Feb 02, 2023  
2016-2017 Graduate Catalog 
2016-2017 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, M.P.A.

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Shamima Ahmed Ph.D., Department Chair

Julie Cencula Olberding, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director


Program Description

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is an applied 39 credit hour degree designed to prepare students for careers in public service and public management. Students have to complete nine core courses (27 semester hours) and choose one area of concentration (12 semester hours). Classes are small, permitting faculty to personalize instruction and allowing students to develop interpersonal, technical, and quantitative skills necessary for competitive employment in the public and related sectors. It is the only MPA program in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region. Also, it is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), one of only seven in the state of Kentucky.

The program takes approximately two-and-a-half years with students enrolling in six credit hours per semester in the fall, spring and summer semesters. Students can accelerate this pace by attending full-time (9+ hours per semester), or students can slow that pace to three years or longer by not enrolling in summer sessions. Note that all courses counting towards the MPA degree must be taken within six years of beginning the program.

Offered at night and on Saturdays, the program is suited for mature, career-oriented persons working in the public or nonprofit sectors. The courses typically are taught in three-hour blocks and include a mix of lecture, seminar, small group, laboratory, and/or field work. Selected courses are offered in more non-traditional formats including online, independent research, and travel to local, national, or international sites. For more current information about the MPA program consult our website at mpa.nku.edu.

In addition to the MPA degree, the department offers a Nonprofit Management graduate certificate. The certificate requires a total of 18 semester hours consisting of nine semester hours in core courses and nine semester hours in electives selected by the student from a variety of offerings. For more current information about the certificate consult our website at npm.nku.edu.

Office of the MPA Program

The main office of the MPA program is currently 125 Landrum Academic Center. For more information call (859) 572-5326, e-mail mpa@nku.edu or visit our website at mpa.nku.edu.

Program Mission Statement

The MPA program provides professional managerial, communication and human relations skills and knowledge in preparation for or advancement in a variety of public sector and related careers. The program advances public sector values of effectiveness, efficiency, honesty, accountability, fairness, diversity and public service in the curriculum, extra-curricular events and speakers, and through partnerships with area practitioners through the MPA Advisory Board, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), and other professional associations and individuals.

The goal of the program is to develop competent public service practitioners to serve governments, nonprofit organizations and citizens in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati metropolitan region and beyond.


The MPA program’s core objectives are to:

  1. Provide fundamental managerial and analytical skills to be applied to the public sector in the areas of policy evaluation, human resource management, organizational development and behavior, and financial management and budgeting.
  2. Develop analytical competencies including thinking critically about social issues and potential strategies to address them, collecting and analyzing relevant information, and communicating it effectively.
  3. Cultivate a strong sense of public sector values and ethical behavior within the public sector work environment.
  4. Enhance abilities to organize information and ideas and to communicate them effectively, both in written reports and in oral presentations.
  5. Provide certain specialized skills, knowledge and competency in the areas of concentration.

Learning Outcomes

  1. The ability to lead and manage in public governance.
    1. Understand the uniqueness of the public sector in terms of the policy environment, organizational structure, values and requisite competencies.
    2. Develop skill sets that demonstrate the ability to manage human, financial, information technology, and other resources.
    3. Inform and increase awareness of critical issues that the public sector faces and their implications for managing and leading public sector organizations.
  2. The ability to participate in and contribute to the policy process.
    1. Learn various theories and models of public policy making and implementation.
    2. Develop and apply analytical skills in a policy making setting.
    3. Understand the politics of public policy regarding various stakeholders’ influence in the process.
    4. Demonstrate the skill to communicate to stakeholders the impacts, outcomes and influences of policy problems and issues.
    5. Develop the ability to read statutes, ordinances, and case law and apply these skills within a given public administrator’s scope of responsibility.
  3. The ability to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions.
    1. Enhance skill sets that allow for the analysis and synthesis of critical thinking and problem solving.
    2. Demonstrate through the use of memoranda, technical reports, research reports and issue papers the skills to analyze and process information and present it effectively to aid in decision making.
    3. Comprehend the fiscal implications of public sector decisions on the citizenry.
  4. The ability to articulate and apply a public service perspective.
    1. Cultivate core values of public service, effectiveness, efficiency, honesty, accountability, fairness and diversity through analysis of hypothetical or applied case studies and scenarios.
    2. Understand the rights of citizens and public sector employees.
  5. The ability to communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.
    1. Develop increased awareness of diversity in society and the workforce in terms of gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities.
    2. Recognize diversity in society and the workforce and apply strategies and processes to manage it.
    3. Cultivate effective team building skills.

