MPA Capstone

In your last semester in the Program, students are expected to write an MPA professional paper that identifies an existing public management problem or public policy issue and develops a problem resolution strategy. This requirement has a dual purpose. First, it will help the student to pull together all of the material learned in the program. Second, it provides a practical demonstration of the range and quality of a student’s skills to prospective employers.

The MPA Professional Paper is the final step in the successful completion of the MPA degree program. Although similar in nature to a thesis, this is not a thesis requirement. Preferably during the last semester of a student’s degree program, each student must be enrolled in the Professional Paper Seminar, PADM 6900, successfully complete the paper, and defend it before the MPA Nucleus Faculty.

The MPA Professional Paper provides a unique opportunity for each student to bring together all of the course-work for the MPA degree into a practical application of problem-solving. This research requirement is designed to encourage each student to incorporate broader theoretical propositions and defend practical implications in their work efforts. Therefore, in the oral defense of the paper students may be asked to demonstrate how public administration principles aided them in the development of their paper.

  1. For this requirement, students must identify a real management problem or policy issue that concerns some level of government or quasi-government agency and then develop problem-resolution strategies to resolve the problem or substantially ameliorate the situation. In this sense the students will be expected to develop a set of alternative strategies and evaluation criteria, and then analyze them in order to determine a preferred alternative based on selected criteria., In the MPA Professional Paper the student will be expected to demonstrate that he or she has acquired the skills necessary to solve problems in a practical sense and so is ready to begin work in the public sector or to improve work conducted by those already in the public workforce. The student is also expected to assess any ethical issues associated with the proposed recommendations and implementation strategy.
  2. The MPA Professional Paper Committee will include the two co-instructors of PADM 6900 in the semester that the student is enrolled. The third committee member will be determined on a case by case basis but must be someone holding faculty rank. Factors that will be considered are the student’s area of concentration and the area of expertise of each co-instructor for the course. In some cases, the third committee member will be randomly assigned by the MPA Director. Each student may designate a chairperson for his/her MPA Professional Paper Committee. In some cases, the chairperson will be one of the co-instructors for the Professional Paper Seminar. If not, then the student is responsible for consulting with the committee chair outside of the class on a regular basis.
  3. MPA Professional Papers will be defended in one of the last two to three meetings of PADM 6900 before the entire MPA Nucleus Faculty. Defenses will be announced publicly so that other students, faculty, and individuals who might find the topic interesting and valuable can attend the paper’s defense. During the oral defense, students may be asked questions regarding connections of theoretical, technical, and strategic public administration issues to the paper in addition to questions directly related to the paper.
  4. Each student must obtain an MPA Professional Paper Approval Sheet signed by the Professional Paper Course primary co-instructors and the third committee member when the student submits a final paper after the oral defense. The Approval Sheet should be bounded in the original final paper. For the completion of the Professional Paper course, students have to submit one original final paper copy and one electronic copy.
  5. Students should not wait until the last semester to determine the topic of the MPA Professional Paper. Throughout the degree program, students should talk with the MPA professors about possible topics and collect information that might be helpful for analysis of the topic selected. If students wait until the semester in which they enroll in PADM 6900 to think about the paper, it is doubtful whether the paper will be defended by the time the semester grades are to be submitted. Students will be expected to submit a research topic, a defined problem, and outlines prior to the first day of the MPA Professional Paper course.
  6. Problem definition is highly critical for the MPA Professional Paper. The definition should narrow the problem down to a specific geographic location. The body of institution or agency that has been targeted for action should have sufficient legal jurisdiction and authority to initiate and undertake corrective action. The problem should be substantially significant such that the student could honestly encourage a decision-maker to reallocate scarce resources to the analysis and potential resolution of the problem. Furthermore, the student should select a problem that is manageable given available resources and a timeframe.
  7. If a student intends to conduct a survey for the paper, the student must obtain the University and Medical Center Institutional Review Board (UMCIRB) approval. The co-instructors will assist with the IRB approval process. Further details on UMCIRB policies and procedures are stated in the UMCIRB website.
  8. The suggested style guideline for the Professional Paper will be provided. In addition, students can use one of several standard style manuals, preferably, the American Psychological Association (APA) or MLA Style Manual (Modern Language Association).