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The Happy Accidental Benefits of our 12 Month MPA Program

Strong Dommunity - Integrated Professional Skill Development - and a Focus on Public Service in a 12 month package!

Strong Community – Integrated Professional Skill Development – and a Focus on Public Service in a 12 month package!

The Happy Accidental Benefits of our 12 Month MPA Program

At Maxwell, our MPA students benefit from a “happy accident” that our program was founded with a very unique one-year intensive format.   There are many advantages to completing your MPA in a 12 month intensive program – but you may be surprised to learn the reason behind this decision over 90 years ago.

The basis of this “new (in 1924) MPA” field of study – faculty and coursework – drew heavily from the Social Sciences. Maxwell is still a School of Social Sciences.  Traditional graduate study in the social sciences relies heavily on individual study, writing, research and the eventual development of expertise (through thesis and dissertation). This is very different from the intended career paths for MPA graduates.  So, to differentiate this “new” degree from the more traditional social science academic path – the founders started the MPA in the summer and at that time taught it in a very non-conventional way with the use of short courses.

This structure has improved and evolved over time – but at its essence has always been 12 months and intensive. This has led to several “happy accidents” that the program and its graduates continues to benefit from to this day.

COMMUNITY
First and foremost, this structure innately produces a strong cohesive community of students, faculty and staff. The vast majority of our MPA students start and end their degrees together. The initial entering seven week summer program, allows for strong friendships to form with a definite sense of “we are in it together-ness”.  This tight community continues well beyond your time and study and is evidenced by the distinctly loyal network of Maxwell alumni around the world today.

INTEGRATED PROFESIONAL SKILL DEVELOPMENT
This structure has also required the faculty to focus on professional skill development as an integral component of the courses they teach. They teach not only knowledge but incorporate through course assignments training our students need to develop critical skills for the professional work place (memo writing, economic and statistical analysis, group work, presentation/communication skills, budgeting, and project management, to name a few).  By incorporating professional skills in the context of the course material, students are imbued with a more comprehensive understanding of the key concepts AND the skills necessary for their eventual career advancement.

A student was just in my office speaking to all the community based projects she is doing in concert with several of her classes this semester.  She sees this integration of professional skill development married to course content more beneficial than a full summer internship.  Continued contact with the faculty about the work she is doing related to her class, has allowed her a much richer experience, than if she completed an internship separate from her classes, and on her own.

That being said, we also require all MPA graduates to complete a team WORKSHOP project each summer before graduation. Students, in teams of 5-7, with a faculty advisor, will work on real problems and projects for a variety of public sector organizations – producing a report (both verbal and written) with their assessment of the situation and evidenced-based recommendations for future action.

The slate of summer 2015 Workshop Projects was just finalized.  Students have the ability to work on a variety of projects across all areas of study with:  New York State Police, Institute for Defense Analysis, Congressional Research Service, World Vision International, Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse, the Anticorruption Party of Honduras (PAC), Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, Accela, Maritime Administration of US Department of Transportation, County of San Diego, Public-Private Partnership Unit of Ministry of Education in Peru, US Department of Justice, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, NYS Department of State, Amazon Conservation Association, NASA, and Consensus  – Syracuse 20/20, among others.

Since almost all other schools are two year programs – the fact that we do not have a required summer internship is often questioned. Our structure does not require (nor really allow) for a summer internship (unless you want to complete a dual degree – and those options abound!).  The “happy accident” of our structure has, however, required our program and faculty to fully embrace the complete integration of professional skill development throughout the curriculum not in addition to it.

Other programs have a required summer internship because their structure not only allows, but almost demands it. For them the summer internship requirement becomes a critical component of their degree.  They tell you how important it is, and how necessary it is and then you communicate with us – the only one year program out there – and scratch your heads when we say, “No, it is not necessary”.  It is not necessary, HERE at MAXWELL, because we have built those experiences and exposure into our curriculum.

To be honest, with the strong hiring of our graduates year after year, and the success of our alumni as they move through their careers, we are 100% confident in our program, and are immensely pleased with this structure which has allowed our program to grow and evolve in a way that makes learning skills and knowledge forever integrated here.

PUBLIC SERVICE FOCUS
A final benefit of our “happy accident”, is that our program requires students to enter with strong commitment to our public service mission. This is reinforced with our admissions decisions – but also through the self-selection of those who chose to attend Maxwell’s MPA program.  I love Syracuse and I love the Central New York Community – I chose to live here.  But our students come from all over the world and many of them will say each year that they never pictured themselves living in Syracuse. They also come to love it – or to at least appreciate it.  But, the overriding factor in their decision to attend Maxwell’s MPA program is the focus on service and making the world a better place and the shear fact that we really do it very well! Our graduates go on and have the kinds of careers they want. So, one year or not, they know this recipe works – and that is their goal.   It really does allow us to attract a special kind of committed public service focused professional to our school and we are really fortunate to play a part in their development.

We hope that you will also join us and become part of this tradition!

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