Master of Public Administration General Information

Core program requirements

The core courses in the M.P.A. program at the School of Public Affairs and 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 list of courses that fulfill each component of the core is provided below. Course descriptions can be viewed in the current catalog.


Concentrations and program requirements

Joint Doctor of Laws and Master of Public Administration with Western Michigan University Cooley Law School

* Available concentrations in Lansing as well.

Project paper

As a culmination to the program, you will take the three-credit-hour capstone course, PADM 6800: Project Paper Seminar. The seminar is required for all M.P.A. concentrations. It provides an opportunity for you to integrate theory and practice in a significant problem solving exercise. In this capstone seminar, M.P.A. 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.

If you have completed at least 30 hours of coursework, including all M.P.A. program core courses, you are eligible to enroll in PADM 6800: Project Paper Seminar. Exceptions to this prerequisite requirement can be made with the written consent of your M.P.A. advisor and instructor of record. M.P.A. advisors recommend that you enroll in the seminar as your last course whenever possible because of its nature as the culminating course for the entire program.

When you enroll in PADM 6800: Project Paper Seminar, the School of Public Affairs and Administration will check the class list to make sure you meet the course requirements (30 hours successfully completed in the program, including PADM 6060 and 6070). If you are ineligible, you will be notified to drop the course since you will not be admitted into the class.

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

MPA Student Handbook

PADM 6800: Project Paper Guidelines (from the MPA Student Handbook)

PADM 6800: Project Paper Submission Form

Project paper list

Professional field experience

If you are a pre-career student, another component of the M.P.A. 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). You must enroll in PADM 7120 (three credit hours) to complete this requirement.

The internship will:

  • Provide you 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.
  • Acquaint you with the values and attitudes of administrators in public-serving organizations and to learn about the clientele groups they serve.
  • Allow you 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.

If you are admitted on a pre-career status and remain in that status at the end of your M.P.A. programs, no other three-credit course may be substituted for PADM 7120; satisfactory completion of the internship is a graduate requirement in such instances.

You must complete at least 20 credit hours of M.P.A. coursework before you enroll in an internship. For more information on the internship, please consult the Professional Field Experience handbook.

Special interests and 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 School of Public Affairs and Administration students to use variable topic courses (under PADM 5990) which offer tailor made courses for a group of M.P.A. 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) or an independent research project (under the PADM 7100 number). Up to a maximum of three credit hours of PADM 5980: Independent Readings and up to a maximum of three credit hours of PADM 7100: Independent Research may be included in the programs of M.P.A. students, but only with prior approval of the academic advisor.