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Mayor of San Diego suburb finds ‘aha moments’ with UND

Richard Bailey, leader of Pacific island city Coronado, Calif., turns to CoBPA online program to hone skills

Richard Bailey
Richard Bailey, mayor of Coronado, Calif., found UND’s Master of Science in Applied Economics to be a perfect fit for his busy job. He says the degree has made him a better policy maker with the skills he’s learned.

As the mayor of Coronado, Calif., Richard Bailey needed the data analytics skills to critically evaluate public spending proposals that affected his city. He sought a program that could give him the technical skills he needed but with a focus on economic impact. When Bailey found UND’s online Master of Science in Applied Economics (MSAE) Program, he knew it was a perfect fit. With his busy job, program flexibility made all the difference. Thanks to the program’s online course delivery, Bailey was able to watch recorded class lectures and work at his own pace.

“There is no way that I could have completed the program without it being online,” said Bailey.

In his role as mayor, Bailey chairs the local city council meetings, as well as serves as the primary ambassador for the city to both locals and visitors. He is also responsible for developing and approving the city’s budget each year. As such, he wanted to gain tools and perspectives to evaluate the spending of tax revenues.

“As a policy maker, you really need to have a background in economics to not only think critically to shape policies, but also communicate these decisions to the public,” said Bailey. “The MSAE degree has made me a well-rounded policy maker thanks to these critical thinking and communication skills.”

Aside from evaluating spending, Bailey added that this degree gave him a sense of credibility when speaking about the impacts of policy decisions. In addition, it gave him credibility with his staff and other agencies who were developing various proposals, as he could translate their language.

While the program focuses on data analytics skills informed by perspectives in economics, it also gives students the ability to conduct research. Bailey conducted an independent study project while he was in the program and this opportunity allowed him to apply the skills he learned to a real problem facing his city. Bailey’s research project examined the construction of a new rail line that parallels an existing highway to see if it had the potential to decongest highway traffic. His goal was to determine if this new rail line was the best use of public funds.

Chih Ming Tan
Chih Ming Tan

“This experience allowed me to apply the regression and statistical tools that I learned to evaluate this question that is pertinent to my career,” said Bailey. “The ‘aha moments’ that I experienced through this process can be carried out to other questions that I have throughout my career.”

Even though he was at a distance, Bailey felt a sense of connection with the faculty members in the program. “I always had the support of professors when I needed it,” said Bailey.

He especially felt a connection with his independent study advisor, Professor and Page Endowed Chair in Applied Economics Chih Ming Tan, who is also the MSAE Program director.

“Dr. Tan believed in the merit of the question I wanted to answer and always sounded just as enthusiastic about my project as I was,” said Bailey. “The way I learn best is to apply the tools to questions that make sense to me. The independent study project allowed me to do this.”

As a recent graduate of the MSAE program, Bailey is quick to recommend the program to others. Especially those who are in a career field that involves critical analysis.

“The program teaches you how to analyze data using statistical methods to answer and better understand real-world problems,” said Bailey.


Kate MenziesAbout the Author

Kate Menzies, ’14, ’18, is a graduate admissions officer and advisor in the Dean’s Office of the UND College of Business & Public Administration. A native of Cavalier, N.D., Menzies holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UND, where she majored in marketing and minored in communication. She also received her master’s degree in education studies from UND.