School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration
Master of Public Administration (MPA)
The Masters of Public Administration (MPA) is the primary professional degree for the public and nonprofit sector. The MPA program develops skills and techniques used by leaders and managers to implement policies, projects, and programs in public-serving organizations. As a general management degree, the MPA is similar to the Masters of Business Administration, except the MPA focuses on the finance and management of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic institutions, and healthcare providers rather than for-profit corporations. If you are strongly motivated to be an effective, ethical and innovative organizational leader working for the betterment of your community, the MPA degree is your best choice.
- Why Study Public Administration at Grand Valley?
- Student and Graduate Profile
- Tuition and Financial Aid
- Degree Requirements
- Employment Outlook
- Grand Valley created its MPA program in 1978. In thirty-five years, we have established a strong reputation in public management education. On the US News and World Report's list of Public Affairs graduate programs, we are the second highest ranked Michigan university (121st overall) and the only Michigan university ranked for Nonprofit Management (25th overall).
- The MPA program earned accreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) in 1995. This accreditation assures prospective employers outside of Michigan, who may be unfamiliar with GVSU, that our graduates are well prepared for the profession.
- As a professional program in an urban setting, MPA students are actively involved with the community in professional service activities and applied research.
- Our MPA program recognizes the importance of the nonprofit and healthcare sectors, but not as disconnected areas of activity, but as realms that overlap and interact with the public sector. We recognize that many of our students will move among these sectors during their professional career.
- The MPA is the most flexible graduate program at GVSU in terms of course scheduling. We offer MPA courses on the downtown Pew campus at night and on weekends, so they can accommodate most work schedules. We offer a growing number of classes in online and hybrid formats. We offer many popular courses in Fall, Winter and Spring/Summer semesters. Students can attend part-time or full-time, adjusting their course loads to fit changing circumstances.
- The MPA is the most accommodating graduate program at GVSU in terms of supporting individual career objectives. With five alternative concentrations and nine elective credits, every student's study plan is distinctive. You will graduate an individual ready to make a difference, not a clone with a dozen generic competencies.
- Our courses are more demanding and our grading is tougher than you might find elsewhere. This may sometimes be painful. However, each course's content justifies your cost. And when you graduate, you will feel that you and your classmates truly "earned" your degree.
- The MPA classroom is the most diverse of any graduate program at GVSU. We have both precareer and midcareer students. We have a relatively high percentage of minority and international students. In any particular class, you may be sitting next to a graduate student from social work, criminal justice, health administration, nursing, occupational therapy, business, or communications. This makes for richer classroom experience than any other program you can find in West Michigan.
- Well-qualified MPA applicants are not required to take standardized tests, which are expensive, yet fallible indicators of academic success. We make admission decisions on a rolling basis, and will inform you of your status a few weeks after your application is complete. We encourage you to apply on time, but we will evaluate your application even if it is late.
- The curriculum is delivered by thirteen academic facility members who have earned Ph.D.s and are actively engaged in research. They are supported by twenty practitioner faculty members who bring a total of 150 years of real-world experience into our classroom.
A complete application to the MPA program requires:
- A completed graduate application.
- A $30 non-refundable application fee unless the applicant has previously applied to Grand Valley State University and has paid this fee.
- An official transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution.
- Three references from informed sources.
- An essay on career and educational objectives (250 to 750 words).
- A resume
- Submission of an official TOEFL or IELTS score report is required of applicants whose native language is not English.
Applications will not be reviewed until they are complete. The admissions committee may request additional information or a personal interview if it deems them appropriate and necessary.
The admissions committee is looking for the evidence that an applicant will be successful if admitted into the MPA program. This evidence can take several forms. Furthermore, the admissions committee considers each applicant as a whole student. No decision is based solely on any single factor. A strong applicant for the MPA program will have the following:
- A minimum 3.0 grade point average from an accredited college or university. (This GPA will include all courses, including those classes that may have been repeated or transferred.) Also, holding a graduate degree, a graduate certificate, or having successfully completed at least 18 semester hours in another graduate program, will be considered as strong evidence of an applicant’s academic competency to do graduate level work in the MPA program.
