Arizona MPA offering provides a skills upgrade to grads
GPN reached out to Arizona State University’s (ASU) Stuart Bretschneider to find out about his school’s master’s in public administration (MPA) degree program. Bretschneider serves as director of both ASU’s MPA and Master of Public Policy (MPP) program.
The MPA program at Arizona State University has successfully met the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) Standards for Professional Master’s Degree Programs in Public Affairs, Policy and Administration.
Stuart Bretschneider’s views are below.
GPN: Can your school’s MPA program offer new opportunities to government administrators and managers?
Stuart Bretschneider: Our MPA program provides a strong core of courses that can enhance practice in a wide array of areas. By refreshing practicing professionals’ existing knowledge and skills while also upgrading them, a number of new opportunities become available. First our MPA graduates can develop deeper insights into program operations, build better interventions for improving the performance of existing systems and open the door to more innovative ideas. This can also lead to career advancement.
Within the MPA program, course work on budgeting, strategic planning, leadership and management are just a few of the areas our program focuses on. We also provide course work that can help practitioners be high quality consumers of analytic reports that cover policy analysis and program evaluations. We also offer a Master in Public Policy (MPP) degree for students interested in more sophisticated program assessment. This degree builds upon many of the courses in our MPA program but provided more specialization in analysis to prepare individuals to actually design high quality policy analysis and program evaluations.
We are also launching an exciting new Executive MPA degree designed for the more seasoned practitioner. This degree program blends three weekend intensive sessions – one in Washington, DC and two in Phoenix – with online courses. The Executive MPA will take advantage of collaboration with the McCain Institute in Washington, DC, the Thunderbird School of Management and the WP Carey School of Business as well as leading faculty from our top-ranked School of Public Affairs. Regardless of whether your readers come to public services and novices or experienced managers or whether there are more interested in management and leadership on the one hand or program evaluation and analysis on the other, we have programs that can open doors for them.
GPN: Is 2017 a great time for government administrators to earn an MPA?
SB: The world needs effective managers and analysts in government today more than ever before. We face many ‘wicked’ problems of the sort that can only be dealt with through public and collective action – problems like poverty, pollution and climate change, and economic stagnation of the middle class. Being prepared with strong skills in management but also awareness of how public policy is made will only become more important over time as the set of problems we and the world face become more complex and interconnected.
GPN: Do you have any advice for government administrators on choosing an MPA program?
SB: Probably the best advice I can give anyone about choosing a program is the old dictum by Socrates, “Know thyself!” While most programs offer similar course work for the majority of courses in their programs it is in the electives and the match between the more unique characteristics of a program and what the student is most interested in. For many practicing professionals, advanced graduate work requires a big commitment of time and energy so you want to make sure the match is good.
Along with things that drive you today it is also useful to take stock in where you hope to be in the next few years. Most good programs should be preparing you with knowledge and skills not for your current setting but for the future. Along those lines more practitioners are likely to work in many different roles and organizations over the course of their lifetime. It is also likely, looking at current work tends, that many of your readers will work not only for government but also for non-profits and even business organizations. Make sure the program you select has the capabilities to prepare you for a wide range of management settings and situations.
GPN: What sets your school’s program apart from other MPA programs?
SB: While all MPA programs share a common set of courses to transmit core knowledge and skills I would suggest we have two things that set us apart from most other programs. First is the quality of the faculty. We have six fellows who are members of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) who as part of that role are often called upon to consult with government organizations at all levels. The faculty also represent diverse backgrounds in experiences and expertise ranging from a former county manager of Clark County, Nev. (Las Vegas) to one of the most innovative University Presidents in the country. Many of our faculty have outstanding research records that include both academic and applied work all of which is brought right back into the classroom to inform and equip our students. U.S. News and World Report ranks Arizona State University #1 in innovation, and our School of Public Affairs is also ranked among the top 5 percent of graduate programs in our field.
A second reason feature of our program that sets us apart from most other programs is it strong emphasis and expertise in state and local government, which should be of particular interest to your readership. We are ranked 4th in city management and urban policy among all other ranked programs with strong linkages to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). We are the home of the Alliance for Innovation, a national partnership with 400 cities, the ICMA, and ASU’s School of Public Affairs. We also have the Marvin Andrews Fellowships to help us attract some of the best people interested in careers in local government. The fellows receive full tuition and a stipend to work with the Alliance for Innovation and ASU’s Center for Urban Innovation during the first year, and intern in an Arizona city during the second year.
Our program also has very strong faculty and course work on information technology management, and we are ranked #5 in this subfield. While our program does not train individuals to be technology managers it does prepare practitioners to understand how to use information technology to enhance management effectiveness and service delivery. It also provides students with the skill necessary to be able to keep up with the fast pace of technology change and continually assess how each new wave of information technology can be exploited.