Earning the MPA

The Hardest Step is the First Step: Obtaining my MPA

Greetings!  I am Emily Boge, RDH, BS.  I am a wife, mom, dental hygienist, writer, dental researcher, farmer, and current MPA student at UIU.  Balancing these tasks is not easy, but is definitely possible through the use of effective time management and support from those who surround you on this journey.

I came to UIU in 2011 with five years of college behind me.  After completing my dental hygiene boards I thought school was over forever.  I have always loved learning, but dental hygiene school had burned me out.  Other than a few continuing education credits here and there, I found no site of higher education on the radar – that is, until I got involved with the political efforts of the Iowa Dental Hygienists’ Association. 

It was then that I learned there was a whole world outside of my dental office!  I began traveling to national meetings of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association as a national delegate, and found not only did I love it all, but I was not half bad at the skills I was using.  As I met more and more of the movers and shakers in dental hygiene I found that one thing all of them had in common was a higher education.  My future (still unsure what it is going to be) required me to have a Master’s degree.  After researching many programs, I decided to set my goals on an MPA in Health and Human Services.  So, after finally getting my student loans paid off eight years after ‘college’ was over, I found myself back in class at Upper Iowa University as a Psychology major. 

UIU online was perfect for me.  I started with one class at a time, working full-time.  I then took two, and even three for the last two terms.  Thanks to a network of supportive family and friends, my degree was completed in fourteen months.  It was then that I began the course work for my MPA.  The first five undergrad pre-requisites were challenging, as math is not my strong suit.  Economics, Accounting, Finance, and Statistics beat me up.  Political Science was quite easy for me, as was my first “Grad” course of Public Administration.  Research Methods brought me more math, but I met the challenges head-on with reassurance from my advisor Dr. Poppe.  I am now enrolled in Advanced Research Methods and am finding the more I read, the more I understand.  For the first time in my life this program is requiring me to read material twice – but that is OK!  I realize that anything worth having is going to require some hard work.

My advice to anyone who wants to get their Master’s, or any degree for that matter, is to take that first step and sign up for a class.  The satisfaction I get every 8 weeks when I finish a course and get one step closer to my MPA is way better than passing another level of Candy Crush, or watching another episode of a TV program because in reality, that’s all I really feel that I miss out on as a student.  I manage my time better and cut out all the time wasters so I can achieve my goal.

Wishing you all the best,

Emily

Stay Informed!

Attaining your Master of Public Administration degree from UIU can be intense. Students can expect to complete 24-credit hour core requirements along with an 18 credit hour emphasis area.  A part of the 24 credit hour core requirement is the PA 590 Research Seminar. As I have written before, it is critical that students save their notes, research articles and textbooks throughout their studies because those notes will certainly come in handy when students begin this intense program analysis. It is also important that students start the process soon and avoiding waiting until the end to begin this process. Yes, we know that the heavy load of assignments can be enough work on its own without adding the components of a multi-faceted research project proposal as well. Well, never fear! Here’s where we offer a few tips on how to balance it all and prepare for the application process.

  1. Organize! Important to any public or private organization is proper time management and organization. The good thing about UIU’s MPA program is that it offers students industry relevant materials that will undoubtedly follow them into their public careers. Hence, it is important to use the time given to organize your time effectively. When professors give assignments, start them early so you can finish early. Then once the assignment is complete, take a couple more minutes to see how that assignment can help you with your research seminar.
  2. Think Critically! As I have written before, public administrators are critical thinkers, which is why UIU’s MPA program has made critical thinking one of its core competencies. Critical thinking consists of analyzing data, synthesizing information and ideas and solving complex problems in order to make important decisions. Based off that knowledge, it would appear that critical thinking is essential during your studies and especially during the PA 590 application process. Therefore, take the time to analyze your thought process during your studies and recognize ways to utilize that in the future.
  3. Refer Back!  It’s important that students save their notes throughout their MPA journey because they will constantly have to refer back to a huge chunk of the information during the PA 590 application process. At the same time, students should also start referring back during the start of their journey. For example, if a student is completing an assignment for one course, it would be a great idea for that student to use notes from a previous course to help complete the assignment for the current course. By doing this, the student will learn how to apply his/her notes early on so when it comes time to begin the process for PA 590, it will already be a thing of practice.

