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Master of Public Affairs

Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

MPA6200- Research Methods and Evaluation

This course is designed to provide the essential tools for conducting and evaluating quantitative analysis. Students will acquire and practice the basic skills necessary to make and assess causal claims, culminating in a research project featuring original analysis of data using statistical software. Emphasis is placed on different types of data, both experimental and observational, and the appropriate methods of analysis in order to evaluate claims. The course covers a variety of topics including research design, concept operationalization, descriptive statistics, bivariate and multivariate analysis and effective communication and presentation of research findings.

MPA6300- Public Sector Economics

This course is designed to introduce and develop the tools of economic analysis that are employed by public administrators and policy analysts in understanding the role and scope of government intervention in a market economy. This course is specifically geared towards master degree students in public administration. Specifically, the descriptive (positive) tools of economics are explained, and applied to the normative goals of economics: efficiency, equity, and stability. The causes of market failures are explained, and analyses of the spending, regulatory, and tax implications are explored.

MPA6400- Public Affairs Internship/Strategic Capstone

There are two subsets of students- pre-service and in-servicePre-service students are those who are “coming straight from their undergraduate institutions.” These students do not hold full-time employment in the public or nonprofit sector and are looking to equip themselves appropriately to succeed in an agency upon completing their degreeIn-service students are often either looking to further themselves in their current full-time positions or make a shift to a new type of work.

The purpose of the Internship/Capstone course is to provide pre-service/4+1 MPA students with: first-time, hands-on experience in their desired professional field of employment; the opportunity to build a professional network; and apply their developing MPA classroom skills in a tangible way. The project/capstone will be “internshipcentric” for this group of students. Students will work with the Director to find a placement in an organization in a public affairs field. They will complete an average of 20 hrs/wk in their new assignment.

Those students who are currently employed full-time (minimum 35hrs/wk) (in-service) in an organization in a public affairs field, may petition the Director to have the fieldwork hours waived. They can apply their current position to fulfill the fieldwork hours, and will be assigned a Strategic Capstone project- an in-depth analysis of their current profession which can be used to further their career enhancement/career development.

The Internship/Capstone course thus allows in-service students to complete an alternate project or study in lieu of the fieldwork hours. In-service students with fieldwork hour waivers will complete this alternative assignment not required of their pre-service classmates. In-service students will receive an assignment focused on a particular aspect or additional short-term function in their current position and complete it under the supervision of a faculty member. For this group of students, the project/capstone will be “academic/theoretical centric”.

Prerequisites: Graduate standing and consent of the Director

MPA6500- Public Administration

This course is designed to allow students to develop an understanding of public administration as a field of academic study and an area of professional practice. This course is considered to be the one of the “foundations classes” for the MPA program. Specifically, it focuses on the evolution of public administration as an academic discipline and a profession in the real world, the context in which public administration takes place, the meaning of public service in a democratic society, and the importance of personal and professional ethics. The course will be conducted as a seminar. Students must be prepared to discuss reading assignments and participate in analysis of case studies.

MPA6530- Public Budgeting & Financial Management

An in-depth review of the funding of state and local government budgets and capital plans. This review will include the specific processes and timelines for ratification and/or adoption of each.   The best practices for allocating scarce financial resources, tracking the status of capital projects, and the effect that state laws and local bylaws/ordinances have on making financial decisions will be presented and discussed. Coursework includes an in-depth review of the following public sector documents:  Annual Operating Budget, Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), and Official Statement (OS).  There will be a special focus on tracking the Massachusetts State Budget from submission by the governor through the state legislature’s review and adoption process.

MPA6540- Intercultural Communication

This course will examine scholarly research and current events with concerted attention towards the improved practice of communication in intercultural, international, and public affairs settings. The primary questions investigated in the course will address the dynamics of culture, ethnicity, religion, and identity in terms of issues of representation, inequality, and empowerment against the backdrop of global transition in the 21st Century. The course will pay particular attention to the ways ethnic identity influences decision-making and orientation to one’s world at the individual, community, national and international levels. This course will closely interrogate communication practices between people of varying international and co-cultural backgrounds with an eye towards engendering intercultural communication competence. The course will call upon research from critical and functional perspectives that utilize qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry. 

MPA6570- Immigration Policy

This course studies shifting immigration policy in the United States over history, with a focus on the modern era and the challenges of crafting immigration policy in an increasingly global world. The course is taught from an interdisciplinary platform, considering the philosophical, political, economic and social foundations that have inspired various policy trends as well as the effects and outcomes of policy on both the host country (the United States) and home country (country of origin). Students will also consider the various distinctions between categories of those entering the United States. The focus of the course in on immigration and human movement as it relates to the United States, although the course will also give attention to international dynamics in the current world.

