Social Science & Policy Studies

Faculty

James K. Doyle, Associate Professor and Department Head; Ph.D., University of Colorado/Boulder, 1991; judgement and decision making, mental models of dynamic systems, evaluation of system dynamics interventions

Oleg V. Pavlov, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2000; economics of information systems, political economy, system dynamics, computational economics, complex economic dynamics; opavlov@wpi.edu.

Michael J. Radzicki, Associate Professor; Ph.D., University of Notre Dame du Lac, 1985; economic growth, environmental and energy policy, fiscal and monetary policy, combining post keynesian economics and institutional economics with system dynamics; mjradz@wpi.edu

Khalid Saeed, Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1981; sustainable economic development, system dynamics; organizational development, political economy; saeed@wpi.edu

Adjunct Faculty

Robert Eberlein, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President, Ventana Systems, Inc

Andrew Ford, Professor; Ph.D., Washington State University; Regional Planning

James M. Lyneis, Professor of Practice; Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1974; system dynamics, project dynamics and management, economic dynamics, market and industry behavior, (de)regulation, forecasting, business strategy; jmlyneis@wpi.edu

John Morecroft, Senior Fellow, Management Science and Operations, London Business School

Kim Warren, Ph.D., Chairman, Global Strategy Dynamics

Program of Study

The Social Science & Policy Studies department offers a graduate certificate in System Dynamics, a master of science in System Dynamics, and an interdisciplinary master of science in systems modeling. Individuals may also utilize WPI’s interdisciplinary Ph.D. program to create a unique doctoral program incorporating system dynamics research. Through these programs, graduate students create and learn from their own models in a variety of research areas.

Graduate Certificate Program in System Dynamics

System dynamics is a computer simulation-based approach to the construction and analysis of mathematical models of economic, social, and physical systems. System dynamics modeling is applied in a variety of application areas such as biology, ecology, economics, business, public policy, etc. There is a strong and growing demand for graduate-level training in systems modeling in industry and government organizations. To meet this need, the department of Social Science and Policy Studies at WPI has developed a program of several on-line graduate courses in system dynamics.

The Department of Social Science and Policy Studies offers a graduate certificate program to create meaningful training in System Dynamics for people who may not seek a graduate degree, or who might wish to acquire basic training in the area prior to entering a degree program. This graduate certificate can be pursued entirely on line through courses implemented by WPI’s Corporate Online Graduate Programs. For information about the ADLN option, please contact Pam Shelley (pshelley@ wpi.edu). The structure and requirements for the program are detailed below.

Requirements

The Graduate Certificate in System Dynamics consists of 15 credit hours of graduate study (5 courses).

Students take one or both of our Foundation Courses (SD550 and SD551) depending on their experience, and fill out the remainder of their program with a variety of elective choices in system dynamics covering methodological topics and application areas. Students must work with a faculty advisor to delineate a Plan of Study for their certificate program. To be counted towards the certificate, the plan must be developed no later than the completion of the second course. Further details about the certificate requirements are available online.

Admission

Students will be eligible for admission into the graduate certificate program if they have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited university consistent with the WPI Graduate Catalog. Students should have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering. Students with other backgrounds will be considered based on their interest, formal education, and work experience. Admission decisions will be made by the SSPS department graduate program committee and approved by the department head based on all factors presented in the application, including prior academic performance, quality of professional experience, letters of recommendation, etc.

Master of Science in System Dynamics

The Masters Degree program in System Dynamics prepares students for the professional practice of system dynamics computer simulation modeling, which includes an understanding of the endogenous feedback relationships that cause observed patterns of behavior in socio-technical-economic systems, and knowledge of the use of simulation modeling for experimental analysis aimed at solving a variety of problems in the private and public policy domains. This training will enable students to look across disciplinary boundaries to discern the impacts of well-intentioned policies and technological solutions holistically. It will also prepare the students to understand the policy implementation process in various organizational settings and create confidence in the success of policy interventions. Many companies are currently supporting the training of their middle level managers in systems thinking and system dynamics because they regard it as essential for senior management roles in industry and the public sector. The WPI Masters in System Dynamics will offer an enhanced level of training for such roles. Combined with an undergraduate degree in engineering, the life sciences, the humanities, or social science, a Masters Degree in System Dynamics will enable a decision maker to more fully understanding cross-disciplinary issues, thus making him or her innovative contributors to their respective work settings. The WPI Masters Degree in System Dynamics may be pursued online.

Degree Requirements

The. M.S. degree in system dynamics consists of 30 credit hours of course work (10 courses). At least 21 of these credits must be in system dynamics. Courses are selected from three bins: foundation courses, methodological courses, and application courses. The remaining 9 credits may be additional system dynamics courses or may be taken from a list of approved courses in mathematics, organizational behavior, finance, and public planning. Up to 6 credit hours my be completed as supervised project work. All entering students must submit a plan of study identifying courses to be taken before the end of the first semester in the program. The plan of study must be approved by the faculty advisor. Further details about the M.S. requirements are available online.

Admission

Students will be eligible for admission to the program if they have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited university consistent with the WPI graduate catalog. Admission will also be open to qualified WPI students who opt for a five-year Bachelors-Masters Degree, with the undergraduate major based on a student’s interests. Admission decisions will be made by the SS&PS Department based on all of the factors presented in the application.

