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The MPA in Public Affairs and Administration

Course Offerings

Within the semester, classes are divided into seminars called Dimensions of Learning, Action, and Assessment. They are: Purpose, Values and Ethics, Self and Others, Systems, and Skills. These represent the five dimensions of holistic, empowering performance. Students explore the theoretical background behind each seminar, which will help them master the Purpose for that semester. As a whole, the seminars are designed to help the students:

  1. Integrate theoretical material from the other four dimension classes.
  2. Plan and carry out an effective innovation or pilot program at the work site.
  3. Document their action and achievement in writing.
  4. Assess the results and perform strategic planning for the future.

The three Purposes of the MPA are inter-related and lead to the completion of a Constructive Action (typically a thesis in more theoretical programs). An extensive research component is integrated into each semester's requirements. Graduate students are awarded the MPA upon the successful completion of 45 credits (15 credits per semester) and a grade point average of a 3.0.

One-year Master of Public Administration Program (45 credits)

Dimensions Credits Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3
Purpose 2 Identifying Opportunities for Organizational Change Initiating and Managing Organizational Change Long Range Planning for Organizational Improvement
Constructive Action 3 Research Implementation and Documentation Project Implementation and Documentation Project Evaluation and Recommendations
Values & Ethics 2 Public Policy Administrative Ethics Politics and Policy
Self & Others 2 Organizational Behavior in Public and Nonprofit Organizations Human Resource Management Intergovernmental Relations
Systems 2 Introduction to Public Administration Non-profit Governance, Management and Marketing Public Economics
Skills 1 2 Research Methods I Research Methods II Strategic Planning and Proposal Writing
Skills 2 2 Computer-based Applications for Public Managers Budgeting and Financial Management Program Evaluation
*Course Description will be available soon

Semester 1

Identifying Opportunities for Organizational Change (PAA 610 PUR) (2 credits)
The Purpose Dimension seminar is a forum in which students explore together the opportunities for change in their organizations. Students are expected to contribute actively, sharing ideas, research findings, suspected problems, and plans concerning their specific Constructive Actions with particular constituencies. They are also expected to integrate theory and practice by incorporating insights from fieldwork and ideas from study in the Dimensions into their Constructive Action documents.

Each student will develop a formal research proposal to identify and verify the existence of a problem, need, or opportunity for Constructive Action and provide background information about his or her organization that clarifies the setting in which the research takes place.
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Research Implementation and Documentation (PAA 610 CON) (3 credits)
Students will prepare a Constructive Action document in which they describe the organizational setting of research and report on the implementation of the research proposal they developed in the Purpose Dimension seminar.
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Public Policy (PAA 610 VAL) (2 credits)
This dimension will explore a wide range of approaches and methodologies employed in the analysis of public policy. To apply a specific set of tools to the analysis of policy is to approach it within a particular cultural and ideological context. We will study both method and philosophy and come to understand that method is very much a product of philosophy. We begin with the scientific method of analysis as our point of departure and end up understanding that ideology and societal values are also key to policy analysis. Students will learn to differentiate between three basic analytical frameworks: Social Science, Ideological, and Policy Sciences. On one level social science research can buttress ideology. On another level social science research is in tension with ideology, and the question is just how this tension affects the role of the public administrator. We will look at an array of policy issues that public administrators and/or policy analyst have to address in your role as public sector professionals.

This course is intended as a core dimension in the General MPA program As a core dimension, it will establish the relationship between the public administrator and the policy analyst. The public administrator charged with the responsibility for implementing policy must also understand what it is s/he is implementing, and only by understanding the basis upon which policy is measured and evaluated can the administrator do this. Because policy is affected by a wide array of variables, it exposes the would-be public administrator to the messy world of politics. Ultimately, they come to understand that policy analysis does not follow a neat flow diagram, as might be the reigning perception in management studies, but that is a very complex process, owing to competing interests, ideologies, environmental factors, and world views.
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Organizational Behavior in Public and Nonprofit Organizations (PAA 610 SEL) (2 credits)
The purpose of the Self and Others Dimension is to improve students’ ability to work effectively with others in public and nonprofit organizations. An interdisciplinary field of study known as organizational behavior is the basis of the Dimension’s investigation into some of the issues that are fundamental to the successful management of people in these organizations.

This Dimension involves four levels of analysis and their influence on each other in the public sector: individual, group, organization, and the public interest. Organizational behavior in the public sector is distinct in that public administrators must understand the public service motive of individuals who work in the public sector, the political environment of public administration, the unique characteristics of public sector organizations, which function with a different incentive structure than organizations in the private sector, and the way in which democratic participation and public values are integral to work in public organizations.
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Introduction to Public Administration (PAA 610 SYS) (2 credits)
This course is about the bureaucratic process and the implementation of public policy. It traces the evolution of public administration over the last century, from the Wilsonian concept of scientific management to the more contemporary New Public Service. We will study the operations of the executive branch of government and explore the relationship between civil servants and elected public officials, the structure of public organization, and the meaning of legislative oversight. Students will also develop an understanding of organizational culture and its impact on the decision making process.

