The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program serves the needs of pre-service students who wish to begin a career in the management of public or nonprofit organizations, of mid-career public or nonprofit sector professionals who wish to enhance their potential for career advancement, and of people from the private sector who intend to move into the public or nonprofit sectors. The MPA is a broadly recognized credential for public service management at all levels of government and in many nonprofit organizations. It also serves as a foundation for doctoral work in the field of public administration.
The curriculum of the MPA program provides students with a range of theoretical and practice-based concepts in topical areas such as the field of public administration, leadership, ethics, public policy, methods of conducting research, and human resources and financial management. The curriculum also includes a variety of elective courses that allow students to tailor their programs to their particular career interests.
The Master of Public Administration program provides high quality graduate education for current and prospective practitioners in public and nonprofit organizations, here and abroad, to prepare them for excellence in public service.
To accomplish this mission, we strive to
- Advance public service through improving the quality of public, nonprofit, national security, and criminal justice systems.
- Teach students from diverse backgrounds to work collaboratively to meet societal challenges ethically, with compassion, vision, analytic rigor, and practicality.
- Foster strategic leadership skills: critical thinking and decision-making, effective communication, creative problem-solving, knowledge management, multi-sector understanding, and global citizenship.
- Support and model civil public discourse, citizenship, responsibility, and respect.
- Facilitate a process of lifelong learning that evolves and adapts to the changing nature of the field and continuous development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required.
MPA Core Competencies
Graduates of the MPA program will have the following competencies, as enumerated by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), our accrediting body:
- Lead and manage in public governance.
- Participate in and contribute to the public policy process.
- Analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions.
- Articulate and apply a public service perspective.
- Communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.
- A minimum of 36 semester hours of graduate course work.
- A grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4-point scale) or better.
- Grades of B- or better in all required courses. Credit will not be counted for any course in which a student earns a grade of C- or lower.
Fifteen Semester Hours of Electives
Elective courses include a mixture of specialized courses, workshops, and other formats. Students may choose to use these elective hours to build an area of concentration designed to meet individual needs. Where appropriate, students may include specialized courses offered by other departments and schools of the University, with prior written approval of the faculty advisor or dean.
Capstone Requirements: Capstone Seminar or Thesis
All MPA students, except those pursuing the thesis option, are required to complete PAD 5361, Capstone Seminar, in which they conduct, write, and present a client-based project. The Capstone Seminar is taken during the last semester of the student’s degree program. All core courses must be completed with a grade of B- or better before taking the capstone seminar.
In the Capstone Seminar, students work with a client in a public or nonprofit agency to identify a problem and then, using the knowledge and skills they have gained in the program, carry out a project and write a paper to address the problem. Projects take many different forms including business plans, marketing plans, surveys and interviews, salary studies, etc. The principle of the course is that it provides students with an opportunity to integrate what they have learned and apply their knowledge and skills to a real-world problem. Further, it provides the faculty with an opportunity to judge the student’s ability to perform such work.
The thesis option is available in lieu of PAD 5361 for MPA students who have an interest in pursuing a topic in-depth or who are planning to pursue a career in research or academia. Students must receive approval from their faculty advisor or the associate dean to pursue the thesis option. The thesis requires six semester hours of credit that normally spans two semesters.
Minimum eligibility requirements for pursuing a thesis include:
- Matriculation in the MPA program
- Successful completion of all core courses
- Overall GPA of 3.5 or higher
- Preliminary identification of a thesis topic or area of interest
- Agreement of two SPA faculty members to serve on the thesis committee (one as thesis advisor)
A student wishing to undertake the thesis option applies formally through her/his faculty academic advisor, first, to establish eligibility with respect to the above criteria, and second, to identify appropriate faculty members to serve on the student’s thesis committee. The thesis committee consists of three people: a major advisor who is a full-time SPA faculty member, and two others. One of these must be a SPA faculty member, though the person can be an adjunct faculty member, and the other is a reader who has expertise in the area, but is either from the community or another school or department. (NOTE: Although the formal procedures entail application through the academic advisor, the student is encouraged to make informal contacts with appropriate subject-matter faculty to determine interest and availability.)
Field Study in Public Administration
Students who have limited experience (generally defined as less than one year of experience) in public, nonprofit or relevant private-sector service must enroll in PAD 6910, Field Study in Public Administration. The decision to require PAD 6910 for a particular student is made by the faculty admissions committee upon the student’s acceptance to the MPA program. A minimum of 240 hours of supervised work and study is required to earn three semester hours of credit. This requirement raises the total semester hours needed to earn the MPA degree to 39.
Applicants to the program will be reviewed, and those who must complete internships will be notified. Students ordinarily begin an internship following completion of nine or more hours of MPA coursework. Students with an internship requirement should consult with the MPA internship coordinator early in their program.
Additional Internship Opportunities
Students who are not required to complete an internship as part of their degree program may nevertheless opt to participate in a field experience as an independent study and may earn credit for doing so. Those who wish to pursue this opportunity should contact the MPA internship coordinator.