Mission specific elective competencies

Nonprofit Management


  1. Provide skills and knowledge to form and manage nonprofit organizations.
  2. Develop fundraising and financial management skills for the non-profit sector.
  3. Understand the uniqueness of working with and managing volunteers.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Understand the process of forming an incorporated nonprofit organization.
  2. Identify and comprehend important issues and challenges in non-profit management, including legal and ethical issues, accountability and performance evaluation, and the increasing involvement of the private sector.
  3. Learn fundamental principles and concepts of fundraising as well as various programs and methods to acquire funds for nonprofit organizations.
  4. Understand the basics of resource management, particularly budgeting, accounting and financial reporting.
  5. Learn and apply theories, processes and best practices related to volunteer management.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management


  1. Increase awareness of the different types of terrorism, their causes and prevention.
  2. Understand the workings of the Homeland Security division of our government and its different infrastructure.
  3. Understand the four phases of emergency management and how each phase is developed at the national, state and local levels. These four phases are mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery for man-made and natural disasters.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop knowledge and skills suitable for a career in homeland security or emergency management.
  2. Evaluate a community’s preparedness against various types of disasters.
  3. Develop knowledge and skills to respond and recover in a community during an actual emergency.
  4. Develop an understanding of historical perspectives on terrorism, basic definitions of cogent terms and concepts, and the symbolism of terrorism.
  5. Understand different forms of terrorist tactics and targets along with methods of appropriate prevention, detection, and response, applying such knowledge to the local environment.

Metropolitan Governance


  1. Provide students with the conceptual basis and skill assortment to become professional practitioners in state and local government.
  2. Appreciate the political and organizational cultural nuances of state and local government agencies.
  3. Provide specialized managerial and interpersonal skills to navigate often contradictory public policy issues.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop an awareness of the history and ethics of good government as developed by the city manager movement over the last century.
  2. Understand the key policy roles played by the local manager in this age of the dependent city, especially in areas of comprehensive planning, economic development, and the budgeting of scarce resources.
  3. Provide opportunities for interpersonal and political skill development through practical experience in the form of shadowing managers and internships.
  4. Enhance the ability to work in a collaborative project management setting

Public Leadership


  1. Provide knowledge and skills to manage and lead in the public sector, including local, state and federal government agencies.
  2. Understand the uniqueness of leading and managing in the public sector, especially the diversity in employees, communities and society.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Build knowledge of employee motivation and motivational strategies to improve executive leadership skills.
  2. Obtain a hands-on understanding of implementation, monitoring and evaluation tools in a governance structure.
  3. Describe diversity and its impact in public organizations and environments.
  4. Identify and build skills necessary for leading and managing diverse persons and viewpoints.

General Public Management


Provide students an option to choose among different specialized courses from the other concentrations based on their career needs and aspirations.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop skills and knowledge in one or more specialized areas in nonprofit management, homeland security, and/or planning.
  2. Develop an appreciation for having personal and professional integrity and how these values relate to decisions that ultimately affect the citizenry.


The program systematically collects information from internal and external sources to assess these learning outcomes. Internal sources include feedback from students, capstone portfolios, capstone projects, and exams and assignments in different courses. External sources include feedback from alumni, MPA Advisory Board members, and regional employers in the public and non-profit sectors.

Program Administration

While the MPA degree follows the academic rules established by the NKU Graduate Council (detailed previously in this catalog), there are also program-specific guidelines. To facilitate program-specific activities, the MPA is administered by a graduate program director. The MPA director, with the input and consultation of other MPA program faculty, makes program-specific requirement, curriculum, admission, enrollment, and graduation decisions. The MPA and Nonprofit Management certificate are housed in the Department of Political Science, Criminal Justice and Organizational Leadership located in the College of Arts and Sciences at NKU.


Program Admission Process

Students applying for admission into the MPA program are divided into two applicant categories: in-career and pre-career. In-career applicants are those who, in an evaluation by the MPA director have demonstrated five years of experience in the public or related sector. Some of that experience must be managerial in nature. Pre-career students are all other applicants. All students applying to the MPA program must provide the following six items:

  1. A completed application for admission.
  2. Official transcripts showing all college/university coursework completed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  3. At least two supportive letters from persons qualified to evaluate potential for successful performance in the MPA program.
  4. A narrative essay of 300 to 400 words stating academic and career goals, how the MPA program will enable attainment of those goals, and any additional information detailing relevant work experience.


