The Public Affairs Professional’s MBA Guide

03 Aug, 2020


The Public Affairs Professional’s MBA Guide

July/August 2020

By Laura Horsley
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Public Affairs Council

Public affairs and overall business strategy are fundamentally linked — but that doesn’t mean every CEO takes a close look at their political and social environment before making big decisions. Fortunately, the high-stakes issues of the modern world are causing public affairs professionals to become more sophisticated about business operations and corporate leaders to appreciate the value of public affairs.

One way to strengthen business acumen is to pursue an MBA. But how does one know which business schools “get” public affairs and integrate it into their curricula?

To help address this need, the Public Affairs Council has published, “Leading MBA Programs with Coursework in Public Affairs”. This analysis of U.S. News and World Report’s Top 100 Business Schools identifies which programs offer coursework in subjects such as business-government relations, public policy development, shared-value creation, corporate responsibility and stakeholder engagement. Roughly half of the leading 100 MBA programs met these criteria.

From the complete list, the Council also identified these particularly notable business schools:

Top Business-Government Relations Programs

Georgetown University.  The strategy, economics, ethics, and public policy areas of Georgetown’s MBA program focus on understanding a firm’s interaction with its external environment.
Can’t miss course: “Business and Public Policy in a Global Economy” analyzes the effects of government policies on business and the effects of business on government. Students learn to forecast changes in government policy.

Rice University. The curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of business or corporate strategy, business ethics/corporate social responsibility, and business-government relations.
Can’t miss course: “Business Government Relations” examines how public policy influences the private competitive environment of the firm, as well as the major political institutions and actors — Congress, the President, interest groups, the media, and administrative agencies — that shape U.S. public policy.

Stanford University.
Students are offered a host of classes on the strategic value of public affairs, including innovative coursework on political risk, political economy and game theory.
Can’t miss course: “Behavioral Political Economy” explores the empirical problems with the common theories of rational agents, especially considering people are often cognitively constrained by limited conscious attention and fallible memories.

University of Texas at Austin. This MBA program offers a business-government relations concentration with courses focused on corporate political strategy, the global political economy and corporate responsibility.
Can’t miss course:  “Politics and Process” covers how public issues are framed and debated, and how policy solutions are legitimated and implemented in the U.S. political system.

Top Shared-Value or Corporate Responsibility Programs

Babson College. Babson covers all of the “non-market strategies” well and examines how each discipline and overall busines management can benefit society.
Can’t miss course: “Global Business Institution and Policies” analyzes the impact of the formal and informal dimensions of one’s business environment — including corporate governance systems, innovation systems, policies, non-market ecosystems, corruption, and third-sector activism — on a firm’s strategies.

Dartmouth College. Courses in ethics and social responsibility include discussions of the role of business in society and investing in social impact.
Can’t miss course: “Managing for Social Impact” looks at where and how business strategies and frameworks can be applied or adapted by social-purpose organizations, and where they might have problematic consequences.

Harvard University. Courses focus on creating competitive advantage through social impact, managing political risk and recognizing global political risks and opportunities.
Can’t miss course: “Creating Shared Value: Competitive Advantage through Social Impact” examines the importance of social issues to corporate success and the power of companies to change the world.

Ohio State University. Ohio State’s Social Impact Pathway option includes courses on commercial and social franchising, social enterprise, and nonprofit management and governance.
Can’t miss course: “Social Impact Assessment” provides students with a broad understanding of the fundamental history, concepts, methods, and theories of Social Impact Assessment as part of environmental policy and regulation.

University of Miami. This MBA program covers a substantial amount of public affairs-related coursework on sustainable business topics.
Can’t miss course: “Managing Regulation Compliance” examines how sustainability initiatives are integrated with a complex set of government regulations. The course includes a study of compliance/credit management over the business cycle and when regulation changes over time.

Most Innovative Public Affairs Curricula

Northeastern University. This program requires interdisciplinary studies in which students must take six credits worth of courses in any of the other five colleges on campus, such as the schools of public policy and law.
Can’t miss course: “Political Economy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” explores how states, institutions, policy choices, and social forces shape — and are influenced by — the global economy and the world polity.

Stanford University. Stanford’s innovative curriculum includes multiple courses on political risk, political economy, political institutions and the value of thought leadership.
Can’t miss course: “Economic Analysis of Political Institutions” uses techniques of microeconomic analysis and game theory in the study of political behavior and institutions.

University of Miami. The sustainability coursework introduces students to “non-market valuation” – the valuation of goods and services based on how much consumers are willing to pay for societal benefits.
Can’t miss course: “Valuing Public Goods” teaches students the benefits of becoming more sustainable through the study of non-market valuation and how external stakeholders value sustainable practices.

Want More Information on This Topic?

Contact Laura Horsley, senior director of marketing and communications

Additional Resources

Upcoming Virtual Workshop – Best Practices in Government Relations Organization & Budgeting

Leading MBA Programs with Coursework in Public Affairs

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