Watts College earns high marks in US News rankings

7 grad programs in top 10, including No. 1 for EMHS; School of Public Affairs rises to No. 12; School of Social Work is in top 10% nationwide

Exterior view of a building with a sign that reads: Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Graduate programs at Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions are among the best in the nation, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, including a No. 1 designation for the emergency management and homeland security program, a No. 12 designation for the School of Public Affairs and a No. 28 designation for the School of Social Work.

Seven out of the 12 ASU degree programs in the national top 10 are at Watts College, the nation’s largest comprehensive public service college, according to the magazine’s rankings in public affairs and social work released today.

The School of Public Affairs' overall ranking rose to No. 12 from No. 13 the previous year. The new ranking outpaces those for Ohio State University, University of North Carolina, Columbia University and Duke University.

The emergency management and homeland security (EMHS) ranking is up from No. 3 a year ago. ASU is tied with the Naval Postgraduate School for the top position, higher than rankings for programs at the University of Central Florida, University of Maryland and Harvard.

Demonstrating the benefit of the interdisciplinary nature of these degrees, the nonprofit management program was ranked No. 4, higher than the University of Washington, University of Southern California, American University, New York University, Ohio State University and Rutgers University, with courses supported by SPA and the School of Community Resources and Development.

In addition, the School of Social Work is ranked No. 28, maintaining its position in the top 10% of 298 such programs at U.S. colleges and universities, and placing it higher than Bryn Mawr University, Michigan State University, the University of Connecticut and University of Kansas.

“I am so pleased to see our School of Public Affairs is again ranked in the top 15 and our School of Social Work remains in the top 10%,” said Watts College Dean Cynthia Lietz, a President’s Professor of social work. “And, our concentration in emergency management is recognized as the top program in the nation, a significant achievement! Our faculty have without a doubt earned this distinction.”

The School of Public Affairs ranking places it among and above several private institutions, said Donald Siegel, Foundation Professor and School of Public Affairs director.

“The School of Public Affairs’ No. 12 ranking places us in a tie with Princeton University, Carnegie-Mellon University and New York University, and ahead of Columbia University and Duke University. These are all elite, private universities that charge more than double our tuition,” Siegel said. “(The school) had more top 10 U.S. rankings than any university, except Syracuse and Indiana, which were tied for No. 1 in the nation.”

Siegel said he is especially excited that ASU and the School of Public Affairs lead the nation in the growing field of emergency management and homeland security.

“It is clear that (the school) is extremely adept at training emergency managers to help communities prepare for, mitigate and recover from natural and man-made disasters,” Siegel said. “Our No. 1 ranking is especially timely, given ASU’s strong involvement in the pandemic response and because we are launching a new undergraduate program in EMHS (along with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice) beginning in 2023.

“The message from the U.S. News rankings is clear: (the school) is one of the leading schools in the nation, thanks to our world-class faculty, innovative academic programs and cutting-edge research centers."

School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Brian Gerber, who is co-director of the Watts- and school-based Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said he appreciates peers’ continued recognition of the program’s quality.

“The program really excels in part because we emphasize a forward-thinking approach to the complex world we face today for hazards and disasters,” Gerber said. “Our students are absolutely outstanding and contribute so much to program excellence. And we make a very concerted effort to engage with government agencies at all levels, as well as with private and nonprofit stakeholders.”

The other School of Public Affairs programs in the top 10 are:

  • Information technology, ranked No. 4, higher than the University at Albany-SUNY.
  • Local government management, ranked No. 4, higher than University of Georgia, Syracuse University, Indiana University, University of Southern California, New York University and Ohio State University.
  • Public management and leadership, ranked No. 4, higher than Harvard, USC, George Washington University, Ohio State, University of Kansas, University of Washington, North Carolina, Rutgers, Georgetown University and NYU.
  • Urban policy, ranked No. 6, higher than Rutgers University, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Harvard and Syracuse.
  • Environmental policy, ranked No. 8, higher than University of Texas-Austin, Columbia University and Harvard.

Three other School of Public Affairs programs were ranked in the top 25 nationwide:

  • Public finance, ranked No. 12, higher than Maryland, Harvard, American University, Rutgers and Chicago.
  • Public policy analysis, ranked No. 19, higher than Ohio State, University of Wisconsin, North Carolina, Cornell University, George Mason University, Brown University, University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University.
  • Social policy, ranked No. 22, higher than Brown and George Mason.

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