The University of Miami’s (UM) Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is located in the perfect spot. The school is advantageously located in Miami-Dade County, the first in the U.S. to adopt two-tier metropolitan government. The setting provides an ideal urban laboratory for the study of government organization and consolidation.

As the “Gateway to Latin America,” Miami also exposes students to a dynamic international environment. This international metropolitan area has a rich multi-cultural heritage and a diverse business, trade and financial community.  This Sunbelt metro continues to offer opportunities for public service employment and career advancement.

The university’s MPA offering, available on campus and online, is designed to prepare students to succeed in leadership and management roles. The program teaches students the skills needed to create, analyze and executing public policies and programs. The program’s student-oriented faculty is dedicated to helping graduates achieve a “professional edge.”

Instructional staffing for the program consists of five core faculty members and more than a dozen other regular, adjunct or part-time faculty in the university’s Political Science Department. The school offers both the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree and a joint program with the Masters of Public Health (MPA/MPH) in the Miller School of Medicine.

Jonathan P. West has dedicated more than 30 years of his professional life to directing the program. He also has published nine books and more than 100 articles and book chapters, was managing editor of Public Integrity for 16 years, and served as a management analyst in the U.S. Surgeon General’s office. Dr. West answers a few questions about the program, below.

GPN: What is the value of an MPA degree?

Jonathan West: An MPA allows you to build on a successful undergraduate experience as well as on your work experience in public service. Like an MBA, it offers a cross-section of courses covering finance, personnel management, and other diverse areas to prepare you for success in a leadership role. Competencies learned in these classes can help you if you want mobility in the public, nonprofit, or private sector, are early in your career, want to follow a new interest, or want to take on more responsibility. In our program, students learn about the challenges facing leaders, change management, public service professionalism, strategic planning, program planning, policy analysis, global governance, and ethics in multicultural settings.

GPN: How does UM’s MPA degree offer new opportunities to government administrators?

JW: Our MPA program, especially online, is well suited for government administrators who want to move up in an organization or want to move over, laterally, from one job to another or into another organization. Some mid-career professionals or those who have been out of the workforce for a while feel that they have a skill deficit and enroll in the program to retool.

We have a broad curriculum that addresses a range of needs. Our Digital Governance course covers the role of technology and how the delivery of services today is very different than it was a decade or two ago. We offer a Public Policy Analysis and Administration course so that students understand the political dynamics of addressing contested policy and managerial issues. Managing change is a constant need, which is why we offer a course in Productivity Improvement in Public and Nonprofit Organizations. It’s important to do things right, but also to do the right thing, which is why Political Ethics is an important part of our curriculum.

GPN: What makes 2016 a great year for government administrators to earn an MPA?

JW: The impending retirement of tens of thousands of civil servants makes it an ideal time to advance your career with the skills that you can gain with an MPA. The flexibility of our online program and the inaugural scholarships we have for those enrolling make this a good time for working professionals to pursue the MPA. At the same time, there is explosive growth in public service jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the public service sector will expand by 1.4 million jobs over the next 10 years. Our online and campus programs can help students prepare for a range of opportunities in the public sector and the private sector that works with government.

GPN: What advice do you have for government administrators who are considering choosing an MPA program?

JW: Choose a program with world-class faculty and a reputation for developing leaders for a range of challenging roles in public service. There are public service opportunities opening up in many new areas, and you want to be prepared for them. Our alumni occupy leadership positions in government, business, and nonprofit organizations as diverse as the U.S. House of Representatives, the Central Intelligence Agency, the AFL-CIO and the Cleveland Clinic.

GPN: What’s the difference between the campus and online programs?

JW: Students on campus and online complete the same program with the same rigor, distinguished faculty, and network of accomplished alumni. The online program is adapted to fit the schedule of working professionals. One difference is that since our online program is designed for professionals with at least three years of work experience, we waive the internship requirement and some of the electives.

GPN: What support do you provide for students in the online program?

JW: The program is fully online, with flexibility in logging-in times, completing their coursework, and participating in the conversations on our discussion boards. We offer optional office hours at scheduled times so that students can work directly with our faculty members. We also have advisors who help students with issues such as maintaining their work-life balance while in school. Our online classroom is innovative, easy to use, and accessible from mobile devices. Students can also download all the course materials so that they can access them offline. We also offer technical support for students who need it.

Watch a video of Dr. West talking about UM’s online MPA program here.


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