Mission, Values, and Legacy

Hubert H. Humphrey rides in a car past people in support of his 1968 presidential campaign

A Community Committed to Changing the World

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota ranks among the country’s top professional public policy and planning schools, widely recognized for its success in advancing the common good through a comprehensive, world-class program. The School offers six distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and six certificate programs that match students’ passion with the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to solve real-world challenges.

Long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national, and global levels, the Humphrey School is respected for its role in shaping public policy, its focus on social justice and human rights, and its expertise in planning, leadership, and management.

The Humphrey School’s outstanding faculty members are deeply engaged with students and committed to public service and public affairs scholarship. Seven policy research centers in the Humphrey School make significant contributions to solutions on issues ranging from politics and governance to urban and regional planning, from early childhood policy to technology and environmental sustainability.

The University of Minnesota, one of the world’s leading research institutions, is located in Minneapolis-St. Paul, annually ranked at the top of the country’s most affordable, literate, and engaged metropolitan areas.

Our Mission

The mission of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs is to inspire, educate, and support innovative leaders to advance the common good in a diverse world. 

Our Values

In 2017, we developed a four-year, strategic plan for the Humphrey School. On this strong foundation, and informed by a broad process of consultation, we have identified four major themes that will help to guide our investments and inform our scholarship, our training, our service, and our engagement:

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Promoting hope, opportunity, and inclusion in a changing America and a changing world

Whether it is the imperative of early childhood development and effective K-12 education; ensuring success for new Americans in a rapidly changing America; considering the social and economic impacts of housing and transportation policy; sustainably managing societal transitions relating to demographics, infrastructure, technology, and the environment; promoting equitable access to social services, nutrition, and basic infrastructure; ensuring that policies on work, pay, and occupational licensing promote access and employment; or advancing the rights of women, our School has a critical role to play in promoting hope and opportunity. A foundation of hope and opportunity is the proposition that one’s potential for success should not be influenced or determined by race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability or economic status at birth. Regrettably, each of these factors has played a role in sustaining or exacerbating disparities in our community and around the nation. Humphrey School researchers are deeply engaged in a range of measures designed broadly to promote equality of opportunity and reduce disparities, and thereby strengthen the character of our democratic institutions. This includes the work of the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, the Center for Women, Gender, and Public Policy, the Future Services Institute, as well as the work of individual faculty on issues as varied as civil and human rights, criminal justice, welfare reform, sustainable cities, and the environment.

Supporting the institutions of democracy and civic life

Institutions of public life—governments, legislatures, and civic and other non-governmental organizations—play critical roles in formulation, development, and implementation of policies and programs that dramatically impact the lives of citizens, yet public confidence in the institutions of governance is, by most accounts, very low. Public and government understanding of complex scientific issues is also critical in managing rapid change. The Humphrey School has a multifaceted role to play in supporting and strengthening the efforts of the broad array of individuals and institutions that are engaged in governance. First, we serve as a forum where legislators from different political parties can engage in civil dialogue (for example, through the One Minnesota Conference); and where individuals and organizations of diverse perspectives can meet to discuss and debate important issues. Second, we promote more fair and effective policy implementation, building on efforts such as our Future Services Institute and the Election Administration program. Finally, through our distinguished programs in Leadership and Management, in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, in Urban and Regional Planning, and in other areas, we to engage external stakeholders in co-producing knowledge and addressing complex public policy problems, and serve as vital resources to our students and to the broader community.

Expanding our global reach and impact

Today, there are fewer and fewer boundaries between domestic and global affairs, and this is especially true in the Twin Cities. With dozens of thriving nonprofit organizations involved in global issues, a growing and vibrant community of immigrants and refugees, and 17 Fortune 500 companies in the area, our Minnesota communities are connected to the world outside our state.

