As part of Govpro.com's series on Master's of Public Administration (MPA) programs and their value to government administrators, Govpro.com talked to David Thornburgh, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, and Leigh Botwinik, director of graduate programs. The Fels Institute is based in Philadelphia; go here for admissions information.
The Fels Institute has a Research and Consulting Group, which brings students together with seasoned researchers and consultants. The group works with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, civic groups and other University of Pennsylvania departments to bring the academic resources of the university to bear on the challenges and opportunities facing the public sector.
Fels offers four graduate certificate programs in Economic Development & Growth, Nonprofit Administration, Politics and Public Finance that attract students interested in specialized fields within the public sector.
The Washington Semester Program (WSP) is a semester-long program for University of Pennsylvania undergrads interested in learning political and governmental processes by interning and taking courses in Washington.
Govpro: Do you have any advice for our readers on choosing an MPA program?
Leigh Botwinik: The number one, most important factor ought to be fit. In most programs, students spend at least half of their time taking core requirements, so that is a good place to start. Will those classes provide you with the skills and experiences you seek? Beyond the curriculum, the prospective applicant should try to get a feel for the atmosphere — is the program big or small, who teaches there, what do students do outside of class, etc. If it is at all possible to visit, I strongly recommend doing so. Talking to staff, faculty, students and, perhaps most importantly, alumni can help you determine whether the program is the right fit.
Govpro: Is 2011 a good time to earn an MPA for government administrators?
LB: As one of the first public management programs in the nation, Fels has a rich history of educating government administrators. We will be celebrating our 75th anniversary in 2011 and will be marking the occasion with a number of special events, including a speaker series and the third installment of the Fels Public Policy Challenge. It promises to be a stimulating and exciting time to study at Fels.
Govpro: What is the value of a Fels MPA?
David Thornburgh: The Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania offers the most practical and personal program in public management in the Ivy League. Our distinctive approach, featuring small class sizes taught by seasoned practitioners and distinguished Penn faculty, ensures that students develop a professional network they can rely on throughout their career. We are committed to helping our students learn and practice the skills and strategies needed for success, and in so doing accelerating the process by which they can make a difference in public life.
Govpro: Can a Fels MPA degree offer new opportunities to Govpro.com visitors?
DT: The Fels MPA offers a broad-based education that prepares students for leadership roles in government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private firms engaging in public sector work. The program is carefully designed to give students the opportunity to learn and practice at the same time by taking part in management internships, serving as associates in the Fels Research and Consulting practice, and even continuing in their careers as they take classes.