The LBJ School Dean's Certificate program, launched during the 2019–20 academic year, gives students an opportunity to earn an additional credential by exploring in-depth policy areas that are increasingly critical in the public affairs arena. The program combines academic knowledge, analytical skills and practical application to help give students a leg up. The certificates for the MPAff program are Data Science and Policy Analysis, State and Local Finance, and Cities and Urban Affairs.  

NEW! The Dean's Certificate in Cities and Urban Affairs launched in March 2023 

Dean's Certificate in Data Science and Policy Analysis (DSPA Certificate)

Today’s policy professionals are expected to have fluency in advanced data analysis to assess efficacy of public policies and inform designs of future policy. LBJ students have the opportunity to develop their analytical capacity through the DSPA certificate pathway.

The DSPA certificate requires students to pass at least three required courses and complete one individual data science project (DSP) that demonstrates proficiency in data science skills. Applicable skills gained include: fluency in modern data science software (e.g., Python, R, STATA), statistical or machine learning methods, how to process large datasets, and data summary and visualization.

This certificate is designed specifically for policy students, so no previous expertise in data science is required - only the aptitude to learn and work hard!

Review the DSPA certificate datasheet below for more information on the certificate requirements.  Please contact Dr. Varun Rai to learn more or pursue the certificate. 


Dean's Certificate in State and Local Finance

State and local governments in the United States are often the primary providers of public goods and services to citizens, funded through myriad government revenues often with the aid of financing from the capital markets. The increased demand for government services combined with the continued reluctance of the public to substantially provide greater resources have challenged these governments' finances. As a result, many state and local governments have turned to novel fiscal policies, emerging financial instruments and/or alternatives to public provision of their traditional activities. The changing nature in the way governments finance and provide their goods and services necessitates better financial acumen among both government finance professionals and private and nonprofit sector specialists that interact, assist and participate in government fiscal and financing activities.

The state and local finance profession has historically suffered a supply/demand problem. That is, there has consistently been a shortage of people with the requisite budgeting/finance/accounting skills to satisfy demand from public, private and non-profit employers. This supply/demand problem results in students who possess these skills to be highly marketable professionals. The jobs that require the skills acquired in this certificate program span all three sectors (public, private and nonprofit) and all three government levels (federal, state and local).

The Certificate in State and Local Finance is open to any degree-seeking graduate student at UT-Austin interested in government finance. It will be especially attractive to LBJ MPAff students as well as dual degree MPAff students enrolled in UT's business, community and regional planning, law and engineering schools. By completing this certificate program, all students will be able to:

  • Understand core public finance issues related to the way governments spend, raise and leverage taxpayer resources
  • Interpret and evaluate basic financial documents to begin assessing the financial condition of state and local governments
  • Evaluate the ways state and local governments access the capital markets to meet their infrastructure and operating budget demands
  • Create a specific project finance plan to address a government's capital or operating needs
  • Analyze how urban economies work and the impact of various policy interventions at the local level
  • Assess rationales for public sector policies and actions to promote local economic development


Dean's Certificate in Cities and Urban Affairs


Cities are our research and innovation hubs, centers of creativity and competitiveness, and where we come together to live, work, and build connections. By 2050, more than 75 percent of the world’s population will be city dwellers. The largest 100 cities already account for two-thirds of global economic output. The great metropolitan areas of the United States – the interconnected regions of urban cores, suburbs, and smaller outlying towns – account for 90 percent of the nation’s economic output.

Texas will grow by 40 percent in the next 30 years, topping more than 48 million residents. Our state already boasts an economy that is larger than Australia’s and is home to five of America’s 15 largest cities – Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth – as well as six of the U.S.’s 15 fastest-growing cities of any size.

And in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for racial justice, and growing equity divides, communities from all corners of the country are reexamining the resiliency of their local economies and the impact of their urban policies. For many places, recent events have revealed needs that can no longer be deferred: affordable housing, wealth creation, mobility, education, workforce development and more. Cities are evaluating old growth models and urban policies, acknowledging what did not work, and looking for new ways to improve city performance and build more inclusive, prosperous communities. Simply put, we are living in an era of city and community building and reimaging; more than ever before, cities are the organizing units of our time.

Learning Objectives

The Dean’s Certificate in Cities and Urban Affairs will offer LBJ students the applied skills, expertise, and insights they need to implement urban policy initiatives.

It will present a selection of courses that will teach students how to analyze urban policies, programs and projects across sectors and interconnected issues.

By completing this certificate program, all students will be able to:

  • Describe the relationship and interactions among land use, economic development policies, housing, infrastructure/ transportation, education, and more.
  • Catalog the critical assets and public policies that make a city a viable place for enterprise formation and growth.
  • Describe and guide policy given the unique social, economic and political challenges of cities including those related to governance, infrastructure, public health, public safety, social cohesion and cultural advancement.
  • Develop a framework for evaluating community competitive advantages and the effectiveness of economic development tools, such as incentives, policies, grant programs, and partnerships.
  • Establish a strong foundation of urban management competency and skills.
  • Create an urban management approach that balances the role of a manager between politics and policy implementation.

Career Possibilities

Approximately 65,000 professionals in the U.S. comprise the three largest associations associated with the practice of city building and urban policy: International Economic Development Association (IEDC), International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and Urban Land Institute. LBJ students who complete this certificate will become highly marketable urban policy professionals with opportunities that span the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Career outcomes DCCUA

Required Coursework

The Dean’s Certificate in Cities and Urban Affairs requires successful completion of five three-credit courses: three required and two electives.

