MPA – Curriculum/Course Descriptions

Core Curriculum (33 credits / 11 courses)

Core I: Foundation (12 credits / 4 courses)

20:834:501 Introduction to Public Administration (3)
This course explores the political, socio-economic, legal, and democratic-constitutional context of public administration. Students learn key concepts and theories used to better understand administrative agents of government, including public agencies, contractors, intergovernmental partners, and nonprofit organizations as they operate and interact with their environments. Fundamentals of public management, organizational behavior, human resource management, and government accountability are introduced. Both organizational actors and inter-organizational relationships are considered.

20:834:521 Technology and Public Administration (3)
This course explores the implications of information management technologies for public and nonprofit managers, including: the role of eGovernment, citizen engagement through Web 2.0 and social media, digital service delivery, cyber security awareness, the exploration of how policy and technology intersect, and how technology can be best managed through various governance models.

20:834:541 Economics for Public Administration (3)
This course introduces students to public economics and to the economics of public administration, policy, and governance. Students will utilize the fundamentals of economic analysis to explain and understand issues and problems impacting the public and nonprofit sectors.

20:834:515 Administrative Ethics (3)
The primary goals of this course are to: (a) introduce students to the role that ethics should play in the lives of public administrators in various capacities, and (b) provide tools and strategies for identifying and addressing ethical issues in professional life.

Core II: Research & Analysis (6 credits / 2 courses)

20:834:561 Applied Statistics (3)
Statistical tools and techniques used to inform policy analysis and management decision-making. Covers descriptive statistics, graphing data, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, correlation, cross-tabulation, mean comparison with significance testing, and an introduction to multivariate linear regression. Encourages hands-on work with real data, use of statistical software, and the effective presentation of statistical information.

20:834:562 Applied Research Design (3)
Covers issues central to understanding and conducting applied policy and management research. These issues include identifying research questions, developing logic models, selection of appropriate quantitative or qualitative methods, measuring outcomes, survey research and other sources of primary and secondary data, experimental and non-experimental strategies for evaluating programs, and the ethical and political issues involved in producing and using evidence to inform policy and practice.
[Prerequisite: 26:834:561 Applied Statistics]

Core III: Management (9 credits / 3 courses)

20:834:522 Managing Public Organizations (3)
This course explores theories of organizational behavior and performance as applied to public and nonprofit sector agencies, including legal constraints associated with leading public sector organizations, organizational authority systems, relationships between public and private organizations, development and fulfillment of organizational mandates in the public sector, and use of resources within organizations.

20:834:524 The Public Policy Process (3) (Effective Spring 2017)
This course introduces students to the public policy process and its key institutions and actors (such as legislative bodies, chief executives, administrative agencies, courts, interest groups, advocacy coalitions, and the media). The course emphasizes key parameters of public policy formulation (agenda setting, policy formulation and design, implementation, evaluation) and theories of policy change. Students will be able to differentiate policy types and tools, effectively use evidence in shaping public policy, and will appreciate the importance of context (social, economic, political, and technological) in developing effective policies.

20:834:523 Human Resources Administration (3)
Human resources administration in public and nonprofit settings, including human resource planning, staffing, development, and compensation. Behavioral and environmental determinants are examined, including market factors, service delivery, and government regulations and policies.

Core IV: Financial Management (3 credits / 1 course)

20:834:542 Public Budgeting Systems (3)
This course provides students with a conceptual and operational understanding of theories, policies, and processes associated with public budgeting systems. Students will also be introduced to tools and techniques for managing budgets and making financial decisions in the public sector.

Core V: Application (3 credits / 1 course)

20:834:563 Capstone Project (3)
The Capstone provides students with an opportunity to integrate learning from various courses with applied analysis of real-world issues. Students work individually under the guidance of a faculty member to develop a research design, carry out data collection and analysis, evaluate their findings, and provide conclusions and recommendations. The outputs are a project report and presentation to fellow students, faculty members, and invited guests. The capstone seminar serves as a culminating experience in the MPA program.

The course allows students to draw on material presented throughout the curriculum to develop and conduct an applied research project on a topic salient to public or nonprofit administration. This seminar will prepare students to use the skills they have developed throughout the program to analyze and solve key public management and policy problems. Students will complete practical analytic papers suitable for publication or public consumption as their key graded assignment. These papers demonstrate each student’s abilities and their collective body of skills and knowledge acquired throughout the MPA curriculum. The capstone project challenges students to clearly articulate a research question, identify best practices in the field through a literature review, and develop and execute a research protocol, in which the student:

  • Defines a research question that addresses an existing public or nonprofit problem.
  • Identifies a theoretical model through which to approach the issue.
  • Selects appropriate data collection methods.
  • Collects data.
  • Analyzes and interprets the data.
  • Develops a written report and oral presentation of the findings and recommendations.

