Jun 25, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Bulletin 
2021-2022 Graduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED PUBLICATION]

Master of Public Administration, Public Sector Administration (MPA)

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Graduate Studies  >> College of Liberal Arts  


Master of Public Administration

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) at the University of Southern Indiana is the preferred graduate degree for individuals who hold or hope to acquire a supervisory position in the public or nonprofit sector. Individuals interested in these sectors pursue the MPA in order to improve their management-related job skills and performance, obtain leadership positions within their current organizations, or begin their career in a public or nonprofit organization. Some students choose to pursue the MPA to strengthen their academic credentials and knowledge of the public sector to prepare for law school or doctoral level work.     

Mission Statement: The Master of Public Administration program at the University of Southern Indiana strives to meet the needs of current and future civic leaders and managers by providing students with the practical knowledge and professional and academic skills, rooted in a strong understanding of the theories of public administration, to become ethical, creative, and inspirational leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors. Our graduates are prepared to meet the economic, social, and political challenges that face leading public sector institutions and nonprofit organizations.

Vision Statement:  Preparing civic leaders to meet society’s challenges in the 21st century.

Goals of the MPA program 

  • Articulate the theoretical and institutional foundations of the public and nonprofit sectors, and how these sectors are shaped by their economic, social, and political environments.
  • Demonstrate the practical skills necessary for the management of public and nonprofit organizations, such as grant writing, budgeting, public speaking, human resources management, organizational behavior, electronic communication, and report writing.
  • Gather and analyze data to advance the knowledge and practice of public administration and public policy.

Graduate Studies Admission Criteria and Application Process

Refer to the Admission  section of the bulletin for information about Graduate Studies admission criteria and the online application process.

MPA Program Admission Requirements and Curriculum

Students admitted into the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Southern Indiana must complete the following admission requirements:

  • A current resume or work history
  • A 200-500 word statement of professional interest or goals
  • The name and contact number of a professional reference
  • Applicants must have earned bachelor’s degree with minimum GPA of 3.0 for regular admission; applicants with GPA lower than 3.0 considered for conditional admission

Conditional Admission

Students who meet all other admission requirements but have a GPA below 3.0 may seek conditional admission to the MPA. Conditionally admitted students may only take two graduate courses (six credit hours). If a grade of B or better is earned in each USI graduate course taken while the student is classified as a conditionally admitted student, the student will be unconditionally admitted to the program.

Non-Degree Seeking Student

An individual may enroll in PA courses as a non-degree seeking student. A non-degree seeking student may take up to two graduate courses (6 credit hours) without being formally admitted to the MPA program. If a non-degree seeking student is subsequently admitted to the MPA program, public administration courses successfully completed will count toward the degree requirements.

Admission to Graduate Studies as a non-degree seeking student does not guarantee enrollment in PA courses. Non-degree seeking students may enroll in PA courses only when enrollment caps have not been met and when students formally admitted (or expected to be formally admitted) to the MPA program have had an opportunity to enroll.


The MPA program consists of 36 credit hours. Students are required to complete a core curriculum of seven courses (21 hours), and either A) a capstone seminar (3 hours) plus 12 hours of electives, or B) a thesis project (6 hours) plus 9 hours of electives. Elective courses are chosen from one of two specializations: public sector administration or nonprofit administration. MPA courses are offered using three formats: in the classroom once-a-week in the evenings and on Saturday mornings; a distance/hybrid course that meets several times during the semester, while the rest of the sessions are online; and a purely distance course with no class sessions and all course content is online. Courses are offered each fall and spring semester and during the summer in four, five, nine, 10, or 14-week sessions. Students who take two courses during the fall, spring and summer can complete their MPA degree in two calendar years.

Capstone Seminar (3 hours) or Thesis Project (6 hours)

Public Sector Administration electives (12 or 9 hours)

Students completing the capstone option must select 12 hours of electives.

Students completing the thesis option must select 9 hours of electives.

PLA-Portfolio Review Credit

The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) policy allows for the granting of credit for previous experiential learning through a portfolio review. Approved hours are awarded as elective credit and are not tied to specific course numbers.

The Master of Public Administration program is approved to award eligible students up to 9 hours in portfolio review credit, which can be applied toward the directed elective requirement. The student must submit a PLA portfolio after acceptance to the graduate program and prior to earning six (6) graduate credit hours at USI. Faculty with expertise in the topic will review the portfolio, and PLA credit requires approval from the program director and Director of Graduate Studies. Visit www.usi.edu/registrar/transfer-credit/prior-learning-assessment/#GraduatePortfolioReview for more information.

MPA Capstone/Thesis

Note: Students who decide to complete a thesis project and enroll in PA 699 - Thesis in Public Administration  are exempt from taking PA 697 - Capstone Seminar in Public Administration .

All MPA students will be required to complete a capstone seminar (with the exception of students doing a thesis project), which is centered on a specific issue, problem, or topic in the field of public administration. Students in the seminar will be required to complete a capstone project, which is based on assessing a student’s ability to relate theoretical knowledge and skills to solving a practical applied problem in the field of public administration. Students will work collaboratively to present a question to a problem, collect and analyze data, present their findings and results, and propose possible solutions. 

Students will have an opportunity to enroll and complete a thesis project (PA 699 - Thesis in Public Administration ). The thesis course is designed to allow students an opportunity to conduct original academic research in an area of public administration. PA 699 is a variable credit class that is offered as a three or six credit hour course. PA 699 is repeatable up to six credit hours and will be graded on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis. Students wishing to enroll in three credit hours in a semester will register in PA 699.001 and students wishing to enroll in six credit hours in a semester will enroll in PA 699.002. Students who have not completed the thesis course during the semester in which they are registered will be assigned an “in progress” (IP) grade. An IP grade means a student cannot receive credit for the thesis course without re-registering in the course.  In order to receive credit for the thesis, the student must successfully complete a written paper and defend the thesis project in an oral defense. Students will be required to choose an advisor whose research interests closely align with theirs, who is a full-time member of the MPA faculty, and with whom they have completed at least one course in the MPA program. A student must also select two committee members for their thesis committee for a total of three thesis committee members. These committee members must be full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty members of the graduate faculty. 

In addition to the thesis course, students can enroll in PA 689 - Independent Study in Public Administration , where students can conduct independent research on an issue in the field of public administration under the supervision of a member of the MPA faculty. Students can also enroll in PA 690 - Special Topics in Public Administration , a course that deals with a special topic in the field of public administration offered through the Master of Public Administration program. Some of the potential topics may include Facilitation and Mediation, Government Reorganization, Housing and Community Development, Historic Preservation, Disaster Management, and Arts and Heritage Management courses.

All students will be required to complete a comprehensive examination as a requirement for graduation from the program administered by the MPA Examination Committee, which consists of members of the MPA faculty. The comprehensive examination will cover the basic mastery of universal required competencies in public administration that make up the core curriculum of the MPA program, along with a mastery of the competencies of either the public sector or nonprofit administration specializations.

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