Course Requirements

Students will complete three foundational courses: one in urban economics and policy, another in economic development and planning, and a final in urban politics and governance.

A student wishing to fulfill the certificate requirements need only take one course from each of the three areas below.  Two courses are listed in each area so that a student can complete either in fulfillment of the requirement.

Urban Economics and Policy
Cities and regions are the fundamental building blocks of today’s economy. These courses will provide students with the knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of urban economies: land use, economic development policies, housing and more.

  • PA 393L: Advanced Policy Economics: Urban Economics and Policy, OR
  • CRP 385C: Urban and Regional Theory

Economic Development and Planning
Today’s city leaders face complex and connected economic, social, and environmental challenges. These courses will offer students a framework for engaging communities on system-focused urban strategy initiatives and economic development planning.

  • PA 388K: Advanced Topics in Public Policy: Urban Economic Development
  • PA 388K: Advanced Topics in Public Policy: Sustainable Urban Economic Development Planning

Urban Politics and Governance
Urban affairs and management requires an understanding of the role of elected leaders, how they are elected, their duties, and how they work with other levels of government. The goal of this requirement is to help students understand how elected officials and managers govern in cities

  • PA 388L: Advanced Topics in Management: Urban Management, OR
  • PA 384F:  Advanced Public Management: Collaborative Governance

Elective Coursework

In addition to the foundational courses, students will select two elective courses from the following list, spanning the topics of transportation, civic engagement, public finance, education, housing, natural resources and more:

  • PA 388K: Policy Development: Transportation Policy Development
  • PA 388K: Policy Development: Urban Policy
  • PA 393L: Advanced Policy Economics: Economics of U.S. Person-Based Anti-Poverty Policy
  • PA 391F: Advanced Public Financial Management: Financing the State and Local Government Sector
  • PA 388K: Advanced Topics in Public Policy: City Consulting
  • PA 384F: Advanced Topics in Management: Mobilizing Community and Engaging Volunteers
  • PA 391F: Advanced Financial Management: Economic Development Finance
  • PA 384F​:​ Advanced Public Management​: Sustainability Science, Policy, and Governance
  • PA 680PA: Policy Research Project* (Client/ project should tackle an urban policy issue)
  • CRP 384-09/ PA 388K: Transportation Planning and Policy
  • CRP 384: Transportation Equity Analysis
  • CRP 384-1: Urban Transportation Planning
  • CRP 383: Environment and Natural Resources
  • CRP 384: Planning for Disaster and Resilient Cities
  • CRP 387C: Infrastructure Planning
  • CRP 388: Housing
  • CRP 386-9: Sustainable Land Use Planning
  • CRP 388/ SW 395K: Affordable Housing Planning
  • CRP 389C:  Land Use and Land Development
  • CE 389S: Smart Buildings and Cities
  • CE 391J: Transportation Planning: Methodology and Techniques
  • CE 392T: Transport Economics
  • SOC 394N: Seminars in Crime, Law and Deviance
  • SOC 396P: Seminars in Political Sociology, Development and Globalization (Topic 13- Housing Practices and Public Policy in Latin America, & Topic 16- Urbanization)
  • ELP 384F: Foundations of Educational Policy
  • ELP 384J: Policy Analysis in Education
  • ELP 384R: School, Family and Community Engagement
  • ELP 384V: Poverty and Education Policy
  • ELP 390P: Educational Politics and Policy

Substitute Elective Courses:

With the support of a faculty member, a student may propose a substitute ‘elective’ class, if the student will be graded at 40% or more on materials that address municipal, metropolitan, or regional economics, governance, planning or management topics. The faculty member will submit a syllabus to the faculty coordinator. Any decision on substitution as an elective class will reflect the course content and student expectations. 

Certificate Governance

The MPAff GSC must approve the creation of the certificate. Annually, the certificate coordinator will approve course additions to the course requirements, including eligible electives. Professor of Practice Steven Pedigo will serve as the inaugural certificate coordinator. Annually, the Associate Dean for Academics will appoint a certificate coordinator.


Steven Pedigo, LBJ School Professor of Practice and Director of the LBJ Urban Lab 

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What students say about the Dean's Certificates

"The Data Science & Policy Analysis certificate is an excellent addition to your Master's degree. It's a way to put some solid technical skills onto your resume, and gives you more options upon graduation. Best of all, you don't need to take much of a detour to complete the course requirements, since a number of courses can be combined to earn the certificate. It definitely requires some creativity and determination, and lot's of independent time spent learning the various platforms and programs, but I now feel comfortable using R, Stata, and GIS." 

Geoffrey Carlisle, MPAff ‘23


“Overall, the Dean's Certificate in Data Science and Policy Analysis (DSPA) was a challenging but rewarding way to apply my data skills learned in the classroom. The certificate is a helpful addition to my degree, as it demonstrates concerted and individual effort to acquire new data skills. During the interview process, my current employer asked about my experience conducting data analysis  and I spoke about my DSPA project and coursework.”

Nick Barracca, MGPS ‘21


"Throughout my DSPA certificate project, I was able to work closely with professor Von Hippel by learning new analysis methods such as difference-in-differences techniques, dealing with missing data, as well as improving my R coding skills. I have used this project as a writing sample for job applications, and have been successful in obtaining positions that involve data science and policy analysis."

Guillermo Dominguez Garcia, MPAff 2021