Kaplan University’s Professor David Thomason: Making Public Policy Interesting and Fun
Professor David Thomason PhD is a curious guy. He wants his students to enjoy his Program Evaluation and Budget Process classes in the Master of Public Administration program.
“Don’t laugh—it’s true!” Professor Thomason said. “Sure, they don’t sound like the most exciting classes, but they can actually be extremely entertaining and valuable. You’ll learn how to analyze a public policy program to find out if it’s working. You’ll learn how to measure your success, or figure out what needs to improve in order to achieve your goals. And with the budget, it’s all about the money. If the government cares about it, they’ll invest. So you’re a step ahead if you have a firm grasp on how to develop and maintain your budget!”
“Public policy is like a baseball game...” he continued. “Who can sell the best prediction? It’s all about hypotheticals and predictions for the future. The most educated, prepared, and thoughtful person may have the best chance of meeting their goals!”
This knowledge is coming from a seasoned professor (with multiple advanced degrees) who is an expert guitar player and fly fisherman who loves to kayak, ride mountain bikes, and play baseball.
In addition to his love of the outdoors, Professor Thomason genuinely enjoys teaching. In fact, he became a professor on a tenure track immediately after finishing graduate school. “I loved my job teaching political science and public policy at a prestigious university,” he said. “But I realized that I was failing my students. I just didn’t have the real-world experience to back up the content.”
Professor Thomason found a job that provided him a wealth of experience very quickly. He became a policy analyst for Texas Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry, and advised legislators on key bills regarding health policy and transportation; drafted bill analysis, tracked legislation; and worked with legislators, staff, and interest groups on bill language and process.
He then became Senior Vice President of Public Policy for LeadingAge Texas, a non-profit organization that helps serve our growing senior population through advocacy, networking, services, and education. He leads advocacy staff, coordinates media strategy, writes grants, and lobbies in public forums. He currently tracks legislation, monitors and lobbies legislative committees, develops briefs and press releases and coordinates grassroots advocacy. He also has published a great deal of his research, and has written a paper addressing the causes of elder abuse as a critical component to aging health policy.
“I really like working in public policy and public administration, especially in the non-profit arena helping our seniors,” said Professor Thomason. “But I always had a goal of teaching, and I knew that one day when I had the experience to offer my students, I would return to the profession.”
Professor Thomason continued, “I am thrilled to be a part of Kaplan University. It’s a great learning institution. Our students are sharp, motivated, interesting, and diverse. They keep me motivated! Based on some of their feedback I’ve even developed new curriculum. Kaplan University has a great approach to learning and teaching. It is truly all about our students.”
He notes that Kaplan University students are very smart and curious. “However, some of them might not speak up and ask questions in a traditional classroom setting,” he said. “When we’re online, the barriers are broken. I also find there is a lot more one-on-one interaction that a traditional platform doesn’t always provide. I wish it was around when I was in school!”
Professor Thomason also conducts his classes very differently than a traditional class. “I like a flat environment,” he says. “I don’t want to be the only voice. I want my students to participate—to take risks and to act boldly—and most certainly to not be afraid to speak up.”
Professor Thomason cites among his past and current students a woman running for state office in Arizona, a male student working in city government in environmental policy, and a woman in New York working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“Some of my students already are successful in their careers and they want the additional knowledge and credentials of earning a master’s degree,” Professor Thomason said. “Some are hoping to change careers or are getting ready to embark on a professional path in public policy. Either way, we all work together and share ideas, making it a collaborative and fun environment!”