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: Advanced Seminar or Thesis
All MPA students, except those pursuing the thesis option, are required to complete PAD 5361, Advanced Seminar in Public Policy and Management, in which they conduct, write, and present a client-based project. The Advanced Seminar is taken during the last semester of the student’s degree program. All core courses must be completed before taking the advanced seminar.
The Advanced Seminar course is the capstone course for the program. In it, 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. (See Advanced Seminar Policies.)
The thesis option is available for MPA students who are interested in undertaking a research project, pursuing careers in research, or entering the Ph.D. program. Students must select a thesis advisor from the faculty to oversee their work. A thesis may be completed in one semester, but often requires a two-semester, six-credit hour time frame. The student conducts a comprehensive review of the theoretical and research literature in the subject area of their thesis and collects original data or analyzes existing data in new ways. (See the SPA Thesis Guidelines for more detail.)
Minimum eligibility requirements for pursuing a thesis include:
- Matriculation in the MPA program
- Successful completion of all core courses
- Overall GPA of 3.75 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.)
This course presents students with the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in course work to a question of interest drawn from their current or future careers in public or nonprofit organizations. The Advanced Seminar/Professional Practicum is taken in the final semester of the student’s program. It allows the student to apply the knowledge and skills gained in his or her course work through in-class discussions and individual or group projects. All core courses must be completed before a student enrolls in the advanced seminar.