- Three positive recommendations from well-informed sources such as current and/or former professors or supervisors.
- A demonstrated commitment to the public or nonprofit field. Ideally this would be three or more years of professional work experience since receiving a baccalaureate degree. Lesser professional, volunteer, and intern experiences with public-serving organizations will be considered positively for pre-career applicants.
An applicant concerned about falling short on the above criteria may want to consider these recommendations for securing favorable evidence of their competency to do graduate level work in the MPA program.
- Submitting a GRE score is recommended for applicants who have neither a 3.0 undergraduate GPA nor five years of professional experience. GRE scores of at least 550 verbal and 620 quantitative will be considered favorably.
- Successfully completing graduate-level course work as a nondegree-seeking student. However, 12 credits taken as a nondegree seeking student is the limit that can be applied to the MPA program upon admission.
In some cases, an applicant that is seen as strong except for a specific area of deficiency may be offered admission on a condition that they take a course to rectify that deficiency before proceeding with the MPA course work.
Students may apply online at admissions.gvsu.edu or contact Sherry Moyer at email@example.com or 616.331.6575 for an application packet. To ensure full consideration for fall admission, all application materials should be received by June 1. Winter term applications should be received by November 1. Spring/Summer term applications should be received by April 1. Early application is strongly encouraged. Late applicants may be admitted on the basis of remaining program capacity.
Students in the process of applying for admission to the MPA program may enroll in PA 520, PA 535, PA 620, PA 630 or PA 660 in a nondegree-seeking status. Note that no more than 12 credits can taken in nondegree-seeking status and later applied to the MPA degree.
Demographics of MPA graduates, at time of graduation, August 2002 to April 2012
- Total graduates: 545
- Age under 25: 11%
- Age 25-29: 42%
- Age 30-39: 26%
- Age 40+: 20%
- Female: 64%
- Male: 36%
- White: 76%
- African-American/Black: 9%
- Hispanic: 3%
- Asian: 3%
- Mixed-race: 1%
- Foreign citizen: 10%
Demographics of MPA student, Winter 2013
- Total students: 201
- Age under 25: 22%
- Age 25-29: 35%
- Age 30-39: 19%
- Age 40+: 24%
- Female: 68%
- Male: 32%
- White: 75%
- African-American/Black: 12%
- Hispanic: 4%
- Asian: 3%
- Mixed-race: 3%
- Part-time: 66%
- Full-time: 33%
- Michigander: 92%
- Out-of-state: 4%
- Foreign: 4%
The M.P.A. degree consists of a minimum of 39 credit hours for in-service students and 42 credit hours for pre-career students. For this purpose, in-service is defined as having three years of professional experience prior to being admitted into the program.
The program core includes 12 credit hours, as follows:
- PA 520 - Foundations of Public Management
- PA 611 - Research Methods
- PA 612 - Human Resources in Organizations
- PA 614 - Organization Theory
Students select one concentration of 15 credit hours. The choices of concentration are as follows. Students whose past experience or career plans suggest a benefit to customizing this curriculum should consult with their adviser.
Public management focuses on those competencies required for management positions in all units of government as well as those organizations administering governmental contracts and programs. Students concentrating in public management must complete five of the following courses, for a total of 15 credits.
- PA 615 Public Financial Management (required)
- PA 620 Metropolitan Politics and Administration (required)
- PA 643 Strategic Management and Planning (required)
- PA 616 Public Policy Analysis
- PA 621 Administrative and Regulatory Law
- PA 641 Economic and Community Development
- PA 642 Conflict Management
- PA 644 GIS in Public Service
Urban / regional policy and planning develops the interdisciplinary knowledge, technical skills and leadership abilities useful for the development, implementation, and analysis of policy and planning solutions for urban and regional management. The curriculum focuses on social, economic and political trends, urban policy formulation and analysis, metropolitan governance issues, land use and smart-growth strategies, economic and community development, and intergovernmental / intersector relations. Students concentrating in Urban / regional policy and planning must complete the following five courses.
