While the school has long offered a Criminal Justice concentration for its Master of Public Affairs degree, tailored to high-level management, the MSCJPS is instead concerned with the procedures and policies affecting day-to-day operations.

“We were seeing a lot of mid-career people that were looking to move up, but didn’t necessarily need courses in budgeting and finance,” Stucky says. “The MSCJPS offers them a 36- hour program, rather than the 48 hours required for the MPA, and focuses on the information that’s relevant to mid-level management.”

MSCJPS students complete coursework in planning, management, law, research, and data analysis, along with an experiential component that can be achieved through an internship or existing employment in the field. Although the program offers separate tracks for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, many classes are combined to offer a broader perspective on security issues.

“A lot of times what you’ll have with practitioners is a very focused approach to their immediate demands – putting out fires, if you will,” Stucky says. “We hope to help them take a step back and look at what’s happening not just within their organization but across organizations and the criminal justice and public safety fields. That way they are not just stuck in their silos, and they can be exposed to people outside their own area who are dealing with some of the same questions in a different way.”

To accommodate working professionals, courses are offered online and in intensive formats that take place during a single week or in a series of weekend workshops. Stucky has also found, however, that many students are enrolling directly after completing undergraduate studies. The program’s close ties with Indianapolis and Marion County public services are particularly beneficial for these students, who can take advantage of internship opportunities.

Nathan Zaugg is one such student who came directly to the program after completing his bachelor’s degree. Because he transferred from the MPA program, Zaugg became the first MSCJPS graduate last May. A former Marine, he started college at the age of 27, majoring in criminal justice at IUPUI. The MSCJPS was a perfect fit, he says, because he was equally interested in law enforcement and re-entry.

“Having a master’s that covers both criminal justice and public safety was great for me,” he says. “The synthesis of all the different components really helped shape my career aspirations, and the critical thinking skills are enabling me to fulfill them.”

Zaugg is now a program manager for Public Advocates in Community re-Entry (PACE) in Marion County, currently administering a Second Chance Act grant that assists people transitioning out of correctional supervision. Though he emphasizes his excellent preparation through the MSCJPS, he also points out that his professors have continued to support him beyond graduation.

“After I put together the materials for the program, I asked my professors Roger Jarjoura and Crystal Garcia to look them over,” he says. “I think it’s pretty incredible that they didn’t just help me in school but are now helping me use what I learned.”

Certificate in Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Stucky also oversees SPEA’s new 15-credit-hour certificate in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The only such program in the state and one of very few in the nation, this interdisciplinary certificate offers graduate students specialized preparation for working with federal-level services. Required courses are “Crisis Management for Public Safety,” “Risk Analysis for Public Safety,” and “Homeland Security,” with electives offered in mapping, planning, law, and program management.

“For a lot of public management organizations, it’s important to have somebody on staff who understands how the federal emergency management system works,” says Stucky. “Every hospital and every local government, for instance, needs someone who can provide that interface in the event of a disaster.” Graduates who obtain this credential, he notes, are at a distinct career advantage because of its relative rarity and high demand.

Title image: Right and Wrong; A Thorny Issue on the Web

Armed with laptops and smart phones, the students in Prof. Beth Cate’s classes know how to search. They can find information in an instant to help with their studies and in their free time they can find entertainment just as speedily. “Young people grow up getting everything they need with a few easy clicks,” Cate says. That’s the root of a problem that bedevils Congress, Hollywood, and data regulation experts like Cate. Her specialty at SPEA is the jumbled intersection of law and technology. Her mission is getting students to think about right and wrong when it comes to those easy clicks – in particular, what online material they should pay for, what should be free, and what the law and technology should allow in terms of blocking access to material or tracking and punishing copyright violations.

The issue of how best to combat online theft without crashing the internet and halting valuable information sharing most recently surfaced with the brouhaha over now-familiar acronyms. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) aimed to stop rogue websites around the world that offer unauthorized content. They were quashed by opponents after a coordinated campaign of Internet black-outs and boycotts. They argued SOPA and PIPA were sledgehammers that would restrict free speech and innovation and “break the Internet.” They urged Congress to develop a scalpel instead.

Now there’s a new acronym, OPEN. The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act sets up the International Trade Commission (ITC) as the enforcer against copyright infringement. Creators who see their material lifted by foreign websites could ask the ITC to take action. As that bill winds through Congress, other developments there and in court may dramatically shape rules about how we access books, music and movies. “This is an area of policy our students and alumni should really engage with,” Cate says. “If we care about continued availability of great content, we should pursue policies that help to promote smarter and fairer markets.” Few are as engaged or as knowledgeable as Cate.

With a Harvard law degree, Cate has years of experience around the courtroom and classroom. Now an associate professor at SPEA, she came to IU in 1998 representing the University in legal battles as associate general counsel. That forced her into the role of defense lawyer when the music industry first sued IU for not blocking illegal downloading by students, and then sent the University dozens of subpoenas seeking student records when the industry shifted its litigation sights to the students themselves. She spent countless hours on the phone with students, parents, and industry lawyers. The industry’s approach in those earlier controversies is instructive in the current dispute over online infringement, Cate says.

The industry solution to protect online content should be a mix of big carrot and some stick. Inexpensive access to entertainment is the carrot, and is part of an ongoing “informal conversation,” Cate says, between entertainment producers and customers: “What’s the price point at which you’ll no longer steal stuff?” iTunes, Hulu, and others offer quality content conveniently while still enabling payment to creators. Reports suggest this is decreasing illegal downloading. At the same time, certain sites continue to permit and promote unrestricted sharing of copyrighted works so the industry is pushing for more stick. Proposed laws like OPEN, despite their flaws, could help.

There’s another side to this, though, and here Cate transitions from lawyer to teacher. She speaks on- and off-campus about when it’s right to use copyrighted material without owner okay – such as for many scholarly uses – and when it isn’t. “People often don’t stop and think, does it matter to the artist if I take this without paying for it,” Cate says. “They think they’re just keeping money from a big record label or movie studio that’s getting fat at the expense of artists, but it’s more complex than that. This is how artists make their living.” At the same time, the industry needs to hit a more balanced note in their approach. “They can’t just demonize someone who illegally downloads content as a pirate or a thief, or ignore other values and rights regarding creative works.”

In short, Cate says, content creators need to think before they complain and consumers need to think before they click. That’s easy enough and it doesn’t require an acronym.

Prof. Cate is a fellow in the IU Maurer School of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property Research, and currently writing an article on the impact of changes in patent and copyright law on higher education.