2017-2018 Catalog 
    Jul 17, 2024  
2017-2018 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, MPA

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The Master of Public Administration program prepares students to take leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors. This multidisciplinary degree program is designed to provide graduate professional education for students interested in public service careers. Our MPA program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), whose standards are the benchmark used by public administration master’s degree programs worldwide.

The School of Public Affairs’ MPA degree is distinctive in that students can acquire the degree entirely online, entirely in the classroom, or seamlessly in combination.

MPA Mission

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), the program’s accrediting body:

  • Lead and manage in public governance;
  • Participate effectively in 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.

General Requirements

  • Complete a minimum of 36 credit hours of graduate coursework with a total grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4-point scale) or better;
  • Complete an additional 3 credit hours of internship (if required); and
  • Grades of B- or better in all courses counted towards the degree.

Course Requirements

Elective Courses

Students must complete 9-15 credit hours of electives, depending on Capstone or Thesis selection. Elective courses include a mixture of specialized courses, workshops, and other formats. Students may choose to focus these elective hours around a particular area based on their interests and career goals. Where appropriate, students may include specialized courses offered by other departments and schools of the University, with prior written approval of the MPA Program Director.

Capstone Requirements: Capstone Seminar or Thesis

MPA students are required to complete either the Capstone Seminar or Master’s Thesis as their culminating experience.

Capstone Seminar

In PAD 5361 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. The Capstone Seminar requires three hours of credit and should be taken after all core courses have been completed with a grade of B- or better, and preferably during the final semester in the MPA program. Students are advised to complete PAD 5003 Research Methods the semester prior to completing the Capstone Seminar, ideally using the methods course to formulate a project proposal, contact a second reader, and begin an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application. Capstone Seminar is offered ONLY in the fall and spring semesters.

Students should complete the following steps the semester prior to enrolling in PAD 5361 Capstone Seminar:

  • Attend a Capstone Seminar workshop hosted by the School of Public Affairs
  • Identify a partner agency for the Capstone project
  • Obtain an agreement from a UCCS faculty member to serve as a second reader on the Capstone project.
  • Draft a proposal and IRB application for the Capstone project (may be completed in PAD 5003 Research Methods)
  • Work with the Capstone Seminar instructor to submit an IRB proposal for review prior to the start of the semester in which they will enroll in the Capstone Seminar


In PAD 6950 Master’s Thesis, students conduct a comprehensive review of the theoretical and research literature in the subject area of their thesis and collect original data or analyze existing data in new ways. The thesis requires six hours of credit that normally spans two semesters. The thesis option is available to MPA students who have achieved an exceptional academic record and who wish to pursue independent research in greater depth than would normally be possible in Capstone Seminar. It is suited for students who intend to pursue a PhD degree or to enter a research or policy environment upon completion of the MPA degree.

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
  • Demonstrated ability to pursue research work, as evidenced by two submitted research papers developed in SPA courses or elsewhere
  • Preliminary identification of a thesis topic or area of interest
  • Agreement from a SPA faculty member to serve as the thesis committee chair along with two additional faculty members to serve on the thesis committee.
  • Minor exceptions to the above criteria may be made in exceptional circumstances.

A student wishing to undertake the thesis option applies formally through her/his faculty advisor, first, to establish eligibility with respect to the above criteria, and second, to identify appropriate faculty members to serve on the student’s three-person thesis committee. Before the student is allowed to enroll in PAD 6950 Master’s Thesis, the thesis committee must formally approve a written thesis proposal, which includes a thesis plan, a preliminary literature review, problem statement, and a timetable for completion.


The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program includes professional experience among the requirements for degree completion. Students who do not have at least one year of professional experience in the field of public administration or nonprofit management, or the equivalent, are classified as pre-service. Pre-service students are required to complete a 3-credit internship course, PAD 6910 Internship, which brings their total required course hours to 24 and the total hours required for the degree to 39.

In-service students may also enroll in PAD 6910 and complete an internship to obtain additional experience that differs from or is more specialized than previous experience. In this instance, the internship may be counted as an elective toward degree completion.

The MPA program director examines each student’s application and determines whether an internship is required or should be waived; each student is notified of this decision in his/her admission letter.

Students must have completed at least 9 hours of coursework to enroll in Internship. A minimum of 240 hours of supervised work is required to earn 3 hours of credit.

Additional information regarding internships may be found in the MPA Handbook, available on the School of Public Affairs website.

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