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Core program

The core program in the Master of Public Administration at Western Michigan University addresses the body of knowledge and skills that is common to the administration of health care, nonprofit and public entities. A listing of courses that fulfill each component of the core is provided by the table below. Course descriptions can be accessed by selecting the course numbers; this new curriculum will be effective in the Summer 2008 Semester.

Program requirements


Project paper

As a culmination to the program, students will take the 3 credit hour capstone course, Project Paper Seminar. The Project Paper Seminar is required for all MPA concentrations, but not for the graduate certificates. It provides an opportunity for students to integrate theory and practice in a significant problem solving exercise. In this capstone seminar, MPA candidates will conduct an original, analytical research project (non-thesis) consisting of professional analysis of a management problem leading to practical implementation in governmental, health care, or nonprofit settings, or theoretical inquiry in the field of public administration. That project will produce either a solution to a public management problem in a specified agency or academic research that provides new generalized knowledge in the field. Other forms of professional inquiry and analysis may be acceptable if approved by the instructor.

MPA candidates who have completed at least 30 hours of course work, including all MPA Program Core courses, are eligible to enroll in the Project Paper Seminar. Exceptions to this prerequisite requirement can be made with the written consent of the student's MPA advisor and instructor of record. However, MPA advisors recommend that students enroll in the seminar as their last course whenever possible because of its nature as the culminating course for the entire program. For more information on the Project Paper Seminar, please consult the MPA Handbook.

As students enroll in PADM 6800, and no later than two weeks prior to the start of the semester, the SPAA will check the class list for names of any student not meeting the requirements for enrollment (30 hours successfully completed in the program, including PADM 6060 and 6070). Ineligible enrollees will be notified to drop the course since they will not be admitted into the class.

An electronic waitlist beyond the course cap of 12 will be activated via the Registrar to add students if and when seats open up through ineligibility or other student drops. Waitlisted students will be notified of a vacant seat on a first-come, first-served basis by the Registrar's office and must respond within 24 hours to be enrolled in the class.

pdf Completed project paper list

Professional field experience

For pre-career students only, another component of the MPA degree program is a planned professional field experience, or internship, equivalent to three credit hours (300 hour commitment of 20 hours a week for 15 weeks, or one semester). Students must enroll in PADM 7120 (3 credit hours) to complete this requirement.

The first goal of the internship is to provide candidates with meaningful work experience, which will afford realistic exposure to the world of professional administration and to the organizational environment in which the dynamics of an agency are developed. The second goal of the internship is to acquaint candidates with the values and attitudes of administrators in public serving organizations and to learn about the clientele groups they serve. Third, the internship allows each pre-career MPA candidate to complete an agency project under the joint supervision of an academic and an agency representative which may be used in the final Project Paper Seminar, if approved by the Seminar Instructor of Record. Students should note that, if they are admitted on a pre-career status and remain in that status at the end of their MPA programs, no other three-credit course may be substituted for PADM 7120; satisfactory completion of the internship is a graduate requirement in such instances.

Students must complete at least 20 credit hours of MPA coursework before they enroll in an internship. For more information on the internship, please consult the MPA Handbook.

Special interests/topics course

As part of the curriculum of programs offered through the School of Public Affairs and Administration, arrangements may be made to accommodate specialized study interests of students not addressed by an existing core or elective course of study. In some cases it is possible given sufficient interest, for the School to utilize what are termed "variable topic courses" (under PADM 5990) to offer "tailor made" courses for a group of MPA students wishing to study a specialized subject matter.

Alternatively, it is possible in some subject matter areas to compensate for lack of specialized courses by arranging either an independent reading program (under the PADM 5980 number) and/or an independent research project (under the PADM 7100 number). Up to a maximum of three credit hours of independent readings (PADM 5980) and up to a maximum of three credit hours of independent research (PADM 7100) may be included in the programs of MPA students, but only with prior approval of the academic advisor.


Am I required to submit GRE or GMAT scores?
No. Since the GRE general test (and GMAT) scores are not good predictors of a student's ability to complete the MPA program, applicants are not required to take the test or submit their scores. However, if students have taken these tests, they may choose to submit their scores to the admission committee as additional evidence of their academic preparation.

What are the MPA admission standards?
All students must complete an undergraduate degree program before they matriculate. Students who earned an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 may be granted regular admission. Those who earned less than a 3.0 may be admitted on probationary status. In general, the lower the undergraduate GPA, the greater the importance of an applicant's employment history and references. A discussion of the admission process is available on the admissions page.

