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Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz

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Saul I. Stern Professor of Civic Engagement and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs

Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz is a Professor and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs in the School of Public Policy. She joined the School this year after spending 12 years at the University of Rhode Island, where she was a Professor of political science and Director of the Social Science Institute for Research, Education and Policy. 

Pearson’s research and teaching interests focus on land use and housing policy, public opinion, political polarization, racial and economic inequality, and state and local government. She greatly enjoys involving students in the research process and has developed programs in which students help public officials understand the policy environment of social issues and the drawbacks and benefits of different policy choices. She also has run several election exit polls, as well as polling projects in which hundreds of students engage the community to gauge land use preferences.

Pearson’s research has been funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Rhode Island State Government. 

Pearson is a native of the Washington, D.C. area. Before attaining her Ph.D. and beginning her academic career, she worked as a legislative director for a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, a community health specialist for a community recovery service provider, and a high school teacher.

Areas of Interest
  • Social policy; education policy; housing policy; land management; state & local government; racial & economic inequality in government & public policy; evolution of political parties in the United States; political polarization
3 Credit(s)

Public policy students will take the skills and knowledge gained through their curriculum and apply them through their senior capstone course. Students will work in teams on problems and issues presented by outside clients, with guidance from faculty facilitators and interaction with the clients. Each team will work with the client to address a particular problem and produce a mutually agreed upon outcome. These hands on projects will advance students' understanding of the analytical, leadership, communication and problem solving skills necessary to address today's policy problems while allowing them to gain professional level experience that could contribute to their success in their post UMD endeavors. The course will conclude with an event that allows all teams to present their findings and outcomes to their client while being evaluated by faculty and public policy professionals. Restricted to students who have earned a minimum of 90 credits. Permission required.
Schedule of Classes

Prerequisite(s): PLCY306
3 Credit(s)

Provides an overview of government's role in social policy and the history of the development of federal and state policies with respect to welfare, aging, education, and housing. Analyzes current federal institutions and legislation in the same policy areas and the demographic history of the United States. Develops skills in analytic writing and presentation of descriptive data. 
Schedule of Classes