MPA6580- The Public Executive

This is a graduate level course which draws on the material from the foundation level courses in the Master of Public Affairs program. The focus is on enhancing executive level decision making and leadership skills. The context is executive level management of local government and nonprofit organizations, but lessons learned will have broad applicability for mid-level and senior managers in all government agencies and other public service entities. The course will provide the student with an in-depth perspective into the environment, challenges, and responsibilities of a public sector executive.


MPA6590- Urban Management & Policy

Urban Government and Politics is a course designed to introduce students to the complex, and often challenging environment of public policy development in metropolitan institutions. This course will provide an overview of the degree in which urban residents can govern themselves in communities, and the key challenges historically faced by contemporary cities. This course will focus on urban areas throughout the country, while looking at urban policies and politics. This course will also introduce the interrelationships between the structure of urban government, and the activities of major actors (mayors, city managers, council members, interest groups, political parties, and community activists) in urban settings. Finally, the course will ask students to understand specific urban concepts or urban characteristics-economic, social, political, and psychological-that are common to all cities, and metropolitan areas.

MPA6600- Public Policy: Theory & Analysis

The course introduces students to a variety of theoretical approaches for analyzing the policy process and tools for evaluating policy alternatives. Following a review of key analytic concepts and theoretical perspectives, the political dimensions of public policymaking and the technical aspects of program design and evaluation will be considered within the general framework of the history of the policymaking process.  Students will complete a policy analysis case study on a topic of interest and relevance to the student.

MPA6610- Government, Business & Society

This course is designed to help students think critically about the ways in which government and business interact with one another in the local, state, national and international economy. It examines how government and business are organized, and the methods by which they seek to influence one another. In addition, this course will challenge students to look at the unique nature of management in the public vs. private sector.

This course examines the influence of government policies on the competitive positions of individual firms and industries. This course will introduce the interrelationships between the public, private and non-profit sectors and the activities of the major key players: federal, state, and local elected officials, city managers, business leaders, interest groups, political parties, lobbyists, community activists, and non-governmental officials (NGOs) and their constituencies.

Finally, this course will ask you to define the specific concepts—economic, social, political, psychological, and cultural-that are common to the unique nature of management in the public, private and non-profit sectors. 

MPA6620- Health Communication

This course has been designed to provide an overview of contemporary scholarship on phenomena within the scope of health communication. You will become familiar with fundamental communication processes that are involved in managing physical and mental health. Ideally, you will develop an awareness of how communication among friends, family members, professionals, and others influences an individual’s well-being, and how, in turn, health and illness shape communication and relationship dynamics. Expect to be challenged by the content of this course.

MPA6630- Emergency & Disaster Management

This course introduces students to the field of emergency and disaster management. It is intended to provide students with an answer to the question: how should governments and organizations plan for and respond to natural disasters and emergencies? In addition, we will ask: what could governments and organizations do to better prepare for emergencies? When have effective response plans been implemented? And when and why have response plans failed? We will approach these question by learning about the fundamental concepts in the growing field of disaster and emergency management followed by an analysis of specific cases including Hurricane Katrina, pandemic flu, 9-11, and mass shootings. We will analyze these situations to determine how the government and private organizations coordinated the response, gauge the effectiveness of these responses, and learn how government and private organization can better prepare for disasters and emergencies in the future.

MPA6640- Law and Ethics

The course will explore the laws, regulations, and the ethical rules and issues that public officials, government employees, and individuals and companies dealing with the government will encounter. The course will discuss the administrative law process, including the influence of laws and regulations created by government agencies, the power of these agencies to create regulations impacting business and public policy, and the ability of individuals, companies, and other entities to influence the process. The ethical laws, rules, and issues governing public officials and employees and those doing business with them will be covered along with the impact of these rules and issues on public policy. Through the use of examples, case studies, and readings, the course will explore select legal and ethical areas including administrative law, privacy laws, government contracting law, ethical rules including conflicts of interest rules and rules restricting payment of gifts or gratuities, whistleblowing, open meeting laws, and fraud in military and other government contracts.

MPA 6650- Cyber Security and Policy

This course will examine the complex and dynamic structure and evolution of cyberspace.  It will tackle key issues for policy for cyberspace, such as the sovereignty, borders, and boundaries in cyberspace, physical and electronic infrastructure, cyberspace as a public good versus private entity, and the domestic and international agreements regarding use of cyberspace.  The course will also explore the fundamental tension between freedom and security that is driving both innovation and legislation in cyberspace, drawing upon historical analogies and current examples in the US and beyond. It will examine free enterprise and malicious action in cyberspace, including “hacktivism” espionage, data theft, and organized crime in cyberspace.  Finally, this course will discuss cyber warfare and deterrence strategies and their unique challenges in cyberspace.  

MPA6700- Graduate Directed Study

Qualified students may, with the approval of the program director and instructor, enroll in a directed study that fulfills the requirements of a course in the program. The course will be tailored specifically to the interest of the student and instructor and may involve readings, research, presentations, and/or other educational and creative activities.