American Economic Sociologist is expert on social, economic and technological change.
Sciences Po's Master of Public Affairs (MPA) programme has a new director as of June 1st: Sean Safford, an award-winning economic sociologist who moved to Paris from the University of Chicago. He replaces Erhard Friedberg who is retiring after a highly distinguished academic career.
The MPA is a prestigious two-year post-graduate programme aimed at professionals with several years of working experience. The programme was created in 2005 in partnership with Columbia University and the London School of Economics. Students focus on developing the skills needed to develop and implement effective policies, providing them, in the process, with crucial tools for careers in a rapidly-changing international environment. The programme currently enrolls 92 students including 26 who will receive a dual degree with one of the partner universities. Students come from 36 countries, of which 14 percent hail from Africa, 33 percent from Asia, 15 percent from Latin America and 20 percent from North America.
Safford's vision for the programme has two dimensions. Substantively, the MPA curriculum will change to reflect the rapidly changing contexts in which policies are made. "The strength of the MPA is that it was built on a strong multi-disciplinary intellectual foundation," Safford said. "But we need to be sensitive to the mix of tools students are getting out of their time here. We are looking at the curriculum to make sure it reflects the kinds of skills and areas of knowledge that students need to launch successful careers."
Safford also sees a need to reassert the MPA's role as an educational innovator within Sciences Po. "When it was created, the MPA was a radical departure. It was the first programme at Sciences Po taught entirely in English and it recruited experienced students from a wide range of counties. It set the example for several master's degree programmes that have been established since then," Safford said. "We will build on this history of innovation toward ensuring Sciences Po's place among first rank of social sciences universities in the world."
Safford, 39, joined Sciences Po and the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations last year. He was previously an Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, and a lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He also served as a visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
His research on social, economic and technological change, particularly in mature industrial economies, has been influential in policy circles in the United States and in Europe. He was a lead researcher with the MIT Local Innovation Systems Project which examined the role of universities in economic development in the US and several countries around the world. His research has influenced a variety of policy-makers in the United States as well as scholars at the Brookings Institution and the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
Safford earned a Bachelor's degree in labor economics from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1994. In 2004, he received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. His dissertation, "Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown: Social Capital and the Transformation of the Rust Belt," won the Sage-Louis Pondy Prize for best paper from a dissertation by the Academy of Management's Organization and Management Theory Section as well as Best Paper from a Dissertation from the Economic Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. It was published by Harvard University Press in 2009.