Hello there!
I'm Dr. Dana Dolan

I help passionate policy professionals excel in the fast-paced context of Capitol Hill and beyond. With my courses and guidance, they can confidently produce high-quality policy analysis, research, and communications with ease.

About Me

In brief, I’m a tech-savvy educator, social science researcher, and public policy theorist. My research engages Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework and “Big-Q” qualitative methods that value meaning and context. These methods are crucial for research on long-term policy challenges with their complex dynamics. I’m proud to teach at two of the region’s three “George” universities in the Washington, DC region, which has served as home base for my F2F and virtual work since 1984. And I’m passionate about bridging the gaps between timeless theory, insightful research, and professional practices to make a real-world difference.

I help turn passion for public service into impactful policy analysis, research, and communications.

My unique approach to teaching and research fuses professional practices with academic insights.

I draw on a wealth of expertise from my earlier career, aiding government clients adopt, and adapt to, advanced information technologies. And it was during those years I began asking uncomfortable questions. You know, the kind that software and systems engineers aren’t supposed to ask. Questions about power. About who decides. And about what those deciders considered when they weighed their options.

I needed answers, but I didn’t have the tools to find them. So I did the unthinkable: I went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in Public Policy. Who knows why they let me in, with my MS in Information Systems, BS in Math & Business, and a career in IT, but there I was, relearning things I’d forgotten long ago, about governments and politics. And I loved it.

Here, decisions were made out in the open, not hidden in corporate boardrooms. Or so I thought – things are not so simple, are they?

In spite of my math/tech background, I forged a path out of the quantitative core of my doctoral program, to drank deeply at the qualitative oasis of IQMR. Process tracing? Absolutely. Concept development? Of course! Deep, informative interviews? Yes, please!


Today, I aim to teach students to think critically. This is crucial because our world is changing. To understand it, we need more than standard steps and accepted facts alone. My own research agenda challenges, exhausts, and inspires me, as my past converges with the present and opens new doors to the future. It’s the joy of discovery  that lights me up. I strive to bring that joy of discovery to each of students, along with the confidence that they can lead and not just follow the ideas of others.
In these turbulent times, what happens next is anyone’s guess. Will AI, climate change, and democratic erosion turn our societies upside down, or will we naturally adjust and possibly embrace these changes?
But one thing is sure. We’ll always have more public policy issues to resolve. Let me help you turn your passion for public service into an impactful career. We need you!


New to my research? Some of my more popular publications are:

  • Dolan, Dana A., and Sonja Blum. 2023. “The Beating Heart of the MSF: Coupling as a Process.” In The Modern Guide to the Multiple Streams Framework, eds. N. Zahariadis, N. Herweg, R. Zohlnhöfer, and E. Petridou. Edward Elgar.
  • Westman, Linda, James Patterson, Rachel Macrorie, Christopher J. Orr, Catherine M. Ashcraft, Vanesa Castán Broto, Dana Dolan, et al. 2022. “Compound Urban Crises.” Ambio: 1402–15. doi:10.1007/s13280-021-01697-6.
  • Dolan, Dana A. 2021. “Multiple Partial Couplings in the Multiple Streams Framework: The Case of Extreme Weather and Climate Change Adaptation.” Policy Studies Journal 49(1): 164–89. doi:10.1111/psj.12341.
  • Wedel, Janine R., Nazia Hussain, and Dana A. Dolan. 2017. Political Rigging: A Primer on Political Capture and Influence in the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: Oxfam America. Research Backgrounder. https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/political-rigging/.
  • Dolan, Dana A, Genevieve B Soule, Jill Greeney, and Jason Morris. 2010. “Warming Up to Climate Action – A Survey of GHG Mitigation through Building Energy Efficiency in City Climate Action Plans.” Carbon and Climate Law Review (2/2010): 161–72.
  • Nidiffer, Kenneth E., and Dana Dolan. 2005. “Evolving Distributed Project Management.” IEEE Software 22(5): 63–72. doi:10.1109/MS.2005.120.

For more, visit my profile pages on Google Scholar, ResearchGate, or Academia.edu.

Courses - What Can You Learn With Me?

I teach public policy and qualitative methods courses to graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and career professionals. My teaching style emphasizes critical thinking in a collaborative learning environment. Conversations with curious minds can inspire and enlighten, and we the most important policy issues of the day. People often ask, how do I navigate political controversies and partisan divides? By grounding discussions in theory, my approach encourages diverse audiences to develop alternative perspectives. This habit evolves naturally from course lessons and examples, and hopefully sticks with people long after the course ends.

Strategic Policy Analysis, Research, and Communications (SPARC)

Enrollment will soon open for the Rapid Response Policy Memo Challenge. In one week’s time, you’ll not only know how to write top-notch, strategic policy memos, you’ll also have your first memo ready to share. It’s the perfect taster for what’s coming up in my full-length SPARC Course (expected early 2025).

Want a head start? Download my free guide and template for writing Strategic Policy Memos today.

Together, these offerings aim to build policy capacity and accelerate careers on Capitol Hill and beyond. In today’s increasingly complex social, political, and technological context, it is crucial that current and aspiring policy professionals augment their practical skills with timeless theoretical principles and leading-edge research the need to excel. These high-quality online courses are designed to supercharge careers while respecting challenging working schedules.

Public Policy Processes

How does a policy idea’s time come? What moves it on to the policy agenda for serious consideration, and on to the decision agenda where legislators agree to adopt it (or not)? We explore this question in depth in PUAD540, a required course in the public administration graduate program at GMU’s Schar School for Policy and Government.

Students use Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework to analyze current policy issues from the perspective of theory, develop their own policy analysis along the way, and write a detailed policy brief. In addition, they collaborate in teams to understand and apply alternative policy process perspectives, such as Policy Design.

Link: Dana Dolan @ GMU’s Schar School for Policy and Government.

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative methods is a big tent where many variations reside. The George Washington University (GW) Elliott School of International Affairs graduate students and others who take my IAFF6118 course learn to appreciate this diversity practically and theoretically.

Students gain practical, hands-on experience with interviewing, observing, and document analysis working in collaborative teams. They put this knowledge into theoretical perspective by discussing how “Big Q” qualitative research differs from “small q” qual and quantitative research to better understand the messy, uncertain, evolving reality of our complex world.

I’m honored to be invited once again to present a 7-week version of this course to visiting scholars from Kazakhstan, in collaboration with the Bolashak International Scholarship Program and the GW School of Business.

Link: Dana Dolan @ GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs

What My Students Say...

I have a better understanding about how public policy works, the factors to consider to have an alternative to be added to the policy agenda and how an idea's time has come.
Graduate student
Spring 2024
This whole course is structured to set up a student to succeed. It was perfectly organized, thorough and Dr. Dolan did a great job at facilitating a learning community.
Graduate student
Spring 2024
Dr. Dolan is an exceptional professor! She shows genuine concern for her students and their education. [H]er class structure is very purposeful. Everything made sense as we went along in the semester and I appreciate her thought process behind her course.
Graduate student
Spring 2024
[Q: What aspect of the course was most valuable for your learning?] The professor’s organization, excellent slides, and space to participate in class, and develop critical thinking.
Graduate student
Spring 2023
This was the best course I’ve ever taken at the graduate level! The course was extremely well–organized and Prof. Dolan took students’ questions very seriously and showed her passion for teaching.
Graduate student
Spring 2021

Contact Me

I look forward to hearing from you! Use the form to email me (please allow 1 to 2 working days for a reply). Alternatively, you can text or call me at 202-480-9766.

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