In the midst of the dedication festivities last November for the William J. Clinton Presidential Library--four living presidents and dozens of dignitaries attended the ceremony in Little Rock--the Clinton School of Public Service was largely ignored. But the new school, housed next door to the library in the historic Choctaw railroad station, aspires to outshine its neighbor.
It will offer one of the nation's few master's degrees in public service. It also plans to redefine public policy education. Rather than concern itself with the academic nature of politics and governance, the school will emphasize public service, with a clear goal of churning out public officials. "We're not designing it as a school for policy," says Thomas Bruce, professor and associate dean at the Clinton school. "It's for engineers, architects, doctors, politicians to apply their training to public service."
Set up under the University of Arkansas system, the school will depend on state funding to operate, funding that has yet to be appropriated. Former U.S. Senator David Pryor has been named dean, and faculty will be drawn from across the ideological spectrum.
As designed by the university system, the school will be the first to break the tradition of keeping presidential schools separate from presidential libraries. Organizers felt that a school without the library's archives would be just another school. While the school benefits from the proximity of the library, it will, however, be its own academic entity.
If funding becomes available and the school is able to open as planned this fall, it will be highly competitive, accepting about 20 students out of an expected applicant pool of 1,000 for its initial class.