- PA 615 Public Financial Management
- PA 616 Public Policy Analysis
- PA 620 Metropolitan Politics and Administration
- PA 641 Economic and Community Development
- PA 644 GIS in Public Service
Health administration is structured to prepare graduates to work cooperatively and collaboratively in a variety of health-related environments. Students concentrating health administration complete five of the following courses, for a total of 15 credits.
- PA 630 Health Administration and Service (required)
- PA 631 U.S. Health Policy and Politics (required)
- PA 632 Health Services Financial Management (required)
- PA 633 Health Economics
- PA 634 Health Care Law and Ethics
- PA 645 Aging in Society: Concepts, Controversies, and Challenges for Public Service Administrators
Nonprofit management and leadership provides insight into the management of nonprofit organizations and philanthropic institutions, including the relationship between executives and boards, and the ways in which income is generated and monies accounted for. Students must complete five of the following courses, for a total of 15 credits.
- PA 660 The Nonprofit Sector: History and Ethics (required)
- PA 661 Nonprofit Management Practices (required)
- PA 662 Nonprofit Financial Management (required)
- PA 663 Nonprofit Organizations, Advocacy and Public Policy (required)
- PA 664 Program Evaluation
- PA 665 Nonprofit Boards, Trustees, and Governance
- PA 642 Conflict Management
Criminal justice (CJ) is a five-course concentration option for students in the Master of Public Administration program. The Criminal justice concentration was developed to meet the growing demand for well-educated criminal justice administrators. The courses are designed for those who wish to increase their knowledge, improve their productivity, or seek career advancement. Through the collaborative efforts of the School of Criminal Justice and the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, this concentration is structured to prepare graduates to work cooperatively in a variety of criminal justice environments.
Students concentrating in criminal justice must complete five of the following courses, for 15 credits.
- PA 615 - Public Financial Administration
- CJ 601 - Criminal Justice Leadership
- CJ 604 - Criminal Justice Policy & Program Evaluation
- CJ 607 - Criminology
- CJ 602 - Legal and Ethical Issues
Pre-career students are required to take at least three internship credits (PA 690 - Public Administration Internship I). Three internship credits normally equates to 300 hours (20 hours per week for 15 weeks). Internships must be pre-approved by the SPNHA internship coordinator. An internship is a course jointly sponsored by SPNHA and a public or nonprofit agency. Through an internship, a student is able to earn graduate credit by serving as an assistant, aide, or apprentice. See the SPNHA internship page for further details.
Students choose 9 credit hours from an array of electives.
PA-related course work. Electives can be PA classes from other concentrations, classes from other graduate programs at GVSU, or relevant classes from graduate programs at other accredited universities. These classes must be related to a student's career objectives.
Workshops. Students may take up to three hours of workshop credit (PA 550..553 - Public Administration Workshops). See the description of upcoming workshops.
Directed Readings. Students may take up to three hours of PA 699 - Directed Readings. Directed Readings allow a student to receive academic credit for a relevant, graduate-level course of study for which there is no graduate course available at GVSU. Before registration, the topic, amount of credit to be earned, reading list, assignments, and evaluation criteria are mutually agreed to by the initiating student and the assenting faculty member, consistent with standards of graduate scholarship.
Second Internship. Pre-career students may take a second three credits of internship (PA 691 - Public Administration Internship II) in addition to the three required. Internships must be pre-approved by the SPNHA internship coordinator.
Thesis. Students who opt to do a Masters Thesis (see below) will use three of the required six credits of PA 695 toward fulfilling the elective requirement.