Does the MPA program have any prerequisites?
There is not a specified list of courses that students must complete before they begin the MPA program. However, students are expected to have a basic understanding of computers (word processing and spreadsheets) and the American political processes at the local, state, and national levels (how a bill becomes law, the roles of the three branches of government, etc.).

What application materials am I required to submit?
Applicants for admission to the MPA program must submit the Application for Graduate Admission, official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions that the applicant attended, the Departmental Information Form (DIF), resume, responses to the two essay questions, and two (2) letters of recommendation. For more information concerning the application process and materials, consult the admissions page.

What are the deadlines for submitting application materials?
The MPA deadlines are February 1 for Summer (May-June) and early Fall (September) admission, June 1 for the second round of Fall (September) admission, and October 1 for Spring (December) admission. For more information on application deadlines and schedule for notifying applicants of the admission committee's decisions, consult the admissions page.

If I submit my application materials after the deadline, can I take classes during the ensuing term or semester?
Yes. Prospective students may apply for Graduate Non-Degree status through the Admissions Office. Applicants must submit evidence that they have completed an undergraduate degree program. The evidence includes unofficial or official transcripts or an undergraduate diploma. The granting of Non-Degree status enables a student to register for and take classes but does not guarantee admission to the MPA program. In the event that a Non-Degree student is admitted to the MPA Program, no more than 9 credits completed under Non-Degree status may be used to satisfy MPA requirements. More information on Non-Degree Status is available here.

University policies

Is there a time limit for completing the MPA degree?
Yes. University policy stipulates that all MPA requirements must be completed within six years of enrolling in the first course. (Note the six year clock starts when the first class is taken - not when a student is admitted to the program). If program requirements are not completed within this time frame, a student must (a) provide evidence that he or she has remained current on course content that is older than six years, (b) retake the course(s) that was/were completed more than six years ago, or (c) apply for an extension.

The form for requesting an extension can be obtained from the Graduate College, School of Public Affairs and Administration or on the web here. Approval of an extension request is not guaranteed so students are strongly encouraged to schedule their courses so that all program requirements can be completed within six years.

What is the policy concerning religious holidays and class attendance?
The University recognizes religious holidays of many faiths. If, due to the observance of a religious holiday, a student is unable to attend class, he or she should discuss the matter with the instructor in advance of the holiday.

Under what conditions are incompletes granted?
Incompletes are typically permitted only in unusual circumstances. The decision of whether to approve an incomplete rests with the professor and is determined by his or her course syllabus and policies. Students who may need to request an incomplete should discuss the matter with their professor as early as possible. They should not wait until the last week of the semester or term.

Is there a deadline for fulfilling the requirements of an incomplete?
Yes. University policy stipulates that all work must be completed within one year. If the remaining tasks for the course are not completed within this time period, the incomplete is automatically translated into an "X". This grade has the same impact on the GPA as an "E".

Scheduling courses

How long will it take to complete the MPA program?
Students who finish two three-credit hour courses in each of the Fall and Spring semesters and the Summer sessions conclude their coursework in two years and one semester/session. If a student completes one three-credit hour course in each of Fall and Spring Semesters, and takes no courses during the Summer sessions, he or she will fulfill the MPA degree requirements in six years plus one semester/session. Since the latter time period exceeds the University's six year time limit, the student should enroll in one spring/summer course or request an extension. Please consult Graduate Catalog under "Time Limit for Completion of a Degree") and the University Policies section of FAQs for a discussion of the six year time limit.

Is there an order in which courses should be taken?
Yes. PADM 6000: Historical and Legal Foundations of American Public Administration and PADM 6180: The Political and Economic Environment of Public Administration courses should be taken at the beginning of the MPA program because these courses focus on concepts and theories that are addressed in the remaining MPA courses. It is also strongly recommended that students complete PADM 6070: Quantitative Data Analysis early in the program; this course must be taken before enrolling in PADM 6060: Analytical Methods. Since students in PADM 6060 develop the methodology for their project papers, Analytical Methods should be taken one to two semesters before enrolling in PADM 6800 Project Paper Seminar.

The concentration elective courses cycle through each of the campuses (Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and Lansing) less frequently than the core courses. As a result, students can minimize the time for completing their degree requirements by enrolling in concentration elective courses whenever the courses are available and fill in the remaining slots with core courses. The course planning process is facilitated by the 2004-2008 Curriculum Plan that is available on the Schedules page.