This course is intended to be a core dimension in the general MPA program. In addition to being a requirement in the School of Management, it should be accessible to undergraduates in the School for Human Services who desire to get a sampling of what public administration is all about. As a core dimension, it will establish the foundations for understanding the role of public bureaucracies in our daily lives and how they on a practical level play a crucial role in the operations of government. It will also establish a framework for evaluating the decision making process in the public sector in contrast to the private sector.
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Research Methods I (PAA 611 SKI1) (2 credits)
The class for the Skills Dimension is an introductory graduate course in research methods that are employed in social sciences. It is based on the assumption that public administration practitioners can perform program design and evaluation tasks more effectively if they have knowledge and skills in the principles of research (both quantitative and qualitatively based).

Primary focus of this class is to introduce students to theoretical and practical aspects of research process, conducting research and research projects design in public sector. Further, the course will introduce students to a variety of tools and techniques for analyzing data and to make management and policy decisions from such data.

The course is designed to provide conceptual and methodological tools for managers, evaluators and analysts charged with formally evaluating program implementation and performance. These techniques will also aid the student in performing the constructive action “needs assessment" and in developing the Constructive Action Purpose 1 and 2 documents.
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Computer-based Applications for Public Managers (PAA 612 SKI2) (2 credits)
The purpose of this course is to introduce the current concepts in computer bases information systems design and management. The course prepares the student for practical applications of the course concepts to support students in their professional work life, and academic projects in health care and public administration (e.g. oral presentations using PowerPoint, research reports, practical descriptive statistics using Excel worksheets).

The intended focus of the course is operational and oriented toward utilization of management information systems. Students are given the opportunity to use the computer in a number of exercises to gain “hand on” experience with management uses of the computer through word processing, Excel spreadsheets, database management, and PowerPoint presentation software.
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Semester 2

Initiating and Managing Organizational Change (PAA 620 PUR) (2 credits)
The Purpose Dimension seminar of the second semester provides the occasion for students to collaborate on the organizational challenges that must be met in order to develop and implement a successful program. The seminar also provides them with the occasion to explore the relevance of Dimensional course material and how this material might be integrated into their Constructive Action documents.

In this semester, students will execute the research proposal they planned in the first semester and analyze, present, and interpret the data. Based on the research findings, they will design a pilot program to address the problem they initially identified or alternative problem uncovered in the research. They will also design a program evaluation to determine the extent of the program’s success. The final activities of the semester involve implementation and documentation of the pilot program.
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Project Implementation and Documentation (PAA 620 CON) (3 credits)
Students will implement and monitor the program they designed in Purpose 1.
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Administrative Ethics (PAA 620 VAL) (2 credits)
In the administrative ethics Dimension, we will inquire into how the major traditions of ethical decision making define the professional, organizational, and societal obligations of public administrators and resolve ethical dilemmas that arise within and between these levels of obligation. The Dimension will investigate the kinds of obligation and ethical dilemmas that originate in public and nonprofit organizations, the contrast with for-profit organizations, and the challenges and ambiguities that public administrators face when they try to act with integrity in the public interest. This Dimension will also examine the ethical issues in planning and implementing organizational change.
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Human Resources Management (PAA 620 SEL) (2 credits)
Successful organizations and administrations are assessed by a variety of parameters but perhaps no one more important than the people that work there. Commercial enterprises employ the best resources, material and human, to give it the advantage needed to be successful in its marketplace. Government entities empower Public Administrations to carry out the mandate of the municipality, state, or federal government. The management of human resources is the same regardless of entity: how to obtain, train, utilize, and retain the best employees while meeting legal requirements. Human Resource Management is a fluid operation that must be monitored and managed as the needs of the organization or administration requires.

