University of Maryland, Baltimore County

e-News from the UMBC Department of Public Policy

May 2014

In this issue:
Policy History Track
Congratulations graduates!


Highlight - Policy History Track

How do we explain change in public policy in the past and the present? What ideas, experiences, and interests have shaped these changes? Why do different policies emerge and secure acceptance at different times? The Policy History Track in the Public Policy Ph.D. program seeks to provide answers to these questions. Historical analysis provides a context for exploring policy shifts over time, and explains how past experiences shape current discussions.

The curriculum uses an interdisciplinary approach to analyze policy development and implementation, with courses that examine the history of public policy in the fields of legislation, government, business, ideology, civil rights, and science and technology. Dissertation topics have included analyses of the policies behind prohibition, social security, privatization, and the selective service system. Policy history graduates teach, consult, and work as policy analysts, administrators, and archivists in government agencies and museums. Dr. Marjoleine Kars (History) is the track advisor.

Signing the Medicare Act

Policy history in action - President Lyndon B. Johnson
signs the Medicare bill in 1965


Public policy and economics professor Dr. Tim Brennan was appointed chief economist for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Dr. Brennan's appointment is part of an FCC program that brings in scholars from academia to provide outside perspectives and advice on challenging issues. He will hold this full-time position, which reports to the Chairman, at least until August 2014.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded a 3-year, $750,000 grant to the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative™ (GHHI) to study how healthy housing interventions reduce asthma in low income children. The interdisciplinary research team includes principal investigator Dr. David Salkever (Public Policy), Michael Abrams (Ph.D. candidate) of The Hilltop Institute at UMBC, researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and co-principal investigator Ruth Ann Norton, Executive Director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning/GHHI.

A new book by Dr. Eric Zeemering, Collaborative Strategies for Sustainable Cities: Economy, Environment and Community in Baltimore, examines Baltimore to understand how cities define sustainability and form policy implementation networks to integrate sustainability into city programs. He concludes that understanding competing definitions of sustainability within the community may be central to the success of sustainability efforts (Routledge, 2014).


Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams (Ph.D., 2006) has been promoted to Chief Professional Officer (CPO) for the Nurse Category in the U.S . Department of Health and Human Services. As chief nursing officer, Rear Admiral Trent-Adams leads the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps) Nurse Professional Affairs, and advises the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention, and career development of Corps nurse professionals.

After 8 years as an Education Week reporter and blogger, Michele McNeil (M.P.P., 2010) is joining the College Board as the director of assessment and accountability policy. Her Education Week blog "Politics K-12" covers federal education legislation and policy.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) named Dr. Deborah Trautman (Ph.D., 2004) chief executive officer effective June 16. AACN represents 750 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide. Dr. Trautman currently serves as executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Transformation at Johns Hopkins Hospital.


The Department of Public Policy had 23 M.P.P. and 13 Ph.D. graduates this academic year (August 2013-May 2014). Among our graduates are researchers, teachers, health care administrators, writers, and returning Peace Corps volunteers. Awards received by these students include the Sondheim Nonprofit Leadership Fellowship, and the Public Policy Alumni Fellowship. While some M.P.P. students are continuing in the Ph.D. program, the job market for public policy graduates is strong. Our students will go on to mid-level and senior positions with federal and state government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, think tanks, and research organizations. Please join us in congratulating our 2013-2014 graduates!

Ph.D. education track student Dale Bittinger has been promoted to Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Admissions, Orientation and School Partnerships at UMBC. He was previously Director of Admissions at UMBC.

Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce President and Public Policy Ph.D. student Justin Vélez-Hagan writes about Puerto Rico's economic crisis for Fox News Latino. In an opinion piece published April 22, 2014, "Is this Puerto Rico's 'Lost Decade'? Or Even Worse?" he discusses economic reforms that could strengthen the Puerto Rican economy.

PhD graduate

Proud Ph.D. graduate Megan Lynn outside the Retriever Activities Center after Commencement

New Publications

Ph.D candidate Michael Abrams co-authored two articles that were published in Psychiatric Services (2014, Vol. 65, No. 4): "Identifying young adults at risk of Medicaid enrollment lapses after inpatient mental health treatment;" and "Medicaid lapses and low-income young adults' receipt of outpatient mental health care after an inpatient stay." Both articles are based on a study of low-income young adults discharged from an inpatient psychiatric event.

Dr. Tim Brennan (Public Policy) is co-editor of The Role of the Postal and Delivery Sector in a Digital Age, a compilation of the proceedings from the 21st Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics (Ireland, 2013). The book chapters describe the decline of the postal sector in the face of electronic competition and offer strategies for the survival of mail services in a digital age. Dr. Brennan also co-authored a chapter in the book, "Gross Substitutes vs. Marginal Substitutes: Implications for Market Definition in the Postal Sector."

Dr. David Greenberg (Economics emeritus) conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Individual Development Account (IDA) program. His findings were published in A cost-benefit analysis of Tulsa's IDA program, Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis (2013, Vol. 4, No. 3). Dr. Greenberg was also a recipient of the the 2013 Arnold Harberger Prize for the best retrospective paper published in the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis. He co-authored the winning article, a synthesis of welfare-to-work studies (JBCA, 1:1).

Dr. Donald F. Norris (Public Policy) co-authored an article that concluded that few local governments have adopted e-democracy elements through which citizens can actively participate in governmental activities, programs and decision-making. He found two important reasons that account for the slow growth of e-democracy in local governments: lack of funding and lack of perceived demand for e-democracy. E-democracy at the American grassroots: Not now…not likely? Information Polity (2013, Vol. 18, No. 3).

Since the mid-1990's. Federal agencies regulating toxic lead pollution (EPA) and protecting children's health (CDC, HUD) have estimated reductions in  future earnings of children as an economic impact of lead exposure. Their specific focus has been on reduced cognitive functioning, due to lead exposure, as a cause of reduced future earnings. Recently, critics have argued that these agencies consistently over-estimated the economic harm of lead pollution by overstating the impact of reduced cognitive functioning on earnings. An article by Dr. David Salkever (Public Policy) re-examined available evidence for this criticism. He found that the "evidence does not substantiate the overstatement hypothesis..." and that evidence ignored by these critics suggests previous estimates of lead-caused earnings losses may have actually been substantial underestimates. Assessing the IQ-earnings link In environmental lead impacts on children: Have hazard effects been overstated? Environmental Research 131 (2014).  

Changing the System: An Interview with John Rennie Short appeared in the World Future Review (2014, Vol. 6, No. 1). In the interview, he discusses his book, Stress Testing the USA: Public Policy and Reaction to Disaster Events (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), which assesses structural weaknesses in U.S. public and private sector crisis management.

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