School of Public Policy Graduates Follow Their Passions
by Jocelyn Rappaport
More than 300 School of Public Policy (SPP) students will graduate in 2009, and many will either continue or start a career in public policy. Careers in academia and health care policy are two fields in which SPP graduates will follow their passions.
Paul Weissburg received his PhD in public policy in January 2009. With his dissertation titled "Shifting Alliances in the Accreditation of Higher Education: On the Long-Term Consequences of Delegation of Government Authority to Self-Regulatory Organizations," it's no surprise his passion is in higher education.
While working on his doctorate, Weissburg was a graduate teaching assistant for SPP's Introduction to Public Policy course taught by SPP Professor Lee Fritschler. "Assisting Dr. Fritschler with the course was a wonderful opportunity to develop my teaching skills and learn from one of the best," says Weissburg.
"Paul was an ideal teaching assistant," says Fritschler. "He taught me as much about teaching as he learned from me. He took his work seriously from preparation to fostering meaningful discussion in class to educating through the exam-grading process." The experience he acquired proved of great value. In August 2008, Weissburg received a teaching fellowship from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
After just one year of teaching at Augustana, Weissburg received a tenure-track position as an assistant professor in the college's Political Science Department, where he also heads the Public Policy and Administration Minor Program.
"Paul's initial interest in the history of accreditation of institutions of higher education blossomed into a genuine expertise in accreditation," says the chair of his dissertation committee, Professor Catherine Rudder. She notes that Weissburg is continuing his research and has developed a new course at Augustana that explores the effect of private decision making on the larger public.
Weissburg was drawn to SPP after the school was recommended to him by a professor at another school he had considered attending. The professor told him that Mason's School of Public Policy was outstanding and would probably best fit Weissburg's interests.
Weissburg believes it was his work as a research assistant that proved most useful to him at SPP. "Working for Dr. Fritschler and Dr. Rudder was often challenging in the best sense of the word. They were the ones who introduced me to the developing field of private governance, which I now teach at Augustana," says Weissburg.
"I have been extraordinarily gratified to watch Paul, who is a gifted teacher, become a creative researcher as well," says Rudder. "That he could land a tenure-track position at a noted liberal arts college in this economic environment speaks to his exceptional qualities."
David Zook, who is receiving a master's degree in public policy with a concentration in governance systems and policy management this May, was awarded the first Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) Rhonda Oziel Policy Fellowship. This one-year fellowship, named after an OCNA founder, was created to give graduate students who have a passion for public policy and health care reform a chance to be on the front lines advocating for change on Capitol Hill. Zook will work directly with the senior public policy director at OCNA to advance the organization's policy priorities, including increasing federal funds for ovarian cancer research, improving health care practice, and expanding the national ovarian advocacy movement.
"I am thrilled to be able to help advance OCNA's policy objectives while learning about the intricate relationship between advocates and Capitol Hill policymakers," says Zook. "To receive the first Rhonda Oziel Policy Fellowship is an extraordinary honor."
Zook received a bachelor's degree in economics and psychology from McGill University in 2006 and completed the international requirements for a master's degree at Oxford University in 2007. He cites SPP's focus on statistics, economics, and program analysis, as well as its location near Washington, D.C., as what attracted him to the school. Zook says he was impressed with SPP's multidisciplinary approach and the opportunity to meet students from a wide variety of backgrounds and careers.
"At Mason, I had the chance to learn with students who worked in the White House, as well as with students fresh from undergraduate degrees," Zook says. Working with a variety of students on group projects, he says prepared him for the coalition building and advocacy work he will perform at OCNA.
In 2008, Zook interned at OCNA's Public Policy Department because of his interest in health policy, regulation, and oversight. After the fellowship is completed, Zook would like to continue working in the field of health care policy.
James Greif contributed to this article, and a portion of it appeared in a slightly different format in the Mason Gazette.