In-career students applying for admission to the MPA program must submit the following items:

  1. A current resume documenting five years of work experience in the public or related sector.
  2. A portfolio of two to three work products (singular or team efforts) that demonstrate professional activities.


Pre-career students applying for admission to the MPA program must submit the following items:

  1. Official scores of the Graduate Record Examination general test. The GMAT or Miller Analogies Test can substitute for the GRE exams. The LSAT is not a suitable substitute.
  2. A writing sample of 10 to 12 pages (either a work product or an academic paper) or official scores on the GRE writing test.

The MPA program conforms to the general rules of all graduate programs at NKU. Specifically, all successful admission candidates to the MPA program must:

  1. Possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  2. Hold a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher (on a scale of 4.0) for all college work.
  3. Demonstrate good potential for success in graduate professional study and public service.

An MPA alumni profile of admission materials demonstrated that the average student possessed a strong, well-written essay with clearly defined career goals, two quality letters of reference, undergraduate GPA and GRE scores that demonstrated the capability of strong graduate work. Applicants with strong potential who lack one admission item may be admitted provisionally for one semester only. Applicants demonstrating good potential but falling short of the MPA alumni profile may be admitted conditionally but typically must earn a GPA of 3.25 over the first six to nine hours of coursework in the MPA program.

Transfer Credit

Successful applicants to the MPA program may transfer up to 15 semester hours of appropriate, acceptable graduate coursework from other programs and/or institutions in which they must have earned a minimum grade of B. These courses must be deemed appropriate to the program of study at the time of admission into the program by the MPA graduate program director.

Dual MPA Degree and Nonprofit Management Certificate

Students completing the MPA program may also receive the Nonprofit Management graduate certificate. To do so, students must complete a minimum of 42 hours of coursework. Students seeking both credentials shall take the three Nonprofit Management core classes (PAD 620 ,PAD 621 , PAD 622 ) and use them as electives in the MPA program. To receive both the degree and the certificate, students must complete an additional three hours of MPA electives that will not count toward the MPA degree, raising the total credit hours for both to 42 hours. A separate application for the certificate program must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Education.

Academic Standing

A GPA of at least 3.0 must be maintained for all 500 and 600-level coursework. A student with a GPA below 3.0 will not be permitted to advance beyond 18 semester hours in the program until the GPA is raised to at least 3.0 by repeating courses. A course may be repeated only once, and only two courses may be repeated. Only courses with a grade of C or below can be repeated; the repeat grade is used in the GPA determination. Students falling below 3.0 will be placed on probation; those failing to remove the probation by nine additional semester hours of coursework will be dropped from the program.

♦ Indicates prerequisite.

Program Curriculum


Applicants for the MPA program are not required to have completed an undergraduate major in public administration; however, certain undergraduate courses and corresponding skills are needed for success in the program. Students are expected to have completed undergraduate courses in statistical analysis, probability, research methods, introduction to microcomputers, and public sector management. Minimum expectations of the knowledge and skills derived from the above courses include writing skills, computer skills, basic knowledge of public sector management, research concepts/techniques, statistical concepts, and statistical analysis of data. Equivalent work experience may be substituted for undergraduate coursework at the discretion of the MPA graduate program director. Work equivalences for the above coursework or areas of knowledge and skills include experience in writing research or evaluation reports, working with a PC office suite, employment in the public sector, experience with survey research, experience with research design or grant writing, and experience with univariate/bivariate statistics.

The MPA graduate program director will assess if applicants possess the prerequisite knowledge and skills through examination of application materials and, if deemed necessary, through interviews and/or examinations. If you meet the general program requirements but are deemed deficient in one or more knowledge/skill areas, you will be placed in appropriate undergraduate courses.

MPA Curriculum - (39 total credit hours)

Concentration (12 - 13 credit hours):

Students will choose one of the following concentrations:

Nonprofit Management:

Homeland Security and Emergency Management:

Metropolitan Governance:

Public Leadership:

General Public Management:

Core Courses (3 credit hours)

Total Hours: 12

Other MPA Electives:

Students can take one or more of these elective courses, for their concentration, after getting prior approval from the MPA graduate program director.

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