Capstone ExperiencePA 619 - Management Seminar. Most students take PA 619 - Management Seminar in their last semester. PA 619 is not offered in Spring/Summer, so it must be taken during Winter term if a student plans to graduate in August.
PA 695 - Master's Thesis. Students pursuing policy expertise or those considering going on in doctoral studies may opt to take six hours of Thesis (PA 695 - Master's Thesis). A Thesis can replace PA 619 as the required capstone course for the MPA. A Thesis must follow university guidelines.
PA 693 - Research Project. An exit project (PA 693 - Research Project) may also serve as the capstone experience. Before registration, the topic, amount of credit to be earned, reading list, assignments, and evaluation criteria are mutually agreed to by the initiating student and the assenting faculty member, consistent with standards of graduate scholarship.
Occupations of recent graduates (72 students graduating between August 2012 - April 2013):
- 10 city, county or regional government
- 2 state government
- 1 federal government
- 0 foreign government
- 32 nonprofit (domestic oriented)
- 1 nonprofit/NGO (international oriented)
- 6 health organization (nonprofit)
- 2 research / consulting in private sector
- 9 private sector (not research / consulting)
- 1 obtaining further education
- 8 unknown
- 0 unemployed
Please see the following information:
- ICMA: Local Government Management: The Hottest Career You've Probably Never Heard Of
- Alliance for Innovation: Careers in Local Government Management
- NASPAA: Salary and Benefits of MPA/MPP Graduates
- publicadministration.net:Public Administration Job Outlook
- The Case Foundation: Nonprofit Work: 10 Myths
- The NonProfit Times Nonprofit Jobs: Which are Most Popular?
- BLS Occupational Outlook: Social and Community Service Managers
BLS Occupational Outlook: Urban and Regional Planners
Please see the following information:
- SPNHA: Student Resources
- GVSU Graduate Studies: Graduate Students Resources
- NASPAA: For Students
- ICMA: Students and Teachers
Jessie Emdin, MPA '12, is currently development administrator at the Cascade Community Foundation..
Mike Goorhouse, MPA '11, is currently vice president for donor development at the
Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.
Nathan Gras, MPA '11, is currently development grants & contracts specialist with Van Andel Institute.
Lori Herbig, MPA '04, is currently chief operating officer of United Methodist Retirement Communities in Chelsea, Michigan
Toni Jones-Lipsey, MPA '10, is currently referral coordinator with the Dental OPTIONS Program of HandsOn Central Ohio.
Karine Kocharian, MPA '12, is currently program officer with the World Council of Churches Armenia Round Table Foundation in Etchmiadzin, Armenia.
Lynne Ladner, MPA '05, is currently city administrator of Hiawatha, Kansas.
Doug LaFave, MPA '06, is currently city manager of Grant, Michigan.
Adam London, MPA '04, is currently administrative health officer of the
Kent County Health Department
Anna Marzolf, MPA '11, is currently development associate with the Cope Family Center in Napa, California.
Matt McCauley, MPA '04, is currently director for regional planning & community development for the Northwest Michigan Council of Government in Traverse City, Michigan.
Nick Monoyios, MPA '10, is currently long range planner for the Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid).
Lori Rassmussen, MPA '05, is currently executive director of Every Woman’s Place/Webster House Youth Services in Muskegon, Michigan.
Jill Russell, MPA '10, is currently executive director of the Grand Ledge Chamber of Commerce..
Megan Sall, MPA '09, is currently business development manager at The Right Place.
Chris Stallworth, MPA '10, is currently project coordinator with the Council of Michigan Foundations.
Patrick Waterman, MPA '12, is currently city manager of Hudsonville, Michigan.
George Wietor, MPA '08, is currently new media planner at the Community Media Center
Linda Witte, MPA '11, is currently program developer/manager for health programs in the Workforce Training Department of Grand Rapids Community College.
Page last modified October 31, 2013