CSUS-Yolo County Collaboration

Yolo County-Sacramento State Partnership Offers Hands-on Local Government Experience

By Beth Gabor, Yolo County Manager of Public Affairs & Kacey Dominguez, Sac State PPA Student Intern
June 28, 2013

In an era of high tech and high finance, the allure of public service is not as ubiquitous as it once was. But an innovative partnership between Sacramento State’s Masters of Public Policy & Administration (PPA) Program and Yolo County may just put careers in public service back in high fashion.

Sacramento State’s program is a professional degree opportunity for those interested in a public service career. It is an interdisciplinary program designed to equip graduates with conceptual, analytic and problem-solving skills and experiences, enabling them to deal with public sector policy and administrative issues, problems and opportunities. A requirement within the program is experience working with policy through local, state, private or nonprofit organizations, so for the past two years, Sacramento State has partnered with Yolo County to offer students hands-on experience in local government, which in turn, provides the county innovative ideas for meeting the challenges counties face.

One course in particular examines concepts and approaches used in analyzing and understanding complex organizations and includes a component in which students partner with Yolo County for on-the-ground exposure to public management and administration. The course begins with a presentation from Yolo County Administrator Patrick Blacklock on specific challenges faced in Yolo County. Students then work in groups, in collaboration with the county, to analyze and propose solutions. Students are exposed to the real environment of public sector work and the county provides access and mentoring. In return, the county gets useable recommendations and analysis they wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to produce. This past year, students worked on projects relating to the consolidation of health and human services programs, and a dashboard of countywide performance measures.

A graduation requirement is completion of a thesis. The strong partnership between Yolo County and the program has resulted in a number of students focusing their thesis exclusively on challenges facing Yolo County. Thesis work can be found here: http://www.csus.edu/ppa/thesis-project/bank/index.html. Recent theses include:

  • Analyzing the Organizational Culture of Yolo County Using Two Assessment Models by Jason Fox
  • Telling Your Story Using Performance Measurement: Presenting an Approach to Performance Measure Development by Kristen Bennett
  • Social Media Use in Local Government Agencies: An Implementation Guide for Public Officials by Katie Cardenas

“The partnership between Yolo County and our program is mutually beneficial in a number of ways,” said Associate Professor Mary Kirlin, Sacramento State Department of PPA. “Students are afforded a unique opportunity to participate in the policy making process and gain invaluable real world experience analyzing a problem, developing alternatives and presenting their ideas to decision makers. They really step up to the task in ways they wouldn’t necessarily for an in-class assignment.”

Over the past two years, students have produced ten class-based projects and five theses for Yolo County. In exchange, Yolo County has provided insights from leadership staff, realistic briefing experiences and access to data and employees that have allowed students to both view and help solve real public sector issues.

“Yolo County benefits by infusing fresh and creative approaches to tackling current challenges,” said Yolo County Administrator Patrick Blacklock. “The program also exposes students to the opportunities that exist in local government, leading to an increase of quality candidates interested in a career in public service; a benefit for all local governments.”

For more information about the program, visit: http://www.csus.edu/ppa/index.html.