“Data to Policy”

Course Description: Regardless of your interest or field, data is essential to public managers on a daily basis. Through readings, lectures, casework, guest speakers, and field visits, students will be immersed in both the successes and limitations of this pioneering tool that has reshaped public policy.

From smoke-filled back rooms to data-filled dashboards, public policy has come a long way. Indeed, these days, data are used at all levels of government to get things done.

“Regardless of your public policy interest—safety, transportation, health care, opioid addiction, municipal management, flood prevention, or any other issue that touches constituents—one of the essential tools in decision-making is data,” said Professor Doug Gutro. “And unlike 20-30 years ago, we live in a time of openness and transparency. So more data are available than ever before for public administrators.”

Gutro’s “Data to Policy” course gives students a front-row seat to learn how entities at every level—federal, state, local, even NGOs—use data to drive public policy decisions. The class focuses on real-world experiences, with guest speakers from MassDoT, the state of Colorado, the town of Somerville, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

The class even got to see the data dashboards that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh he uses in real time during a visit to his office. “We learned how he looks at those dashboards, makes phone calls, and changes policies based on the data,” said Gutro, something the students found really interesting.

“It’s been valuable to meet and have conversations with current and former public officials,” said Jeff Powalisz, MPA ’18. “Whether at the 311 Center in Boston City Hall or meeting with a former staff member of the US Department of State, we’re hearing about government projects directly from those who helped implement them.”

“Understanding the Amazing Boston Economy: A Roadmap”

Course Description: This course explores the fundamental drivers of the greater Boston economy and is designed to give students a full appreciation of the dynamism and emerging economic potential in the Boston job market.

According to Professor George Donnelly, Suffolk University probably has more work/internship/co-op opportunities within walking distance of its campus than any other institution in the country.

Part of that, of course, is the University’s “heart of downtown” location. But another reason those opportunities are so plentiful is that Boston’s economy is absolutely booming. And the reasons for that are lost on most students.

“As a guest lecturer in other courses, I found that most students didn’t really understand where they were,” said Donnelly, explaining the origins of the class. “They knew where landmarks were and how to get from A to B. But they didn’t have a sense of the local economy. That’s especially important at an undergraduate business school based in the heart of Boston.”

The course shows students what’s happening in the area’s different sectors, companies they should pay attention to, what the start-up community looks like, and what drives the Boston economy. Students then drill down on a company where they might someday want to work and present their findings.

The class is a little bit of career development, a little bit of “Boston 101,” and mostly a way to educate students about a hugely important part of the place they live when they’re at the Sawyer Business School.

“Even though I was already familiar with Boston's economy, it offered a good refresher to the industries that make up our city, the key players, local companies, and start-ups in the area,” said Lane Sutton, BSBA ’19 “It was good to understand the local aspects of business in the city where we study and how we can engage.”

“Emotional Intelligence”

Course Description: This course introduces learners to the concepts of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Learners will assess their own EI, examine how their EI impacts their performance in the workplace, and develop a plan to improve their own emotional intelligence.

Most courses try to change how you think. Professor Suzyn Ornstein’s “Emotional Intelligence” course tries to change how you feel.

The premise is simple: if you can understand and control your emotions—especially in a professional situation—you can more effectively accomplish your goals.

“This course is really a left-brained analytical approach to identifying your thoughts, systematically looking at them, and determining if they’re accurate or distorted,” said Ornstein. “Emotions are contagious, and if we’re not managing them properly, we’re infecting everyone else around us and creating a bad climate.”

Many students find the course to be transformational and take what they’ve learned into their work (and non-work) lives.

“My biggest ‘aha’ moment from the course was realizing a simple truth: We are not alone in the feelings that we have,” said Chelsea Periera, MBA ’18, and an associate global marketing communications manager at iRobot. “Other people have many of the same experiences, and we can learn from each other on advice to handle them—and grow.”

--Ben Hall