These were just a few tips to help students get started and understand the importance of saving their study materials. We want to make the journey to completion an easy and exciting one, so follow these tips and be sure to stay in contact with your professors and Dr. Gerald Poppe frequently so you can stay abreast of your studies. Ultimately, we want to see our MPA-ers succeed!

The Value at UIU

Obtaining a professional degree is very beneficial, especially in an economic environment that is in need of more professionals that are skilled. Public Administration is a growing field that encompasses a large number of competencies that are valuable in a variety of environments. Therefore, it is great that there exists a wide selection of advanced Public Administration programs. Getting a Master in Public Administration may not seem as exciting as the fast-paced world we live in but it is a field that is gaining a large amount of attention. Public administrators often find themselves utilizing trust and efficiency to represent the needs of the public as well as their public organization. The UIU MPA is a professional degree designed to make it possible for students to acquire the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to effectively lead and manage in government and nonprofit organizations. Although there are many MPA programs out there with very similar curriculums, UIU’s MPA program is different because it draws from its distinct core program values to develop academically-enriching and industry sought after courses. For instance, by studying the history, evolutionary concepts, ideas, theories, and values of public administration, our students are in a stronger position to uphold core democratic values and promote and protect the public interest as they address the interconnected and interdependent issues facing society.

What are UIU’s Program Values for the MPA program? They are the three Ds: diversity, democracy and due process. Public administrators serve a diverse group of individuals that have varying needs. Hence, it is important to have a program that allows students to take positions that consider diversity to lead and administer public programs more effectively. In addition, our country is founded upon democracy, so it is no surprise that incorporating democracy into program values in order to create a fair and trustworthy foundation is a value that UIU holds true. Public administrators should not only work for the public but work to include the public in their processes by engaging in civic participation and developing programs that are accessible to the public. By incorporating democracy into the UIU MPA program, UIU is teaching students how to strive to make public programs open and responsive to all stakeholders by promoting meaningful participation in the political process to promote the public interest. Furthermore, due process deals with the checks and balances system evident in public administration in terms of elected and unelected public officials. Therefore, it is a very important function in public administration. Thus, UIU’s MPA program offers students a curriculum that includes the element in the administrative processes that govern MPA program policies and practices.

When you think about the value of the UIU MPA program, it is important to remember the three Ds: diversity, democracy and due process as a UIU MPA student. As an MPA student here at UIU, you will need to demonstrate your understanding of the MPA program’s core values when you have to take PA 590 Research Seminar. So, when you go through your courses here at UIU, think about the content offered in these courses and how that content relates to UIU’s program values. At the same time, take the time to recognize the value that a UIU MPA degree holds and advantages that wait upon the horizon. Your future awaits you.

Critics of Thought

In our everyday lives, we are critics of a number of things. For example, we are critics of the people we date, the movies we watch and the even the food we eat; nevertheless, rarely are we critics of our own thought. To be a critic of your own thought, you have to understand what tools you need to evaluate your thought processes. Now I know, how often does someone sit around and analyze how they think, the process sounds a little redundant. However, recognizing how your mind works gives you the delightful advantage of being able to walk into a situation and assess your situation in a way that leads to effective results.

In the field of public administration, sound thinking will be the foundation of your success. Public administration requires a great deal of analysis and research in order to reach a particular goal. For instance, if a city planner needed to analyze recent trends in crime within a community to develop an understanding of how these trends represent the areas in which they occur, that city planner will need to think critically in order to evaluate the information properly and create a reasonable course of action. Just the same, if you are approaching a difficult research project, it is important that you utilize critical thinking skills to gauge the data you’ve collected in order to have the opportunity to present a well-rounded research project to your peers.

UIU recognizes that critical thinking is important, which is why the UIU MPA program offers PA 517 Research Methods in Public Administration.  PA 517 introduces students to the study and application of research designs, methods and theories while giving them the proper skills to conduct both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the issues within public administration research. PA 517 teaches students how to ask the appropriate questions in order to come to reasonable conclusions. In addition, PA 517 provides students a formal discipline to bear upon their thinking. By receiving the tools to understand the process of evaluation and analytics, students are gaining a deeper comprehension of the critical thinking process that they will undoubtedly need in the future.

