About Bill Coplin

Bill Coplin received his B.A. in social sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1960, and his M.A. (1962) and Ph.D. (1964) in international relations from American University. He has been the Director and Professor of the Public Affairs Program of the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and College of Arts and Sciences since 1976. He has published more than 110 books and articles in the fields of international relations, public policy, political risk analysis, social science education, citizenship and “doing good.” He co-founded and served as a senior consultant to the PRS Group LLC from 1979 to 2001, which forecasts political and economic conditions in 100 countries. Since 2000, his efforts have been aimed at reforming high school and college education through his writings, teaching, educational materials and the Skills Through Experience program.

Reforming College and High School Educationskillswin-logo

Throughout his career, he has written extensively on the need to reform both high school and college education to meet the needs of the majority of students who see education as a path to better employment opportunities and educators who want their students to succeed as citizens and in whatever post-secondary education they pursue.

He has worked with teachers and administrators from more than 100 high schools throughout New York state on curriculum. With his publication of Ten Things Employers Want You to Learn in College in August 2003, he has received numerous interviews and written extensively on how to bring about such reforms. He has written articles on education in USA Today, the Albany Times Union and for Knight-Ridder publications, as well as educational websites for Newsweek magazine and the Wall Street Journal. A seven member panel of national experts selected his paper, “Seven ways to reduce instructional costs and improve undergraduate and graduate education” for publication by the Lumina Foundation for Higher Education, and an article based on it appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. His book directed at the parents of high school and college students, 25 Ways to Make College Pay Off: Advice for Anxious Parents from a Professor Who’s Seen It All, was published in July 2007. He has worked off and on with the Syracuse City School District on several projects to incorporate skills education into the curriculum. His current work on the Skills Through Experience Program (STEP) put the ideas from in the book onto a website created through Syracuse University.

Teaching and Advising Awards

In 1993 he received the Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Service by Syracuse University. He was appointed one of the first three Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence at Syracuse University in 1995. He has received several other awards for excellence in teaching and advising from faculty, students and alumni, including the 2000-2001 College of Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Faculty Advisor.

High School Curriculum and Training Activities in Citizenship Education

He designed and implemented curriculum to develop career and citizenship skills among college and high school students. His Public Affairs 101: Introduction to the Analysis of Public Policy course served as the base for his contribution to guidelines for the Regents 12th grade course “participation in government” required of all graduating high school students in New York State. The course has been taken by more than 6,000 students at Syracuse University over the past 30 years. More than 10,000 high school seniors at 65 high schools have taken the course over the past 20 years through Syracuse University’s Project Advance Program. He, with two colleagues, received an award from the Public Employees Roundtable for the best one-year curriculum for increasing the public awareness of the range and quality of services provided by public servants. Since 1993, he has served as a curriculum consultant to the High School for Leadership and Public Service in New York City, which was founded by the NYC Board of Education in partnership with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.  His recent article, What Has Happened to Our Citizens-In-Training, for the USA Today Magazine shows how skills need to be a career component of all citizenship education at the high school and college levels.

Policy Studies Major at Syracuse University

He launched the Policy Studies Major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 1978. The tag line of the major is “Undergraduates building professional skills through community service and research” and requires at least six credit hours of coursework implementing community projects. According to client estimates, his students provide more than $100,000 of research services and more than $60,000 in direct services to the clients of nonprofit agencies each year. Policy Studies majors win a disproportionate number of scholarship awards within and outside the University. The major is one of the oldest and largest undergraduate interdisciplinary majors in the United States and is different from similarly named majors at other University for its twin emphasis on skills and community-based experience.

Public Service Activities to Agencies Serving Youth

As a direct byproduct of the use of public service in the curriculum, he created the University Reach Program in 1988. The program has received more than $275,000 in grants from the Mott Foundation, Nationwide Insurance, UPS and the Kellogg Foundation to support undergraduates working with inner-city youth in a variety of projects. Since 1999, he has offered a course where undergraduates offer a range of programs to youth at a housing project located near the University and other locations throughout the city of Syracuse. He became a board member of the Syracuse Boys and Girls Club to better connect the work of SU undergraduates to the largest provider of youth programs in Syracuse. He received the 2001 President’s Award, the highest award offered by the Boys and Girls Club, for his efforts in the Continuous Improvement System for evaluating programs. His skills approach has been pilot tested in youth programs, middle and high schools and adult training programs across the nation.

Improving Local Governments

In 1996, he and the then Chair of the Public Administration Department, Astrid Merget, received a $579,000 three-year grant from the Sloan Foundation to develop benchmarks for government service performance in Onondaga County and establish the Maxwell Community Benchmarks Program. He co-authored a book in 2000, with Carol Dwyer, Does your Government Measure Up: Basic Tools for Local Officials and Citizens. The book has been endorsed by professional associations such as the American Chamber of Commerce and the International City Managers Association. With two colleagues, he published an article in Public Administration Review in 2002 entitled “The professional researcher as change agent in the government-performance movement.” He also served as vice-chair and chair of the Town of Manlius Coalition in the late 1990’s.

Book Publications

His book, Ten Things Employers Want You to Learn in College, was published by Ten Speed Press in 2003, and a revised version appeared in 2012.
It informs undergraduates on how they can use their college academic and non-academic experiences to prepare for rewarding careers. General Electric purchased and distributed copies to the Center for Career Services at Syracuse University, while several other universities have purchased the book for their entire freshman class. The book has been published in several foreign languages. His book, The Maxwell Manual for Good Citizenship: Public Policy Skills, was published in 2007 and is used at Syracuse University and over 50 high schools to introduce students to the skills necessary for effective citizenship.
His book, 25 Ways to Make College Pay Off: Advice for Anxious Parents from a Professor Who’s Seen It All, was published in 2007 and is available electronically from e-book vendors. It provides parents with strategies to coach their children to use their college experience to enter a viable career path after college. In 2000, he published a book How You Can Help: An Easy Guide to Doing Good Deeds in Your Everyday Life, which encourages people to “do good.” Larry King, Ralph Nader and the presidents of both the Points of Light Foundation and Independent Sector have endorsed the book. All profits from the book are contributed to local programs for disadvantaged youth.

Published Articles by Bill Coplin

These articles have been published in various journals or newspapers. Unpublished articles appear in my blog.

About Skills in General

Grade inflation works for today’s students
Lost in the Life of the Mind

High School

A Guide to Teach Youth What Employers Want Them to Know January 2005 Version
The Skills for Success Pro-Challenge


Instructor’s Manual for One Credit College Professional Skills Course
Tips for landing a job after college – Chicago Tribune Article

For new graduates, ‘soft skills’ are the secret weapon in job hunt
A Little Exercise to Help College Freshman Apply a Skills Perspective to their 
Education reform should keep the workplace in mind
The Internship Divide