LBJ School Dean's Certificate Program | The University of Texas at Austin

MPAff — LBJ School Dean's Certificate Program

LBJ School Dean's Certificate Program

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 inaugural certificates for the MPAff program are Data Science and Policy Analysis and State and Local Finance.

LBJ alum Taylor Lewis (MGPS '20)

Taylor Lewis (MPAff '20), was one of the first students to earn a Dean's Certificate in State and Local Finance. He called it "the best decision I made as an LBJ student."  

Dean's Certificate in Data Science and Policy Analysis

The recent explosion of "Big Data" has led to a rapidly expanding market for graduate degree holders with data analysis and modeling skills, not only in the private sector, but also in government organizations and nonprofits. Many LBJ students are interested in options that allow them to acquire these new analytical skills at the LBJ School, in a format that will provide them with a clear pathway into these new jobs. The Dean's Certificate in Data Science and Policy Analysis is an exciting new opportunity that assists our graduates in finding great employment opportunities after graduation.

The DSPA Certificate has a unique, innovative structure designed to certify acquisition of a particular set of data science skills and demonstrate to prospective employers that the certificate recipient can apply those skills in defining, organizing and executing an original data science project. It does not require completion of a particular fixed selection of courses. Selection of the three approved courses in which those skills can be acquired is flexible by design, and can utilize both qualifying sections of advanced methods classes or qualifying sections of policy-oriented classes with an empirical analysis project component. Recipients of the LBJ DSPA certificate must also complete an original, individual data science project demonstrating proficiency in all required skills.

A total of three approved courses must be completed which, collectively, demonstrate competence in the following five skills:

  • Use of a modern data science software platform for empirical data analysis
  • Demonstrated knowledge of current methods of acquiring, merging and cleaning multiple sources of unprocessed digital data; knowledge and use of principled methods to deal with missing, miscoded and outlier data
  • Ability to create compelling and effective summaries and visualizations of large-scale data sets;
  • Demonstrated proficiency in application of statistical models or machine learning methods to the analysis of empirical data sets using software tools
  • Successful completion of an original, individual policy analysis project using statistical and data science tools applied to a real-world empirical dataset, demonstrating proficiency in all the above skills

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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

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