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New ASU master’s in public administration features Washington, D.C. component

The McCain Institute's Ethan Kapstein leads a meeting in Washington, D.C.

Ethan Kapstein, senior director for research at The McCain Institute, and Lt. General Benjamin Freakley (retired) talk to members of the McCain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders program.

November 28, 2016

The No. 1 ranked university for innovation by U.S. News and World Report is now offering an Executive Master of Public Administration degree that features a Washington, D.C. component. It’s available to public administrators and other professionals around the world.

Applications are being accepted for the first cohort of Arizona State University’s Executive MPA program. The ASU School of Public Affairs is offering the degree in collaboration with the The McCain Institute for International Leadership. The new degree provides the flexibility of online courses taught by experts in their respective fields and features an in-person learning and networking component. Classes begins in May 2017.

“People in public affairs are increasingly feeling the need for tools to help manage the very complex problems that they face,” said professor Ethan Kapstein, academic director of the new executive MPA program and senior director for research at McCain Institute in Washington, D.C. "This degree is for people who aspire to leadership positions in public administration or who work at senior levels with government officials."

Classes will be taught by leading faculty from the ASU School of Public Affairs, W.P. Carey School of Business and the Thunderbird International School of Global Management. All are highly-ranked schools by US News and World Report. Students will also be introduced to leaders in different levels of government through executive sessions in Phoenix and at The McCain Institute in Washington.

“It’s a collaboration among several top institutions,” said Karen Mossberger, director of the ASU School of Public Affairs. “Our school is ranked in the top five percent of public affairs schools by US News and World Report.”

“The McCain Institute for International Leadership brings together national and international decision-makers in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “W.P. Carey has one of the best online graduate programs in the nation. And Thunderbird School of Global Management has a long history of excellence in international management and top alumni around the world.”

The need for an executive MPA

Simply put, the challenges faced by government are much more complex these days. Managers who have succeeded through hard work and intuition find there is an upper limit to what they can achieve. That’s why “Master’s Degree in Public Administration” is increasingly required on job applications. Successful managers need the knowledge, critical thinking and decision-making skills gained through an MPA degree.

"Some senior administrators have reached their current levels without a master's degree and have done so through instinct,” said Hector Zelaya, director of the executive education center within the School of Public Affairs. “This degree will offer them a foundation so future decisions can be based on substantiated research and best practices. Graduates will not have to rely exclusively on instinct.”

"It will provide students with skills that they're going to need as they attain more senior leadership positions, so, it will make them more effective,” Kapstein said. “Increasingly, government positions require at least a master's degree in order to be promoted to that next level."

The degree is aimed at public sector professionals who aspire to leadership positions in public administration or who already work at senior levels in government in the United States or internationally. The program can also be valuable to those working in government affairs in the private sector or for professionals in non-governmental organizations.

"For some of them, this degree will be an opportunity to advance within their current career track,” Zelaya said. “For others, this is an opportunity to switch career paths."

A minimum of five years of progressive leadership experience is required of applicants. Admission will be based, in part, on what kind of experience each student brings to the program.

“Our decision to admit a student will take into consideration the value that they're going to bring to the learning experience of their classmates,” Zelaya said.

Hector Zelaya congratulates a graduate of the Bob Ramsey Executive Education program at Arizona State University.

Hector Zelaya, director of executive education at the ASU School of Public Affairs, congratulates a graduate of the Bob Ramsey Executive Education program at Arizona State University.

How it works 

The new ASU degree is designed to maximize the advantages of online learning and face-to-face sessions.

“While courses take a global perspective, they will be useful for all public sector leaders,” Mossberger said. “You will study with other experienced colleagues, and benefit from working together with your peers as well as distinguished faculty from top-ranked programs.”

The 19-month executive MPA program will begin in May 2017 with an orientation and executive sessions in Phoenix.

"The executive sessions are geared toward helping establish relationships among students,” Zelaya said. “This is a cohort model. Every student is going to take each class together in sequence.”

Students will take one course at a time, and the first course will start after the orientation session. Each course is six to seven and a half weeks long, and some are scheduled during summer months by design.

"We really took into consideration the workload of the people we anticipate taking this program and we are making the assumption that their workloads are lighter in the summer," Zelaya said.

Executive MPA students will take traditional management classes such as Organizational Behavior, Leadership in Public Organizations and Ethics. But they will also benefit from specialized courses such as E-Public Administration, Data Analytics for the Public Good and Global Negotiations.

"Public administrators at this level need a bit of a business mindset so we are making sure that we include faculty from Thunderbird and W.P. Carey,” Zelaya said. “And it's intentional that the faculty member from Thunderbird, a world-renowned international business school, is going to be doing the course on international negotiation.”

Students will have the chance to meet government leaders at another round of executive sessions held in May 2018 at The McCain Institute in Washington.

A McCain Institute Debate and Decision Series event held in Washington, D.C. in October 2016.

“It’s the only program I can think of where people will be exposed to national, state and local level leadership,” Kapstein said. “The McCain Institute will play a role in organizing the Washington sessions and bringing in senior officials to discuss the challenges they're facing with the students.”

Students will wrap up classes in October 2018 and began work on an applied project. They will present their applied projects in Phoenix in December and have the opportunity to take part in Fall 2018 commencement days later.

“This is a new and different way to get a master of public administration, combining flexibility and some really unique opportunities, including an exciting Washington experience,” Mossberger said. “The executive MPA program at ASU is an exciting new way to get your degree.”

For more information about the ASU Executive MPA degree, please visit the degree webpage at the ASU School of Public Affairs website.

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