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The Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan has announced the creation of the Master of Public Affairs program to replace Master of Public Administration program. The program is a nine-month-long degree focusing on analytical, communication and management skills in the public and private sectors.

Michael S. Barr, Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, announced the program in an email last Tuesday to current Public Policy students.

“Graduates (of the program) will be prepared for key senior roles in a variety of governmental institutions and public agencies, in the non-public sector and in the private sector as well.”

The 33-credit degree will be open to individuals with five or more years of experience in public administration, government affairs, the military or the nonprofit sector. The Public Policy School has developed new courses specifically for this program, in addition, these MPA students will enroll in courses which are part of the school’s current Master of Public Policy program, including Economics for Public Affairs and Leadership in Public Affairs. In order to complete the degree, students must also complete a capstone project for a client. The new program builds upon the former Master of Public Administration by combining the previous degree’s focus on analytical policy analysis with new curriculums for public and nonprofit entity management.

This curriculum, combined with a faculty of experts in fields ranging from economics to social work, will focus on refining the skills of professionals in the field and prepare them for leadership positions within and outside of the government. 

“The new degree program builds upon the strengths of the Master of Public Administration degree while providing some new and innovative learning opportunities that are tailored to experienced professionals,” Barr wrote. “We are grateful to our alumni of the Master of Public Administration degree for their input as we develop this new program.”

Paula Lantz, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the Public Policy School, said the school decided to update their program to strengthen it and broaden their reach to domestic and international students.

“The impetus behind this new degree was the desire to strengthen our reduced-credit master’s degree offering for people with significant work experience,” Lantz said. “We are very excited about this new degree offering, which we believe will attract people with work experience and an interest in public affairs around the world.”

Lantz explained the new program has the potential to expand into an executive learning format.

“Eventually we are going to take this degree into an executive format which will combine online and in-person learning,” Lantz said. “In the future, it will also be in an executive format and will be available to people working full-time.”

Lantz said though this program is one of at least seven other Master of Public Administration degrees in Michigan, the Public Policy School will be the only Master of Public Affairs in Michigan and one of few in the country.

“We expect a very high caliber of people (in the cohort) and … will take people who already have experience and hope to take their career to the next level,” Lantz said.

Public Policy senior Alexandrea Somers, Public Policy representative to Central Student Government, looks forward to the addition of the Master of Public Affairs program as it expands the Public Policy School alumni base.

“There would be a larger cohort of people to work with,” Somers said. “The new degree will have people with professional experience and expanding networks.”

Somers also discussed the benefit of new class development and real-world simulations.

“I am excited — I think the more Ford includes lots of simulations in the program, the better they will be able to prepare students for the real world,” Somers said. “(It is) a great opportunity to have more learning and holistic classes and courses at the Ford School and the University.”

The Master of Public Affairs program will be accepting applications this fall in order to build their first cohort in September 2019.


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