Being a critic of your thinking is important in any aspect of your life. The more time you spend thinking about your thinking process, understanding how your mind works, appropriately evaluating the issues before you, the better you will be at developing your intellectual properties. As an MPA student, we talk about critical thinking a lot but that is due mostly in part to the fact that public administration is a field that requires research, analysis and assessment constantly. Hence, understanding how to think critically is an advantage that cannot be ignored or worse, underestimated. Thus, learn to be a better critic of your thinking, your mind will thank you.

Writing Well Vs. Writing Good

When you get into graduate school, there is an unspoken expectation of you that implores you to take heed. Remembering the appropriate times to use well/good, lie/lay/laid, there/their/they’re, your/you’re, etc. are tests that challenge your capability to understand the fundamentals of good writing. At the undergraduate level, professors can often be more lenient with their students because at that point, professors take it upon themselves to attempt to cultivate the young minds of the students before them. At the graduate level, professors are less concerned with teaching you about writing basics and more concerned with preparing you for the professional world before you. Hence, it is important that as graduate students, you recognize the small holes in your writing ability and strive to fill them with improved grammar, properly used transition sentences and clear thesis statements.

Sometimes writing well may not seem that important. However, in the professional world more employers crave a well working knowledge of basic grammar skills within their employees. In the age of poorly written emails and indiscernible written reports, employers are now more likely to hire employees that can put together a decent resume.  This point in our careers marks a turning point. It is time to take advantage of the opportunities before you in a setting that encourages development. Before you submit a paper to your professors, reread it and consider a few things:

  1. As a graduate student, you are no longer cleverly regurgitating the research conducted by someone else. At the graduate level, you are utilizing critical thinking skills and personal analysis to develop a strong foundation for your own research. For example, writing a report about the research conducted by Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment is much different from writing a paper that analyzes how the effects of Zimbardo’s research define the underlying constructs of the extent of authority within public administration—now, you are developing your own research.
  2. Identify what you’re writing about and how you plan to address that. The use of outlines has oddly become a thing of the past. However, outlines are a great source in helping you organize your thoughts and map out a course of action.
  3. Understand APA style. In graduate school, APA style is the style of choice. Thus, it is imperative that you understand how to use quotes while including parenthetical documentation. In addition, you should only add quotes to support the ideas already included in your paper from your own analysis not in place of your own analysis.
  4. Know how to use transitions. Transitions are essential when writing papers. A well-written essay should easily flow from start to finish. For example, “for example” is a transition that serves as a road sign that helps your reader understand the direction of your previous thought. Transition sentences help a reader flow from one point to the next. For instance, the sentences “Urban planners often serve as the voice of the public they serve. Community members are constantly seeking improvement and stability,” don’t flow smoothly. By including a transition sentence, you are helping the reader find the connection between these two thoughts: “Urban planners often serve as the voice of the public they serve. Therefore, urban planners and community members can work together to improve the state of their communities. Community members are constantly seeking improvement and stability.”
  5. In conclusion, make sure you write a strong conclusion. It may be nice to start a paper off well while ensuring a smooth flow; however, the paper is incomplete without a strong finish. Learn how to bring it on home!

Writing well is extremely important at the graduate level and graduate students should take it more seriously. Although these tips can certainly helpful, realize that there are a number of other tools available to you when attempting to write a good paper. For example, Spell Check can be your best friend, if you let it.

Write on, MPA-ers!

Save Your Notes

Whether you’re just beginning your academic journey or just about to cross the finish line, we want to remind our MPA students about PA590. Our PA590 Research Seminar asks students to complete a comprehensive public administration project or program analysis, which will afford them the opportunity to apply theory to practice. Taking online courses can be tough, especially when you’re juggling your academic endeavors with your personal life (work, family, etc.). Hence, it’s understandable that when you’re done with a course, it feels good to leave behind the notes and journal articles that you spent eight weeks analyzing and continue your journey while learning a new topic. Although the temptation is there, don’t do it!