Final projects are presented at a Public Policy and Management Forum. At the conclusion of the course, students will have demonstrated effective research skills, excellent oral and written communication skills, and will have displayed the level of knowledge necessary for effectively managing a public or non-profit organization as a competent leader.
[Prerequisites: 26:834:561 Applied Statistics & 26:834:562 Applied Research Design in order]


MPA Concentrations (9 Credits / 3 Courses Each)

Leadership of Public Organizations

20:834:505 Intergovernmental and Intersectoral Management (3)
U.S. federalism is the constitutional division of powers between federal and state governments. Intergovernmental relations explores interaction among federal, state, and more than 80,000 state-created county, municipal, and special district governments. Through the “hollowing out” of the state, public services are increasingly provided by private and nonprofit organizations through grants and contracts. This complex interactive network is characterized by cooperation and conflict in managing the delivery of public services such as education, public safety and health care. Students will understand the unique roles of federal, state and local governments, and how to manage the provision of public goods and services by private for-profit and nonprofit organizations. 

20:834:507 Leadership and Diversity (3)
This course distinguishes leadership from management and introduces students to essential leadership qualities and characteristics. Organizational diversity and inclusion are emphasized. Students will develop key leadership skills including: team building in diverse organizational settings, visioning and agenda setting for diverse clientele, cultural competence, strategies for promoting social justice, understanding the impacts of diversity on group dynamics and leadership and the strategic challenge of maintaining organizational diversity.

20:834:527 Labor Relations (3)
Examines the history, contexts, and processes of employer/employee relations in the public sector. Among the topics addressed are public sector labor law, union structure and organizing, processes of collective bargaining (work rules, adjudication, mediation, arbitration), and labor-management cooperation. A collective bargaining simulation provides students with the experience of renegotiating a collective bargaining contract.

Budgeting and Financial Management

20:834:568 Government Revenue Theory and Administration (3)
This course examines the basic objectives including the political and economic aspects of revenue systems at the federal, state and local levels of government. With a focus on taxes, fee for services, intergovernmental aid, and interest income this course examines the interrelationships between policy, laws and administration within a revenue system and reviews the major economic issues raised by different sources of revenue.

20:834:545 Capital Budgeting and Debt Management (3)
This course examines the reasons why state and local governments use capital budgets and explains why both capital planning and budgeting are central to economic development and essential service delivery. Students will learn how to create a capital improvement plan, and how to convert a capital improvement plan into a capital budget. In addition, students will be introduced to debt management networks and practices, debt structure, and the debt issuance process in the primary and secondary municipal bond market.

20:834:543 Public Financial Management (3)
This course introduces students to basic financial and managerial accounting principles, techniques and concepts that relate to the allocation, investment, and control of public funds. Students will learn how to use financial information to make decisions in public, health, and not-for-profit organizations. Some of the topics covered in this class include financial condition analysis, cash and pension fund investing, time value of money, accounting and financial reporting.

Nonprofit Management

20:834:571 Nonprofit Budgeting (3)
Introduces budget concepts and processes used by nonprofits. This course focuses on developing, monitoring, and evaluating operating budgets for nonprofit agencies and organizations.

20:834:575 Grant Writing and Grants Management (3)
Students will learn how to seek, solicit, and manage grant awards from foundation and government sources to support public and non-profit programs and projects. The course emphasizes managing grants effectively to provide the greatest value to the recipient as well as the granting agency. Students learn how to become responsible and ethical specialists who understand the grant enterprise, its purpose, and the effects it can bring to bear on recipient organizations. Topics include the funding search, budget development, proposal writing, indirect costs, reporting, and evaluation. 

20:834:576 Resource Development for Nonprofit Organizations (3)
Emphasizes best practices and provides practical experience in resource development, including fundraising. Students will learn essential resource management skills, including: strategic planning for annual giving, major gifts, and planned giving. Special attention is given to the following specific aspects of the fundraising process: prospect research, donor stewardship and retention, crowdfunding, case statements, direct mail, telephone solicitation, special events, lapsed donors, taxation and bequests, and capital campaigns.

Public and Nonprofit Performance Management

20:834:529 Performance Measurement and Reporting for Public and Nonprofit Organizations (3)
The processes of public and nonprofit performance measurement and management are explored in depth. Theories of public and nonprofit performance are reviewed with a clear focus on application in the management setting. Types of measures are reviewed and their relationships are explored through program logic models. Selection of key performance indicators and proximate measures is discussed. Tools and methods of performance measurement, including benchmarking and trend analysis, are introduced. Data collection, analysis, and reporting are reviewed. Students learn how to align performance measurement with strategic organizational goals and objectives in order to facilitate learning and improved effectiveness.

20:834:578 Results-Driven Strategic Management (3)
This course examines the linkages among strategic planning, performance management, and evidence-based decision making as they interface with more traditional management functions such as budgeting and human resource management in the quest for maximum effectiveness and efficiency in public and nonprofit organizations. Core management theories are reviewed and applied to present a holistic approach to results-oriented public management. Students will understand the process by which organizations create public value, including identification of strategic goals and objectives, development and implementation of timely strategies, and integration of performance information into management decisions. Key modern management challenges are identified and explored, including managing third-party intergovernmental and contractual relationships, utilization of networked and collaborative solutions to shared problems, citizen involvement, and capacity building for improved organization effectiveness.

