An 18-year Coast Guard veteran, Kelley Turner came to Northeastern with a wealth of management and leadership knowledge. But it was here that he acquired sharper critical thinking skills and learned how to determine strong policy implementations.
When Lt. Cmdr. Turner was selected by the Coast Guard to complete an advanced degree, he chose the Master of Public Policy (MPP) because he wanted to delve into policy analysis. Now, just two semesters into the program, he has completed an in-depth case study of the town of Plymouth’s Budget Department, and he is in the midst of creating a comprehensive evaluation plan of a Massachusetts State Police anti-gang tactics program.
Here, Turner, who is also a candidate in the Master of Arts in Defense and Strategic Studies at Naval War College, discusses the ways his military skills are relevant to his policy analysis studies, the hands-on work he is completing in classes, and how the MPP program will help him further his military career. Turner is currently taking four classes: “Techniques of Program Evaluation,” “Research Design and Methodology,” “Strategizing Public Policy,” and “Institutional Leadership,” online.
Q: How are you applying your military background to a program in public policy?
A: In almost every class there have been times where we had to present or work in groups, so because of my Coast Guard training I’ve always found that it’s much easier to cooperate. Putting together teams, and then seeing them work and produce results is really enriching. It’s easy for me to follow the storming-forming-norming model where you first start out with interacting and find out about the people. Then, you build these partnerships really quickly, you brainstorm, and then you build some normative values to get through your assignment. So, that has really helped.
Q: And how is the MPP program helping you further your career?
A: I look at things a lot more critically. “Research Design and Methodology” is very useful because you learn how to understand what studies are. You read a lot and if you understand how the study is constructed, you can understand the strengths and weaknesses of it more easily. What’s going to be the most important thing for me is to try to understand existing studies and/or construct new studies to be effective and make good policy implementation changes. That’s going to be key when I get back to work. The course has given me more skills to understand studies and ask more intelligent questions.
Q: Are there any other courses that have been particularly transformative?
A: “Public Budgeting and Financial Management” with professor Benedict Jimenez – it was a great class. It’s kind of three courses in one. It’s in-depth public budgeting, public finance, and then policy. We got to do a case study, which we selected on our own, where we reviewed the financial documentation and processes of the town of Plymouth. Parts of it were pretty intense. We interviewed face-to-face the CFO, and we provided an in-depth analysis and made a presentation. It was full circle for us in the classroom, like a mini capstone, and Northeastern opened the door for us.
Q: What did you learn? Did anything surprise you?
A: You had to choose a town that hadn’t been awarded an excellence award. The gal we spoke with has been there six or eight years, and she’s really working hard. It’s a struggle, but it wasn’t surprising to hear. I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 18 years and we struggle from time to time to get money and things done. She’s working to get more personnel to close the gap on that and provide some better reporting to the town. But it was refreshing to hear their balance sheet standards.
Q: Tell us about other experiential learning opportunities.
A: In the “Techniques of Program Evaluation” course we are constructing a plan for an evaluation of a local program. We’re working with a Massachusetts state trooper who implemented an anti-gang tactics program in Springfield, and he has put us in contact with some folks at Harvard who have actually tried to construct a study measuring the impact of the program.
I’m well versed in measures of effectiveness, but this class has opened it to a broader spectrum of public, local, state government, and think-tank. It has been very useful to learn the different methods of evaluation. It’s not just gathering quantitative data. There are whole new theories and thoughts of putting in different normative values, giving immediate feedback to a program and not just looking at a summative evaluation of it.