Practical learning

In almost all of the classes I have taken at SPEA, there have been several exercises or projects that are “hands-on real-world” work experiences. Not only do we learn the theory and read the literature, but we then apply these lessons directly to an experience that you are likely to walk out of the classroom into the office and repeat.

Just this week we completed an exercise in my Management of Urban Government Services course with Professor Orville Powell. It was a simulated contract negotiation between the firefighters union and the city administration. For those of us entering local government administration, this was an amazing exercise.

The class was divided into two groups. Three students for the administration negotiation team and three students for the firefighters union negotiation team. About three weeks before our mock negotiations took place, we were given access to budget information and issues for our side of the negotiation. Each issue was assigned a point value and our grade for the negotiation was based on how many of our issues we secured in the final contract.

After we completed the negotiation process, the administration had to present the proposed contract to the city council (i.e. Professor Powell), where we all learned how frustrating it can be for the council to send you back to the drawing board.

This is one of my favorite things about SPEA – all of the practical experiences in the classroom that will serve me so well in the workplace.


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