20:834:526 Evidence-Based Public Management and Policy (3)
Focusing on “best practice” and “evidence-based practice” and distinctions between them, this course offers an introduction to those wishing to craft more effective policies and programs in public and nonprofit organizations. It explores the linkages between public policy and management, including understanding the process of policy formulation and change in the U.S. context and beyond. The meaning of “evidence-based” is considered in applied policy and management contexts, and the implication of differences in evidence type and quality are considered. The conflicting role of values and evidence in shaping program and policy choices will be conceptualized, in order to appreciate the effect of context in applying evidence to a local policy/management problem. Students will be better equipped to identify “best practices” and to develop “evidence based practices” to improve organizational effectiveness in management settings. Adaptation of programs or policies to their adoptive local context is presented as a mechanism for better aligning organizations with their environment. Pitfalls of the rational approach are reviewed to caution the strictly symbolic use of such approaches. The relationship between EBP and its counterpart, performance management, is explored.

Healthcare Administration

20:834:581 Health Systems and Policy (3)
This course introduces the student to the history, organization, financing and regulation of medical and public health services in the United States.  

20:834:582 Healthcare Management (3)
This course introduces students to the major administrative challenges associated with managing public and private  healthcare service organizations. Topics include legal constraints, budgeting, human capital management, strategic management, and organizational accountability and performance facing healthcare organizations.

20:834:584 Health Care Finance (3)
This course describes the fiscal challenges that face healthcare organizations, including insurance, reimbursement systems, managed care, Medicare and Medicaid, DRG Prospective Payment, the Affordable Care Act, budgeting, and planning.

Technology and Information Management

20:834:517 E-Governance and Digital Services (3)
This course examines the latest trends and best practices in digital service delivery (government to government, citizen to government, and government to citizen services). Students will learn key technologies, how websites and mobile apps support digital services and citizen engagement, how technology adoption is affected by regulation, how to assess performance of digital service delivery systems, and how transparency and open data is likely to affect government operations.  Opportunities and barriers confronting the use of technology to promote social change will be presented. 

20:834:518 GIS for Public and Nonprofit Management (3)This course introduces geographic information systems (GIS), applied visual data systems and analytics and its use in the public and non-profit sectors. Students will learn database management and design and digital cartography using popular GIS software, and how to combine the two to enhance analytic capacity. Integrating database management and spatial analysis allows students to go beyond simple mapping exercises to analyze complex public and nonprofit management problems.

20:834:520 Data Management for Public and Nonprofit Organizations (3)
The course introduces student to the design and management of data systems. Students will learn to design simple databases, understand the use of different data types and formats, download data from external sites, report and extract data. They will be introduced to the use of complex data queries as a form of data analysis. They will learn to use common database software for both relational and object-oriented database management. They will also learn essential principles for making data secure, accessible, and easily maintained.

Special Topics

20:834:590 Internship (3)
The MPA Program does not require an internship, but encourages internships for pre-career and career-changing students. Rutgers SPAA assists on-campus MPA students in locating internship opportunities with an expanding network of partners in the Newark urban area in local, county, and state government organizations, and among dozens of nonprofit organizations in the surrounding areas. Additionally, the school circulates information about available national and international internship opportunities via regular email announcements. Approval from the MPA Director is required before any internship taken for academic credit begins. Students are limited to one 3-credit internship; if a student takes an internship, the credits count toward the student’s concentration, which means he/she takes two elective courses from his/her concentration, rather than the customary three. An internship must be related to the student’s concentration. After the MPA Director approves the request, the student will complete the internship contract and submit it to the department for a special permission number to register for credit. An internship can only count for an elective and cannot replace a core course.

Requirements to receive credits for internship:

  • Submit a completed contract
  • Complete 150 hours of work within one semester
  • Submit mid-semester and final evaluations (by the supervisor and the student)
  • Submit a 10 to 20-page research paper relating the internship to the student’s concentration (if applicable) at the end of the semester

[Prerequisite: Advance completion of internship form and approval of the MPA Director prior to enrollment]

20:834:598 Independent Study (3)
Independent study is available on a very limited basis as a concentration course for students to investigate a specific topic or issue in depth. Independent study occurs under the direct supervision of a core faculty member. Independent study requires permission from the supervising faculty member and MPA Director approval before students may register. Independent study is limited to 3 credits during the course of the MPA program, and it may count as either a concentration course (with approval) or an elective; Independent Study cannot substitute for a core course.

Requirements to receive credits for independent study:

  • Approval from a SPAA faculty member to direct the independent study.
  • Submit a detailed description of the proposed topic, the deliverables to be assessed, and a recommendation letter from the supervising faculty member to be considered by the MPA Director for approval.
  • The typical minimum deliverable for Independent Study consists of a substantial research paper, including: literature review, collection of data, analysis. The supervising faculty may require additional assignments.

[Prerequisite: Advance approval of the MPA Director prior to enrollment]

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