What is the applied proficiencies cluster/specialization?

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The Master’s in Political Management at the George Washington University (GW) has helped place graduates in prestigious, influential political positions around the world. Graduates reach their various professional pathways after completing the robust curriculum that rounds out the program, offered by GW’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM).

The degree  consists of a progressive series of core classes and three clusters/specializations: electoral politics, advocacy politics and applied proficiencies. At 15 credits, the cluster/specialization of applied proficiencies — made up of five courses — helps define the difference between political science and political management. While both are similar, the former is theory-based, and the latter is practice-based.

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Applied proficiencies provides students with the field-proven skills they need to engage in political management activities and proceedings — whether in their communities, at the state level, on Capitol Hill or in the far reaches of the globe. The importance of this distinction between political science and political management can’t be overemphasized and is what makes GW’s online master’s program  and distinctive.

The following will provide further insights about the classes that constitute the applied proficiencies cluster/specialization and how they complement each other:

Rules, Laws, and Strategy

In Rules, Laws, and Strategy, students learn about the procedures and regulations that govern the recognition and growth of political parties in the U.S. and how they’ve developed over time. Some of the early parties — like Federalists and Whigs — have since disbanded, while others have melded into one. Party history is lightly touched upon, but the crux of this course details the contemporary aspects of political organizations and what the main parties of today do to establish themselves with supporters and encourage on-the-fence voters to join their advocacy-based causes. The ethical and strategic considerations of these activities are examined, as well as how they’re governed by rules, such as campaign finance law.

Digital Strategy

The digital world has revolutionized how candidates, policy advisers and campaign directors reach out to the public to influence thought processes and policies. Boots-on-the-ground campaigning is still very much a part of contemporary advocacy, but the internet — and social media, in particular — has enabled parties to implement a more thorough outreach. In short, what used to be impractical at best and impossible at worst prior to the digital era is now available to policymakers and electoral politics participants . Digital Strategy helps students understand how this reality came about and supplies students with the tools and practices to form an integrated strategy. This includes search engine optimization — what it is and how it’s evolved through engines like Google — website rollout and GPS technology. It also looks at how today’s campaigns coordinate with IT vendors to disseminate information so it not only gets noticed but leads to action.

Fundraising and Budgeting

Causing or inciting change may be the goals of political action, yet it remains wishful thinking without the systems that help turn theoretical aims into pragmatic reality. In Fundraising and Budgeting, students learn about how parties raise money under the auspices and constraints of campaign finance law, which is taught in Rules, Laws and Strategy, as well as some of the core classes. The three-credit course focuses on how parties budget and what can happen when they fail to prioritize smart budgeting processes. It also provides contextual examples of some of the more effective strategies used in fundraising at the governmental and social advocacy levels and what students can learn from those examples.

Audience Research

What makes people vote or believe in certain causes and values? Does it stem from their ideological predisposition? Who they associate with? Or is there more to it? In Audience Research, students learn about the processes involved with how citizens obtain political information and how they use it to inform their judgment, both in conversations with family and friends or at the ballot box. A major tool electoral and social advocacy campaigns use is survey research. Students learn how to design surveys that effectively gauge where communities, constituencies or generations come down on a particular subject. Students also discover the importance of pretesting questionnaires and how question phraseology can affect how participants respond, such as polls that are multiple choice. Pollsters are key cogs that campaigns use to inform their strategies. Audience Research examines the survey process and what parties must be mindful of when they interpret poll data, such as selection bias, sample sizes and margins of error.

Maximizing Social Media

Few mediums have had such a profound impact on the public — and in such a short period of time — quite like social networks. Well over a billion people have accounts on outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Political parties and candidates around the globe have used this proliferation to their advantage, often to share opinions. For instance, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center, following the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the tone of Democratic legislators’ posts turned decidedly negative, with 33 percent of them being oppositional in nature in March 2017. That compared to an average of 12 percent negativity among Republican lawmakers’ posts around the same period as when the Democrats and President Barack Obama occupied the White House.

In Maximizing Social Media, students learn about how social media has changed the way people examine issues and how they communicate with the world around them — among friends and acquaintances as well as society. It also examines how this medium has become an all-in-one online portal to stay in the know on the latest happenings in communities, the country and the world and ignited greater political engagement. The three-credit course aims to inform how students can use social media to mobilize people to take action and what the future social media landscape may look like in the short and long term.

The applied proficiencies cluster/specialization at GW can give  students the tools they need to take part in political activities and responsibilities in the public and private sectors. Visit GW’s political management online program website to learn more.

Recommended reading:

What is a master’s degree in political management?
Campaign finance law essentials

Pew Research Center