Why MPP?

Welcome to the University of California, Irvine Master of Public Policy Program (MPP)! As the Director of the MPP, it's fun to welcome new students.  As I do so this year, I’m awe-struck by how much we have accomplished in such a short period of time. We have wonderful momentum.

There are many metrics by which one can measure success and as I reflect on all we  (students, faculty, administration) accomplished over the last year, it is hard not to feel both humbled and proud of our successful launch of the MPP program.

Interest in our program has far exceeded our expectations so  it's  tempting to measure “success” in terms of the number of students we have enrolled in our first and second cohorts. However, our goal has never been to simply fill seats. Instead we have, and will continue to, favor quality over quantity.  It is only when I consider the academic excellence and the passion for policy-related topics that our students embody, that I can confidently label the launch of the MPP a wonderful success. 

Our inaugural cohort included twenty-one (21) students with diverse policy interests, including economic development, environmental issues, and health care--to name just a few! They matriculated from many locales, including California, Massachusetts, Texas, China, India, and Pakistan. And, they all share the traits we are looking for: The capability to excel in the classroom, in their summer internships, and soon, in their public policy careers. 

Each student in our inaugural cohort was successful in landing an exceptional summer internship placement, some in local economic organizations and others at the international level. A few examples of their placements include:

  • Public Policy Institute of California
  • San Francisco Bay Area Council
  • National Multiple Scleroses Foundation
  • National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
  • Innovations for Poverty Action (Mexico)
  • Agha Khan Foundation (Pakistan)
  • Ordos Development& Reform Commission (China)

Our students successfully competed for these placements against students from policy schools with a much longer history than UCI. The expertise of the faculty involved with delivering the curriculum is providing our students with the types of interdisciplinary training that are highly valued in the policy world.

As we prepare to welcome an equally stellar second cohort, they will no doubt keep the bar set high! The standard of excellence established by our inaugural cohort is now the baseline expectation for all who follow. Given that our new incoming class mirrors the academic prowess, passion, diversity and anticipation exhibited by our inaugural cohort, I cannot help but be excited to see how and where they will present their newly-acquired knowledge and skills in the world of public policy, within higher education and the world at-large.  We owe a great debt of gratitude to our first cohort in putting UC Irvine MPP on the map.  With the help of our incredible faculty, staff, and students, the program has rapidly transformed from a concept to a reality. 

With this in mind, you might be asking yourself, Why Here? Why Now?

Why Here? The role of “place” lies at the center of my academic interests. I'm fascinated by the ways in which "space" is turned into "place" to produce the context of crime and violence as well as public response to crime control challenges. I'm motivated by exploring such questions as: How do gang members navigate space, or how do they own space and how does this ownership impact where crimes occur? How do the social and economic conditions of place influence the spatial and temporal intersections of victim and offender? Answers to these and related questions reveal, time and time again, that space matters. And it doesn’t just matter in the realm of gangs and crime. Therefore, I enjoy telling you why I think UCI is the perfect PLACE for the MPP program. First, we start with an excellent geographic location, or "space." The diversity of both the natural and built environments, coupled with a multicultural population base that varies greatly in terms of social and economic status, offers a unique set of challenges in the creation and implementation of policy. This varied landscape highlights the need to create policies that carefully balance the competing interests of local constituencies. UCI’s geographic proximity to both Los Angeles and San Diego and our faculty’s existing relationships with local policy institutions will enable our students to access data, expertise, and learning opportunities. But it is how UCI transforms this space into welcoming places for interdisciplinary places that really matters! No one discipline, no one methodology, and no single analytical tool will give "the answer" so often craved within non-partisan policy circles. For me, interdisciplinary spaces—academic, policy, and otherwise—are the stomping grounds for innovation; and innovation is central to our future. As you get to know our faculty, you will quickly realize that the professors in both the School of Social Ecology and the School of Social Sciences truly embody an interdisciplinary approach to conducting policy-relevant research.

Why Now? Economic crisis. A divided political landscape. Civil unrest in Syria. In my three plus decades of adulthood, I've never witnessed so much social and economic upheaval. There are no easy solutions to the plethora of challenges we face. Therefore, in order to develop and implement local, state, or federal policy on domestic or international levels we have to be as smart and flexible as our challenges are daunting and intractable. Likewise, we need to be passionate decision makers and advocates. In addition to our interdisciplinary construct, the MPP at UCI embraces the importance of advocacy as a crucial tool in the development and implementation of effective public policy; accordingly, the program is committed to training the next generation of public policy professionals to introduce, promote, and protect viable public policy. We do not present advocacy as an “either/or” proposition. That is, our students will still receive rigorous training in the quantitative and qualitative methods needed to conduct sophisticated policy analysis.

Ultimately, only you can decide whether this is the education that best fits your needs and aspirations. But if you are looking for an academic environment characterized by accessible faculty, interdisciplinary, and passionate about creating, advocating and analyzing policy, then you owe it yourself to fully explore the MPP at UCI. As an MPP student, you will engage with faculty, staff, students, and community partners in ways that ensure you will have the opportunity to not only develop your policy expertise, but also help in shaping the structure of the program.

In welcoming and introducing you MPP and this website, it has been my goal to demonstrate my own passion and enthusiasm for policy-relevant research. Through my continued affiliation as an Adjunct Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation and my years of working in local, state and federal law enforcement in the development and enactment of crime control policy as a professor here at UCI, I hope that you will join me, and the other faculty, in trying to make a difference in today’s world.  

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments and I look forward to hearing from you!


George Tita
Director, Master of Public Policy
Professor, Criminology, Law and Society
Professor, Planning, Policy and Design