Partners in Policy

School of Public Affairs takes policy programming downtown

"There’s a critical need for higher education partners to be downtown."
—Örn Bodvarsson, Dean, College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies

Every neighborhood has that person who can fix things, offer solutions to problems and give helpful advice. When the capital of California seeks guidance, who better to ask than Sac State?

The University's location in the heart of state government provides state and local agencies the opportunity to capitalize on the knowledge of professors specializing in policy, government and public service, and the legislative leaders of tomorrow.

"I want the public to think of us as the go-to university for any policy-related services at the Capitol," says Örn Bodvarsson, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. "There's a critical need for higher education partners to be downtown."

Cue the Capital School of Public Affairs.

The new downtown school will bring the public policy elements of the College—curriculum, experiential learning, center expertise and public outreach—to a site convenient to the Capitol and to city and local legislative offices. Sacramento State will be the fifth university in the nation—and only one on the West Coast—with a satellite school or college devoted to public policy programming located closer to the State Capitol than the main campus.

Housing the College's four main centers—the Center for Collaborative Policy, the Institute for Social Research, elements of the Center for California Studies, and the higher education-focused Education and Insights Center—under one roof, the Capital School will promote a collegial culture and plenty of opportunities for collaboration. Bodvarsson says the four centers will continue to maintain their identities and separate operations, but have the added benefit to team up and tap each others' expertise when needed.

Capital School to strengthen alumni ties

Arianna Smith, MPPA ’13, legislative and communications director for Assemblymember Mark Stone, sees several advantages in the School being stationed in the backyard of the public policy industry.

"A student could work downtown in a policy-related job, interview a professor from the Institute for Social Research, have a quick chat about one of the competitive Capital Fellowship programs at the Center for California Studies, and go to class, all in one day," Smith says. "It would help bring students together where the policy decisions are made. A professor could allow students to choose an assignment to attend hearings, lectures or press conferences within their work schedule."

She also sees the Capital School as a supplement to strengthen alumni ties.

"I know many MPPA graduates who work in the public policy field, which is a testament to both the hardworking students and the high quality program," says Smith. "If the center was downtown, I certainly believe this alumni network would grow and become more active."

Bodvarsson adds state agencies and local government can also benefit from the accessibility to prospective employees, leading to internship possibilities that lay a foundation toward well-prepared government job applicants.

Former Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, who serves on the Capital School project's taskforce, says the Capital School will be a vital element in establishing Sac State as California's Capital University. In essence, it will be a recruiting tool for those interested in learning about, and shaping the direction of, the state.

"My hope and expectation is that when prospective students and faculty think about where to study and teach, the Capital School will be the symbol of the unparalleled opportunities afforded by Sac State," he says.

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