Should I complete all of the core requirements before I enroll in my concentration elective courses?
No. The concentration elective courses cycle through campus (Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and Lansing) less frequently than the core courses. The amount of time for completing the MPA degree, therefore, can be minimized by scheduling the concentration electives when they are offered and filling in with core courses.

At what point in the program should I enroll in PADM 6800: Project Paper Seminar? Since PADM 6800 is a capstone course, it should be taken at the end of the MPA program. Students cannot enroll in the course until they have completed at least 30 credit hours in the MPA program.

How many credit hours should I complete before I enroll in PADM 7120: Professional Field Experience?
At least 20 credit hours in the MPA program must be completed before a student enrolls in PADM 7120. In order to secure an internship that conforms to a student's needs and skills or ensure that an internship arranged by the student meets the requirements of the program, he or she should contact their advisor at least one semester prior to the internship's desired starting date. Students are also encouraged to take the internship in conjunction with the Project Paper Seminar. By following this scenario, the internship assignments can furnish a foundation for the project paper.


How can I get information about available internships?
Contact the MPA Internship Coordinator, Dr. Barbara Liggett at Dr. Liggett will have information on available internships and/or will be able to help you set one up. In addition, visit the School of Public Affairs and Administration homepage. As the department is made aware of internship opportunities, they will be posted on the web. All students who need an internship should contact Dr. Liggett at least one semester prior to enrolling in PADM 7120.

How many hours must I work in order to fulfill the internship requirement?
The internship is a 300-hour commitment. This requirement translates into 20 hours per week for 15 weeks. There is, however, the option of spreading the hours over a longer period of time. The internship's duration as well as the starting and ending dates are negotiated with the student's advisor and the sponsoring agency supervisor.

Project Paper Seminar

What types of topics may I pursue?
Although the following list is not exhaustive, there are five recommended classes of MPA Project Paper approaches. These options include (1) applied analytical research, (2) empirical or scholarly research, (3) legal or historical studies, (4) a contemplative treatise, or (5) other projects approved by the Instructor of Record. More information on Project Paper topics is available in the MPA Handbook.

Under what circumstances do I need to submit my Project Paper proposal to the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (HSIRB)?
The HSIRB protects the rights and welfare of human research participants. Any Project Paper proposal that involves educational testing, observation of public behavior, surveys, and interviews must be submitted to HSIRB for its review and approval. More information concerning HSIRB can be obtained online here, by contacting the Board at (269) 387-8293, or by consulting an MPA advisor or the Instructor of Record for your Project Paper Seminar course.

What are the Project Paper's components?
The Project Paper consists of (1) a title page that adheres to Graduate College guidelines, (2) a 200-word abstract that summarizes the topic, major findings, and conclusions, (3) the executive summary, (4) the table of contents, (5) the introduction which states the paper's purpose and organization, (6) the literature review, (7) research design and methodology, (8) data analysis and findings, (9) conclusions and recommendations, (10) references (APA style), (11) any appendices, and (12) an agency approval letter when necessary. For more information on the content of the project paper, please consult the MPA Handbook.

University administration

How do I change my address with the University?
Students can submit address changes to the University via GoWMU. Students are also encouraged to submit address and e-mail changes directly to the School of Public Affairs and Administration to ensure the program has current contact information.

How do I register for classes?
Registration for classes takes place via GoWMU. More information relating to the registration process and how to use GoWMU to register for classes may be found on the Registrar's Office website.


What are the deadlines for applying for graduation?
The deadlines for application for graduation are August 1st for Fall graduation, December 1st for Spring graduation, and February 1st for Summer graduation. More information on graduation as well as an application form may be found on the Registrar's webpage.

What is the process for applying for graduation?
Students may secure an Application for Graduation Audit at any Western Michigan University campus (Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, and Lansing) or online. The completed application and fee must be sent to the Office of the Registrar. Students should also contact their MPA Advisors to inform them that their permanent program needs to be completed and submitted to the graduation auditor.

For information relating to graduation procedures or commencement, please consult the the Registrar's webpage.

Library services

What services are avilable to SPAA students?
Western Michigan University's Waldo Library offer numerous services for graduate students. A comprehensive list of services can be found on their website. In addition, Waldo Library provides an A-Z database for the academic journals and periodicals that they subscribe to.