Analyzing Public Policy


Kate Menzies

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


California mayor gains valuable analytics tools through UND’s MSAE program.

By: Kate Menzies

As the mayor of Coronado, California, Richard Bailey needed the data analytics skills to critically evaluate public spending proposals that affected his city. He sought a program that could give him the technical skills he needed but with a focus on economic impact. When Richard found UND’s online Master of Science in Applied Economics (MSAE) Program, he knew it was a perfect fit. With his busy job, program flexibility made all the difference. Thanks to the program’s online course delivery, Richard was able to watch recorded class lectures and work at his own pace.

“There is no way that I could have completed the program without it being online,” said Richard.

In his role as mayor, Richard chairs the local city council meetings, as well as serves as the primary ambassador for the city to both locals and visitors. He is also responsible for developing and approving the city’s budget each year. As such, he wanted to gain tools and perspectives to evaluate the spending of tax revenues.

“As a policy maker, you really need to have a background in economics to not only think critically to shape policies, but also communicate these decisions to the public,” said Richard. “The MSAE degree has made me a well-rounded policy maker thanks to these critical thinking and communication skills.”

Aside from evaluating spending, Richard added that this degree gave him a sense of credibility when speaking about the impacts of policy decisions. In addition, it gave him credibility with his staff and other agencies who were developing various proposals, as he could translate their language.

While the program focuses on data analytics skills informed by perspectives in economics, it also gives students the ability to conduct research. Richard conducted an independent study project while he was in the program and this opportunity allowed him to apply the skills he learned to a real problem facing his city. Richard’s research project examined the construction of a new rail line that parallels an existing highway to see if it had the potential decongest highway traffic. His goal was to determine if this new rail line was the best use of public funds.

“This experience allowed me to apply the regression and statistical tools that I learned to evaluate this question that is pertinent to my career,” said Richard. “The ‘aha moments’ that I experienced through this process can be carried out to other questions that I have throughout my career.”

Even though he was at a distance, Richard felt a sense of connection with the faculty members in the program. “I always had the support of professors when I needed it,” said Richard.

He especially felt a connection with his independent study advisor, Dr. Chih Ming Tan, who is also the MSAE Program Director.

“Dr. Tan believed in the merit of the question I wanted to answer and always sounded just as enthusiastic about my project as I was,” said Richard. “The way I learn best is to apply the tools to questions that make sense to me. The independent study project allowed me to do this.”

As a recent graduate of the MSAE program, Richard is quick to recommend the program to others. Especially those who are in a career field that involves critical analysis.

The program teaches you how to analyze data using statistical methods to answer and better understand real-world problems,” said Richard.

If you are interested in the UND MSAE Program or the new graduate Certificate in Applied Economics Program, please contact Kate Menzies at or 701-777-5892 to learn more.