The Western Michigan University School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) is one of the nation's largest Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs and is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).
The MPA curriculum emphasizes evaluating the administrative environment and addresses the economic, cultural, historical, and political environment in which a student's agency operates. These elements enhance the student's capacity to respond effectively to current problems and maximizes a manager's ability to effectively address policy and constituency issues.
The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program provides a foundation in the principles of public administration, addresses the practical responsibilities of the public manager, and reflects on the task of administrative leadership. The MPA program includes three components: the MPA Core Program (18 credit hours), an Area of Concentration (18 credit hours), and the capstone Project Paper Seminar (3 credit hours). Pre career students must also satisfactorily complete PADM 7120: Professional Field Experience, an additional three credit hour (300 contact-hour) internship in an agency or organization approved by the student's advisor.
The entire curriculum assumes that MPA students have basic computer literacy skills and a working knowledge of the American political processes at local, state, and national levels. Prospective students without these skills are encouraged to acquire them before they begin their MPA course work.
MPA courses are offered at the Kalamazoo campus, and the Battle Creek and Lansing regional sites of Western Michigan University.
The core program addresses the body of knowledge and skills that is common to the administration of health care, nonprofit, and public entities. A listing of courses that fulfill each component of the core is provided by the table below. Course descriptions can be accessed by selecting the course numbers; this new curriculum was effective in the Summer 2008 Semester.
As a culmination to the program students will take the 3 credit hour capstone course, Project Paper Seminar. The Project Paper Seminar is required for all MPA concentrations, but not for the graduate certificates. It provides an opportunity for students to integrate theory and practice in a significant problem solving exercise. In this capstone seminar, MPA candidates will conduct an original, analytical research project (non-thesis) consisting of professional analysis of a management problem leading to practical implementation in governmental, health care, or nonprofit settings, or theoretical inquiry in the field of public administration. That project will produce either a solution to a public management problem in a specified agency or academic research that provides new generalized knowledge in the field. Other forms of professional inquiry and analysis may be acceptable if approved by the instructor.
MPA candidates who have completed at least 30 hours of course work, including all MPA Program Core courses, are eligible to enroll in the Project Paper Seminar. Exceptions to this prerequisite requirement can be made with the written consent of the student's MPA Advisor and instructor of record. However, MPA advisors recommend that students enroll in the seminar as their last course whenever possible because of its nature as the culminating course for the entire program. For more information on the Project Paper Seminar, please consult the MPA Handbook.
Effective Summer 2011, all students must register themselves for Project Paper Seminar when registration opens each semester. As students enroll in PADM 6800, and no later than two weeks prior to the start of the semester, the SPAA will check the class list for names of any student not meeting the requirements for enrollment (30 hours successfully completed in the program, including PADM 6060 & 6070). Ineligible enrollees will be notified to drop the course since they will not be admitted into the class.
An electronic waitlist beyond the course cap of 12 will be activated via the Registrar to add students if and when seats open up through ineligibility or other student drops. Waitlisted students will be notified of a vacant seat on a first-come, first-served basis by the Registrar's office and must respond within 24 hours to be enrolled in the class. A manual waitlist will not be maintained in the SPAA office.
Completed Project Paper list available here.
For pre-career students only, another component of the MPA degree program is a planned professional field experience, or internship, equivalent to three credit hours (300 hour commitment of 20 hours a week for 15 weeks, or one semester). Students must enroll in PADM 7120 (3 credit hours) to complete this requirement.
The first goal of the internship is to provide candidates with meaningful work experience, which will afford realistic exposure to the world of professional administration and to the organizational environment in which the dynamics of an agency are developed. The second goal of the internship is to acquaint candidates with the values and attitudes of administrators in public serving organizations and to learn about the clientele groups they serve. Third, the internship allows each pre-career MPA candidate to complete an agency project under the joint supervision of an academic and an agency representative which may be used in the final Project Paper Seminar, if approved by the Seminar Instructor of Record. Students should note that, if they are admitted on a pre-career status and remain in that status at the end of their MPA programs, no other three-credit course may be substituted for PADM 7120; satisfactory completion of the internship is a graduate requirement in such instances.
Students must complete at least 20 credit hours of MPA coursework before they enroll in an internship. For more information on the internship, please consult the MPA Handbook.
As part of the curriculum of programs offered through the School of Public Affairs and Administration, arrangements may be made to accommodate specialized study interests of students not addressed by an existing core or elective course of study. In some cases it is possible given sufficient interest, for the School to utilize what are termed "variable topic courses" (under PADM 5990) to offer "tailor made" courses for a group of MPA students wishing to study a specialized subject matter.
Alternatively, it is possible in some subject matter areas to compensate for lack of specialized courses by arranging either an independent reading program (under the PADM 5980 number) and/or an independent research project (under the PADM 7100 number). Up to a maximum of three credit hours of independent readings (PADM 5980) and up to a maximum of three credit hours of independent research (PADM 7100) may be included in the programs of MPA students, but only with prior approval of the academic advisor.