PA590 doesn’t come until the end of a student’s MPA journey because it allows students and faculty to assess the effectiveness of the MPA program in achieving its stated mission, goals and competencies (check out our program values, mission and competencies here). You remember reading the course objectives when starting a new course; well in PA590, students will identify and use 14 course objectives, one from each successfully completed course, to evaluate a public program and develop an operational definition for each objective. The purpose of developing the operational definitions is so the student will be able to identify and collect the data necessary to complete the program’s evaluation. Therefore, to ensure your success in this research seminar, we encourage our students to start early and collect the basic materials they need to be successful in PA590.

Save all your notes, the papers you stayed up all night completing and the books you spent all your money purchasing, it’ll be worth it in the end. These materials will be invaluable in helping you operationalize the course objectives into a standard that you can use to evaluate the program of your choice. PA590 is designed to be an integrative experience that challenges you to demonstrate that you have fulfilled the UIU MPA program objectives and mastered the skills and knowledge of your emphasis area while exhibiting a level of analysis, critical thinking and professional presentation that is appropriate for graduate level work and industry standards. So, don’t throw out your notes or misplace your old papers and text books, you’ll find them of great use when you’re finally able to see that finish line!

NASPAA January Update

NASPAA update

As UIU improves and becomes a place of continued academic enrichment for its students, faculty members within UIU’s MPA program are excited to implement core assessments for students in order to prepare them better for industry standards today. Next on the agenda is the Critical Thinking Assessment. Our critical thinking competency is “to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions.” UIU MPA faculty member Rod Erakovich, working with Dr. John Grummel, Dr. Sharon Chanley, Dr. Tim Hunt and Dr. Alex Kadrie created the critical thinking rubric. Faculty members within the MPA program are working ever so diligently to develop these core competencies (you remember the writing assessment) in order to remain in compliance with NASPAA’s rules that state that we must complete the assessment of three core competencies before applying for accreditation. Similar to what we did with the writing assessment, we are asking that each faculty member identify one assignment that can be used to assess critical thinking. We have assessed writing, we are assessing critical thinking now and our plan is to assess the third competency “to participate and contribute to the public policy process” in term four. Hence, our goal is to ensure that MPA students are well versed in these three core competencies while gaining worthwhile knowledge and at the same time enjoying the UIU MPA experience. We encourage MPA students to continue monitoring the MPA blog, keep in contact with MPA faculty members and remain aware of the many exciting changes happening within the UIU MPA department.

Stay informed!

NASPAA Update

January 2013 marks the beginning of UIU’s journey toward NASPAA accreditation. For those of you that may not know, NASPAA is the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. Attaining accreditation from NASPAA for UIU’s MPA program demonstrates the academic commitment UIU gives its students and the dedication UIU has to developing a quality, worthwhile educational experience. In this journey, UIU will be defining its MPA program and ensuring that the current courses are still relevant to today’s employers. There are a number of schools out there that give students expensive degrees that hold no value. For an MPA student, this NASPAA accreditation journey is very important because it reminds you that the time spent working on these courses will be time well spent.

As the job market changes, education programs have to be willing to adapt. Innovation is an important characteristic as its relative advantage provides an alluring foundation for education programs to stem from. Education has evolved from the traditional brick and mortar institutions that many students and employers are accustomed to seeing. In the same breath, non-traditional schools still hold the same value as these traditional schools, and employers are beginning to recognize that. Hence, this NASPAA journey gives UIU the opportunity to take an innovate approach to education. UIU will develop an open dialogue with other NASPAA member schools and discuss the status of the public affairs profession while addressing the changing markets apparent today.    

By August 2014, UIU hopes to receive its NASPAA accreditation. Therefore, during this almost two-year process, UIU wants to hear from its students. This journey is one that will affect all UIU MPA students; so, we want to hear your thoughts and learn about areas in the program that UIU might need to address. Complete the writing assessment, review your course objectives, look over our program values and tell us if you have suggestions or revisions. Be an active participant in this accreditation process as it affects you as well.

