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The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service (UACS, or Clinton School), which is the only school in the United States offering a master’s degree in public service (MPS), has the mission of preparing graduates for careers in nonprofit, governmental, volunteer, or private-sector service work. The school is situated in the historic Choctaw Station of the Rock Island Railroad, which is part of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Additional offices and classrooms are in the Arkansas Studies Institute, located in the River Market District of Little Rock.
The Clinton School was established by the board of trustees of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) on January 29, 2004, as part of the university system. The founding dean was former U.S. senator David Pryor. Until UACS matures as an institution, degrees will be accredited through a consortium of the three largest graduate campuses within the UA system: UA in Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Planning for the Clinton School began early in President Bill Clinton’s second term in 1997. The team of planners comprised, in addition to President Clinton, Dr. B. Alan Sugg, president of the UA system; the late Diane D. Blair, professor of political science at UA; Pat Torvestad, then director of communications for the UA system and current director of communications for UAMS; and James L. “Skip” Rutherford, then chairman of the board of the William J. Clinton Foundation and executive vice president with the Little Rock communication firm CJRW; Rutherford became dean of UACS following Pryor’s retirement in 2006. Members of the team visited and studied schools named for other former presidents: the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri; the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas; and the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. The team decided not to model the UACS curriculum on those programs, which concentrate on preparing graduates for careers in government service.
Rather than situating the Clinton School on the campus of a major university, as the other presidential schools had done, the team decided to link the school directly to the Clinton Presidential Library. As Rutherford noted, “We made it truly an urban university, with access to the River Market in Little Rock (our ‘student union’); the [Main Library of the] Central Arkansas Library [System] (our ‘official library’); the Statehouse Convention Center; and Heifer Project International headquarters, in addition to the Clinton Library. We don’t need a major infrastructure commitment because we have the whole area.”
UACS offers a two-year MPS program, requiring thirty-six semester credit hours, twenty-one of which are from core and elective courses taught by a faculty which, as of 2007, is composed of nineteen professors and two visiting faculty members. Classes deal with analysis of public needs, problem solving, communication skills, conflict resolution and the ethical and legal aspects of public service.
The remaining fifteen credit hours are spent in “hands-on” public service field projects. The thirteen students in the first UACS class helped the people of Phillips County develop its first five-year strategic plan. The students wrote grants, developed a tourism website, helped build a boys’ and girls’ club, and helped organize a farmers’ cooperative. During the summer, students involve themselves in individual, international projects of their own choosing, usually in conjunction with not-for-profit, nongovernmental organizations.
The UACS curriculum is enhanced by a Speakers’ Series featuring internationally known and respected guest lecturers from fields including politics, government, business, academics, and philanthropy. Notable speakers have included former secretary of state Henry Kissinger; Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; Sylvia Matthews, executive director of the Gates Foundation; President José María Aznar of Spain; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; and Congressman John Lewis. Lectures are open, on a limited basis, to the public as well as to UACS students and faculty.
At the commencement ceremony for the school’s first graduating class, on December 13, 2006, President Clinton said, “I wanted to establish this school to inspire more young people to pursue careers in public service and to give them the tools to do it better, because I believe it is a noble calling…[and that] doing it well makes a world of difference, and…dedication to the common good is critical to meeting the challenges of the interdependent world in which the graduates will live and raise their children.”
UACS has expanded its degree program after the approval of a joint JD/MPS degree in conjunction with UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law, and a joint master’s in Public Health/MPS with UAMS. In November 2007, UACS began publishing FRANK, a magazine focused upon concepts and ideas in public service.
For additional information:Clinton School of Public Service.http://www.clintonschool.uasys.edu (accessed February 13, 2007).
Clinton School Research Center. http://www.clintonschoolresearch.com/ (accessed April 4, 2007).
Reed, Jennifer Barnett. “A Partner in Education.” Arkansas Times. November 11, 2004, pp. 91–92. Online at http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/uas-new-public-service-grad-school/Content?oid=964778 (accessed December 6, 2011).
Jack HeinritzArkansas Radio Network
Last Updated 9/30/2013
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