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 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
- 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.)