We will continue to keep students posted regarding the UIU’s NASPAA accreditation throughout the months. Please continue to visit our Facebook page and read our blogs for more information relevant to you.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security

When I tell people I’m considering going into Emergency Management and Homeland Security, I always get the same response, “What’s that?” At that point, I have to peer up at the ceiling, scratch my chin and figure out the best way to answer that question. Usually, I end up responding with an answer that gives a number of different right answers muddled up into one semi-confusing kind-of right answer. Once they leave, I always slap my forehead once the best answer comes to mind and I realize that I’ve lost my chance at sounding like I know what I’m talking about. In short, the answer to that question is Emergency Management and Homeland Security is the field of study that focuses on strategic planning, crisis management and preparedness that teaches students how to protect an organization’s critical assets from hazardous and often times catastrophic events and threats. See, doesn’t that answer sound like I know what I’m talking about. This field is not for the weak at heart as it requires a great deal of patience and large amount of problem solving capabilities. Therefore, if you like to put your thinking hats on and solve serious problems in an effort to serve the greater good, then this is the field for you.

Why does this field require patience? When a unsecured threat threatens the security of an organization, it becomes time for emergency managers to manage this crisis. There may come times where you may have to spend hours upon hours implementing plans, rethinking plans that you thought would work and now doesn’t and then spending a large amount of energy determining ways to communicate with the public explaining what the threat means and most importantly, how you plan to fix it. Hence, you’re like fixers, and fixers have to be patient because they have to make sure they properly implement plans and wait to see if the desired results are achieved.

Being a problem solver requires the ability to identify a problem and then taking the necessary steps to solve that problem. It may sound simple but it is important for emergency managers to properly identify each facet of a threat i.e. why it exists, how it exists, what about it is existing, when does it get worse, where does it exist, etc. Upon identifying the emergency, one must then determine the best course of action to solve that problem, and not every solution will solve each aspect of that problem. This is where the aspect of strategic planning comes into play. Strategic planning requires the use of a blueprint, if you will, that clearly defines a particular problem, displays the vision set in place for a particular plan, and then demonstrates each step necessary to solve the identified problem. Strategic planning consists of a multitude of steps that come together to appropriately manage and mitigate a crisis.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security is a very important field to access. Every organization from the small to the massive needs an emergency plan set in place. There are always potential threats that any organization faces from the irate customer to possible terrorists. Learning how to prepare for an emergency gives an organization the leverage needed to stay afloat. Nothing is worse than facing a threat and beign completely unprepared and helpless when attempting to manage it.

Now that you know what Emergency Management and Homeland Security is, when someone asks you to explain it to them hopefully you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about.

NASPAA and UIU

NASPAA stands for National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and it is an institutional membership organization with the purpose of ensuring “excellence in public service education training”. NASAPAA is the official accrediting agency for MPA programs in the U.S. and UIU is seeking its accreditation.

When seeking a graduate program for your public administration endeavors, NASPAA accreditation should be one of the major factors. By UIU seeking NASPAA accreditation, UIU plans to improve its academic culture and reach a level of excellence that exceeds most online learning programs.

Usually, when students seek online education, their biggest question is, “Will my degree hold any value upon graduation?” When spending so much money to receive an education, students expect a certain bang for their buck. When prospective students are bamboozled into shelling out thousands of dollars and borrowing thousands of dollars of loan money in hopes of receiving quality education only to be left with a massive loan debt and no job prospects, there is nothing more discouraging. By enrolling in UIU’s MPA program, students are putting their trust into UIU, and believing in UIU’s purpose to provide students with a rich and fulfilling education. Therefore, when UIU tells its students that it is seeking accreditation from an organization that prides itself on accrediting academically enriching institutions, the mere step is commendable.

What does this mean for you? When you graduate from UIU with a Master’s in Public Administration, employers will see your degree and realize that you received an education from an institution worth their attention. In addition, if you plan to further your professional education and seek a doctorate, other institutions familiar with NASPAA’s creed of excellence will be apt to use your degree as a testament to your academic character, as opposed to your willingness to be swindled into paying money for an extremely overpriced diploma. What is most important about UIU seeking NASPAA accreditation is that UIU’s commitment to improvement ultimately adds value to their students’ educational experience. Students can rely on the education they receive at UIU and be confident that it will advance them in their professional careers.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn more about what this means to you and how this affects you directly. NASPAA accreditation is a worthwhile step forward to helping students get an education worth the money.