BS/MS in System Dynamics

The requirements for the proposed Masters degree in System Dynamics are structured so that undergraduate students would be able to pursue a five year Bachelors/Masters degree, in which the Bachelors degree is awarded in any major offered at WPI and the Masters degree is awarded in System Dynamics.

WPI allows the double counting of up to 12 credits for students pursuing a 5-year Bachelors-Masters Degree program. This overlap can be achieved through the following mechanisms:

  • Up to two system dynamics graduate courses taken by the student may be counted towards meeting the social science requirement of the student’s undergraduate major.
  • Up to four graduate courses in categories one to five taken by the student may be counted towards meeting the mathematics/engineering/science/elective requirements of the student’s undergraduate major, subject to approval by his/her major department.
  • Up to two 4000 level undergraduate courses taken by the student in his/her undergraduate major program may be counted towards the requirements of the Masters Degree in System Dynamics if they can be placed in one of the requirement categories listed above and approved by the SS&PS Department.
  • Up to three credits can be earned by double counting a junior and/or senior undergraduate project if it involves substantial use of system dynamics at an advanced level, subject to approval by the SS&PS graduate program committee.

Interdisciplinary Master’s Degree in Systems Modeling

There is a strong and growing demand for graduate-level training in systems modeling. Interest in system dynamics and formal mathematical modeling in industry and government organizations increases every year. Many employees of these organizations, and those seeking career changes, desire to improve their skills in these methodologies. In addition, these modeling methods are growing as a research tool and many prospective Ph.D. students desire to build skills in them.

Systems modeling subsumes both formal and computer simulation-based approaches to the construction and analysis of mathematical models of economic, social, and physical systems. It builds on methodologies such as feedback control theory, optimization, numerical methods and computer simulation. Moreover, systems modeling is applied in a variety of application areas such as management, biology, ecology, economics, etc. Students of systems modeling study not only the basic courses in System Dynamics, but also explore its methodological underpinnings in other disciplines and apply the methods to other disciplines, preparing them to mobilize the modeling concepts they learn to problem solving in the real world.

To meet this need, the departments of Mathematical Sciences and Social Science & Policy Studies have established an interdisciplinary master’s degree in systems modeling. This interdisciplinary 30 credit-hour program utilizing courses taught in Mathematical Sciences, Social Science & Policy Studies, and electives taught in engineering, science and management departments.

Admission

Students should have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering. Students with other backgrounds will be considered based on their interest, formal education, and work experience. Many students pursuing a 5- year bachelors/masters program also enroll for a masters in systems modeling along with a bachelors in a major of their choice to prepare for meeting the challenges of their future careers.

Degree Requirements

Students must complete 30 credit hours of coursework: 15 credit hours in system dynamics and 15 credit hours in mathematical modeling and an applications area (e.g. industrial engineering, management, infrastructure planning, telecommunications planning, power systems). Up to 6 of these latter credit hours may be done as supervised project work. New students must submit a Plan of Study identifying the courses to be taken and a prospective project topic before the end of the first semester in the program. If the student has earned a Graduate Certificate in System Dynamics from WPI, the Plan of Study must be submitted with the application materials. The Plan of Study must be approved by the administering faculty who will serve as advisors.

Further details about the requirements for the M.S. in systems modeling are available online. 

Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Social Science

The Social Science and Policy Studies Department offers doctoral studies under the WPI interdisciplinary category described online.

Administering Faculty

Interdisciplinary doctoral programs involving SSPS have currently been formed in coordination with faculty in ME, CS, CEE, ECE, and MA departments. For administrative purposes, SSPS will serve as host department in each instance.

Admission

Admission criteria for the doctoral program are outlined on our website. Applicants to the SSPS interdisciplinary doctoral program must have prior BS and MS degrees. A GRE is required, but can be waived in special cases with consent of the sponsoring group.

The Doctoral Committee and Plan of Study

Each program of study is tailored to the interests of the student and the interests of the participating faculty members. The first step in establishing a program is the selection of a doctoral program committee of no less than three faculty members, with at least one faculty member from each participating department. The doctoral program committee must be approved by CGSR.

A Plan of Study, of at least 60 credit hours, is then developed with the help of the student’s doctoral program committee to meet the degree requirements and the interests of the student and the participating faculty. This Plan of Study must also be approved by CGSR. Minimum and typical requirements for the Plan of Study are discussed below.

Requirements for the Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctorate at WPI

In addition to meeting the general requirements of the doctoral degree at WPI, students in the interdisciplinary social science doctoral program must also take a qualifying examination prior to earning 18 credit hours of work.

There are four stages toward an interdisciplinary doctorate involving SSPS: first, submitting an approved Plan of Study to the Registrar; second, passing a qualifying examination; third, defending a dissertation proposal and becoming a doctoral candidate; and fourth, defending the dissertation. The requirements stated below apply to students already having a master’s degree and are focused on 60 credits of graduate work beyond the MS degree.

Summary of Post-Master’s Degree Credits

Graduate coursework
Credits: 18 max
Pre-qualifying exam coursework

Graduate coursework
Credits: 6 min
Post-qualifying exam coursework

Dissertation
Credits: 18 max
Post-qualifying exam, pre-candidacy exam dissertation credits

Dissertation
Credits: 12 min
Post-candidacy exam dissertation credits to make at least 30 dissertation credits totally

Graduate coursework or dissertation credits
Credits: Balance
Post-candidacy exam credits to make at least 60 total credits

Total Post-MS Credits: 60

Detailed guidelines for completing the Interdisciplinary Ph. D. in system dynamics are available online. 

 
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