In recent years, our scholars and scholar-practitioners have been at the center of developing policy solutions to climate change, international development, international economic policy, humanitarian and refugee policy, nuclear non-proliferation, and human rights in the Global South. We are hosting an increasing number of international exchanges through our International Fellows Program and the Washington Mandela Fellowship for Young African Leaders, and we are becoming a leader in the knowledge-sharing community through a repository of learning materials used by partners worldwide. We are pursuing a range of initiatives with academic partners in China, including Humphrey faculty leadership in professional associations involving Chinese and U.S. scholars, conditional admission programs, and coursework for students from China. All of our master’s degree programs provide opportunities for engagement in global issues, including our Master of Human Rights degree. In addition, we have increased our engagement with Washington, DC, institutions involved in global issues, reflected, for example, in our partnership with the Stimson Center and work with the United Nations and other international organizations.

Strengthening the pipeline of talented and diverse leaders

Our country and our world need exceptional leaders who reflect the diversity that characterizes our changing communities. We have made substantial progress in increasing assistance to our students, and in diversifying our student population. Our successful effort to serve as the national secretariat for the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program, a national pipeline diversity initiative, as well as our decision to host a summer PPIA training institute at the Humphrey School, reflects this commitment, but there is much more to be done. We are expanding our recruitment efforts generally, as well as expanding targeted efforts to recruit in communities of color. More than half of our planned $20 million campaign goal through 2021 is focused on student scholarship support, including support for promoting diversity.

We have also increased dramatically our course offerings to undergraduates at the University of Minnesota, based on a strategy developed in 2013, with the following goals:

1) to increase University-wide awareness of the Humphrey School mission and programming;
2) to offer undergraduate courses to enrich the baccalaureate experience by exposing students from a wide range of majors to the study of public policy, public affairs, civic engagement, and planning;
3) to strengthen existing interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program partnerships (e.g., Urban Planning major, Public and Nonprofit Management major and minor, undergraduate Leadership minor);
4) to increase awareness among UMN undergraduate students of public affairs graduate school and career opportunities; and
5) to create potential training opportunities for our PhD students through the teaching of public affairs courses.

We have succeeded in these efforts and now teach more undergraduate courses and students than ever before. When we started upon this road, we agreed to consider future directions for the School in undergraduate education, and, with many of our peer institutions instituting undergraduate programs and interest in our undergraduate offerings at an all-time high, now is the time for such a review.

We began the process of refreshing our strategic plan in 2022. 

School History

The Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs was founded in 1977 at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The school chose its name in honor and recognition of a Minnesota political icon, U.S. Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a legislator and statesman recognized internationally for his contributions to improving the well-being of humanity.

The Humphrey Institute grew out of the University of Minnesota’s former School of Public Affairs (1968–77) and Public Administration Center (1936–68). It was renamed the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in 2011 to better reflect its academic mission. Like its predecessors, the Humphrey School continues to instill in our brightest leaders an understanding of leadership and public service in advancing the common good.

A Living Memorial

Before his death, Humphrey made sure the institution that would carry his name would be more than a college. He wanted a living memorial, one that would not only prepare future leaders, but also one that would be a forum for active debate on the policy issues of the day, and an academy that would produce the best research and non-partisan advocacy based on that research.

A Legacy of Outstanding Leaders

Professor John Adams led the transition of the School of Public Affairs to the Humphrey Institute graduate school from 1976 to 1979. Harlan Cleveland, an internationally known political figure and former Assistant Secretary of State, was named the Institute’s founding dean in 1980. Under Cleveland’s leadership, the college moved into its current home at the Humphrey Center in 1986. The building was designed to enhance the research and outreach mission of the college and to present a welcoming gateway to the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. 

Regents Professor G. Edward Schuh later served as dean from 1987 to 1997, followed by Professor John Brandl from 1997 to 2002, and J. Brian Atwood from 2002 to 2011. Eric P. Schwartz served as dean from October 2011 to June 2017. Laura Bloomberg served as dean from June 2017 to August 2021. Nisha Botchwey, PhD, assumed the role of dean in January 2022.