Former Pa. Auditor General Brings Law and Public Policy to Life for York College Students
Eugene DePasquale is helping Master of Public Policy and Administration students understand the complexities of policymaking.
After serving as auditor general of Pennsylvania and running for Congress, Eugene DePasquale found an opportunity he had always wanted to pursue: teach a law and public policy class at York College of Pennsylvania.
“I always liked giving guest lectures,” DePasquale says. The pieces came together quickly last spring to craft the course for the Fall Semester, pulling from his experience as a “lawyer by trade” who worked in policymaking.
Illinois native Ashley Hines ’23, the current Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) Scholar in Residence at York College, expected the course would be a great one. A quick Google search about her adjunct professor-to-be showed she would be learning from someone who had lived the experience.
“There’s no better person to teach politics and policy than someone who has really gotten their hands on it and been in the arena,” Hines says. She thought the class would be like some of her undergraduate work, but says DePasquale’s experience and personality bring the subject to life.
“He does a really good job of bringing in the details of law,” Hines says. “You have to make sure the policy is in accordance with laws that already exist; you have to know exactly what you can do, and that’s what pre-existing laws tell you. It’s especially interesting with Eugene because he was part of that. There are so many elements I don’t think someone without that experience could properly convey.”
Learning from experience
Allison Siegelman, who like Hines looks to complete her MPPA in 2023, brought some experience of her own to the course. At 59 years old, she has already had a career in finance and served on several local, regional, and national boards, which sparked an interest in policymaking.
She is still finding a lot to learn from DePasquale, though. “I find that Eugene’s class is really a great foundation for understanding the dynamic between law and public policy,” she says. “It’s given me much more understanding of how agendas get set and how you have that interplay between what has become law and policy and how they influence each other.”
Both Hines and Siegelman say they’ve found it interesting to learn the extent of the influence the judiciary branch of government has on public policy. “It’s a very good framework for understanding how to write policy and also how policy not only gets implemented, but how it gets enforced and regulated and what those boundaries are,” Siegelman says.
Keeping it simple
One of the most important things DePasquale conveys in the course is rooted in simplicity: making their writing or presentations more concise. It can be a challenge, he says, switching gears from more academic writing—such as 25-page research papers—to three-page memos that need to make a quicker point.
“If you’re putting a memo together for the secretary of agriculture or a United States senator, this is the length it has to be, this is how you have to get to the point,” DePasquale says. “Synthesizing your words to the point where you can get the pros, cons, and a recommendation across while you’re walking from the elevator to the car is a critical skill if you’re going to operate and advise people at a high level.”
That skill is one of three goals DePasquale has for his students. Another is for them to gain a growing appreciation for the complexity of law, and the third is to move “beyond ideology” to understand the best ways to make policy work, he says.
“It’s really a great class for anybody who wants to get a better understanding of the complexities of what we have at our feet right now,” Siegelman says. “Not just the historical aspect, but it’s very relevant to issues the public is aware of today.”