This Dimension will have the student understand the organizational or administrative role of Human Resource Management; how to assess its goals so a needs assessment can be conducted; various means to recruit new personnel, select those that will give the greatest contribution, train present employees to meet new job descriptions and new employees to meet new needs; how to release personnel that no longer meet the needs of the organization or administration; legal requirements governing human resource decisions; how to retain and compensate employees; and other Human Resource responsibilities.
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Nonprofit Governance, Management and Marketing (PAA 620 SYS) (2 credits)
Classical organizational theory and principles as well as current management and supervision practices are applied to the structure, resources and mission of the nonprofit organization.  Special attention is focused on collaborative strategic planning.
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Research Methods II (PAA 621 SK1) (2 credits)
 The course is designed to provide quantitative tools for managers, evaluators and analysts charged with formally evaluating program implementation and performance.  These techniques will also aid the student in completing the constructive action “needs assessment" and in developing the Constructive Action Purpose 3 documents.
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Budgeting and Financial Management (PAA 622 SK2) (2 credits)
Governments are being forced, whether by taxpayers, lenders or the economic conditions to become more entrepreneurial, more efficient and more effective in how they allocate resources to deliver goods and services. Take the Government Performance Act of 1993. In the last fifteen years, beginning in 1990 with the Chief Fiscal Officers Act which led to formation of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, there have been approximately fifteen pieces of legislation aimed at making government more accountable. Accountability is the new “buzz word.” In two recent news editorials - - one in The New York Times and the other in the Wall Street Journal - - the editors discussed proposed budget reforms both at the state (New York) and the federal level. This course will engage students in a discussion of how budgeting and financial management are used to shape policy and measure performance in governmental entities. Students will apply the skills (Excel) learned in PAA 612 (Computer Applications) to develop budget and financial documents. There will also be some discussion and analysis of how budgets shape the ongoing operations of Not-for-Profit organizations. Further, students will engage in discussion and analysis of the social benefits versus the financial and economic costs of providing certain goods and services and examine the financial versus the non-financial measurement metrics for determining a program’s or entity’s success or failure.
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Semester 3

Long Range Planning for Service Improvement (MPA 530 PUR) (2 credits)
’programmatic activity and plans for the future. Students begin their third semester of study by implementing the plan of evaluation they designed in Purpose 2. The findings will inform the conversion of their pilot programs into long-range plans for service improvement, using a typical proposal for funding as the format. In planning their proposals, they will investigate external political, economic, social and technological trends, define the opportunities and challenges these trends represent, and strategize about how to take advantage of the opportunities and confront the challenges. In the seminar, students will share the results of their investigation and work together on the application of these results to their organizations and individual proposals. Students will also share their ideas about how to integrate Dimensional course material into their final Constructive Action documents.
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Project Evaluation and Recommendations (PAA 630 CON) (2 credits)
Value issues in the world of service: An examination of critical value issues at the national, city and organizational levels, with special emphasis on health, housing, education, care for the aged and substance abuse.
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Politics and Policy (PAA 630 VAL) (2 credits)
This dimension explores the intersection between public policy and politics and how that intersection impacts on the administrative process. Public Administration is ultimately about the implementation of policy in a political universe. Public policy, however, says much about politics and the distribution of power and economic resources. Successful implementation cannot occur without fully grasping the political nature of the policy process. Ultimately what administrators are able to accomplish is not a function of managerial talent or unlimited resources, but what is politically possible. Similarly, what is politically possible affects what public policy in the end looks like.
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Intergovernmental Relations (PAA 630 SEL) (2 credits)
This course is about the American federal system of government, and how the division of power, authority, and functions impacts on the administrative process. We will trace the evolution of the federal system from what was known as dual federalism to cooperative and creative federalism, which today is characteristic of intergovernmental relations. Students will come to understand how much of their functions as agency administrators involve interacting with their counterparts in other units of governance, and that these interactions can facilitate program implementation, insofar as intergovernmental relations are characterized by cooperation. Likewise, they will come to understand that the absence of cooperation greatly hinders effective implementation, and ultimately effective administration.
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Public Economics (PAA 630 SYS) (2 credits)
The course for the Systems Dimension 3 is an introductory graduate course in economics principles and policy with emphasis to economics of public sector. Public economics is the study of economic issues concerning the public sector. The study of public economics considers the functioning of government and its role in the economy. It is recognized that public administration practitioners should gain competent knowledge of the functioning of the economic system and economic processes necessary for adequate management and policy decision making.
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Strategic Planning and Proposal Writing (PAA 631 SK1) (2 credits)
The course in strategic planning and proposal writing is designed to complement some of the activities in the Purpose Seminar. First, students will be introduced to the basic steps in strategic planning. They will define organizational opportunities and challenges after an investigation of the political, economic, social and technological trends in the external environment. They will also define the strengths and weaknesses of their organizations and strategize about how to respond to the external opportunities and challenges and internal strengths and weaknesses. Next, students will study the various types of proposals for funding, the funding environment, the identification of funding opportunities, the components of a proposal, the process of submitting a proposal, and the organization and writing of a proposal. Based on their study of proposal writing, students will convert their Constructive Action pilot into a long-range program and present it in the form of a proposal for funding. They will also prepare a strategic plan that addresses the external and internal environmental factors that might impact the implementation of their long-range programs.
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Program Evaluation (PAA 632 SK2) (2 credits)
Administrators, elected officials, oversight agencies, citizens and staff) must understand the "value" of the programs they are responsible for. Specifically managers need to lead learning organizations in the collection and interpretation of data which define program and organizational effectiveness. This analysis will ultimately improve both organizational program service delivery.
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