Susan Moffitt

Director of Academic Programs, Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
111 Thayer Street, Room 318
Areas of Expertise Bureaucracy, Children & Families, Education, Gender, Health & Welfare
Areas of Interest Education policy, regulatory policy, health policy

Biography

Professor Moffitt’s research focuses on American political institutions and public policy. Her research combines political science and public policy to explain barriers confronting policy development and implementation in government agencies, especially in the fields of public education and public health. Her latest book, co-authored with Michaela O’Neill and David K. Cohen, is "Reforming the Reform: Problems of Public Schooling in the American Welfare State" (University of Chicago Press, 2023). She has published two other books: "Making Policy Public: Participatory Bureaucracy in American Democracy" (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and "The Ordeal of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix the Schools," co-authored with David K. Cohen (Harvard University Press in 2009). Her other scholarship has appeared in many journals including: the American Journal of Political Science; Journal of Politics; Perspectives on Politics; and American Journal of Education. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and an MPP degree from the University of Michigan.

Research

Susan Moffitt’s research focuses on the development of capabilities to support policy making and practice, and to do so in ways consistent with democratic accountabilities.

How can designs of governance – including government agencies, community organizations, and private organizations – support capabilities for frontlines policy action and practice? How do designs of public governance support democratic accountabilities, or not? What problems do policymakers create in reform efforts? How can organizations and policymakers learn from experience? These are the fundamental questions that guide her research program, with particular emphasis on health and education policy.

Her latest book co-authored with Michaela O’Neill and David K. Cohen, "Reforming the Reform: Problems of Public Schooling in the American Welfare State" (University of Chicago Press, 2023), is an expansive study of the problems encountered by educational leaders at every level when they pursue reform, and how these issues cyclically translate into future topics of reform. The book provides a general explanation for problems facing social policy reforms in federalist systems (including healthcare) and offer pathways forward for education policy in particular.

Publications

Susan L. Moffitt, Michaela K. O’Neill, David K. Cohen. 2023. Reforming the Reform: Problems of Public Schooling in the American Welfare State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Susan L. Moffitt, Cadence Willse, Kelly B. Smith, and David K. Cohen. 2021. Centralization and Subnational Capacity: The Struggle to Make Federalism Work Equitably in Public Education. Perspectives on Politics, Released on 8/26/21 through First View: https://www.doi.org/10.1017/S1537592721002012.

Paul Manna and Susan L. Moffitt. 2021. Traceable Tasks and Complex Policies: When Politics Matter for Policy Implementation. Policy Studies Journal 49 (1): 190-218.

Paul Testa, Susan L. Moffitt, and Marie Schenk. 2020. Public Preferences for New Information on Opioids. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. 45(2).

Susan L. Moffitt, Matthew J. Lyddon, Michaela Krug O’Neill, Kelly B. Smith, Marie Schenk, Cadence Willse, and David K. Cohen. 2018. Frontlines Perspectives on Instructional Improvement in the Common Core Era. Technical Report, Getting Down to Facts II: Current Conditions and Paths Forward for California Schools.

Susan L. Moffitt, Matthew J. Lyddon, Domingo Morel, Michaela Krug O’Neill, Kelly B. Smith, Cadence Willse, and David K. Cohen. 2018. State Structures for Instructional Support in California. Technical Report, Getting Down to Facts II: Current Conditions and Paths Forward for California Schools.

Margot I. Jackson and Susan L. Moffitt. 2017. The State of Unequal Educational Opportunity: The Coleman Report 50 Years Later. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 674: special issue.

Teaching

POLS 2100, Proseminar in American Politics (Fall 2023)

POLS 1832Z, Gender and Public Policy (Spring 2024)

Recent News

In a testament to her unwavering commitment to academic excellence and student wellbeing, Susan Moffitt, Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs and Director of Academic Programs for the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, has been selected for the 2024 Faculty Award for Advising & Mentoring.
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News from Watson

Alumni Spotlight: David Benoit ’23 MPA

David Benoit, a 2023 graduate of Watson's Master of Public Affairs program, has used the data analytical and policy evaluation skills he gained in the program, along with faculty mentoring and prior experience working for then Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, to earn a position as the racial justice advocate for the American Civil Liberties of Massachusetts.
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Watson Policy Labs, a new initiative of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, will enhance the link between teaching, research and public outreach by addressing specific policy issues through a combination of faculty research, student training, research-based courses and public outreach.
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The Watson Institute funded $10,000 in Undergraduate Research and Teaching Awards to support Brown students collaborating with Watson faculty on research projects during the spring 2024 semester.
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