The Pursuit of Social Justice in Public Administration
The desire to effect change drives many individuals who pursue an MPA degree. The goal of many nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies is to address issues of injustice and inequality at local, national, and global levels. As leaders in public service, MPAs are uniquely prepared to pursue social justice throughout their careers. Here are some examples of the ways MPAs can make a difference in the social justice issues they care about.
Homelessness and Housing Inequality
One of the career paths that obtaining an MPA degree prepares students for is city or county management. In this role, the city executive is responsible for developing budgets and budget priorities and shaping the goals and objectives of local government agencies. By allocating resources to programs and departments that address housing inequality and homelessness, the city manager is able to directly impact the lives of those most affected by these issues.
One of the major issues under debate in Congress is ending employment discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. Protecting the rights of individuals to be fairly considered for work based solely on qualifications and credentials is one of the main goals of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or ENDA. MPAs can work toward ensuring these protections are enacted by working as policy analysts for elected officials or lobbying groups.
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MPAs are well qualified for positions in education administration, whether through an appointed position or by seeking elected office. In this capacity, individuals take active roles in identifying issues that affect education inequality, and work to propose programs and policies that address them. Solutions include improving access to quality education, strengthening programs such as Head Start and Universal Pre-K, and promoting teaching training. Many MPAs find working in education particularly rewarding, since often it directly impacts the communities in which they live.
Most charitable organizations and nonprofits prefer to have an executive director with an MPA. The opportunities are as varied as working for a local charity that provides direct aid such as food, clothing, and job training, to working for a national or international nonprofit developing policies and programs to address poverty and hunger on a global level. Devising fundraising campaigns and cultivating donor networks for charitable organizations is another way MPAs pursue social justice.
The issues surrounding environmental justice are as varied as unequal access to public green spaces and protecting low-income populations from the costs associated with environmental regulations and sustainability initiatives. There are several career options for MPAs concerned with environmental justice. Working as a city planner or director of urban development allows an individual to impact inequality at the local level. To effect best practices and changes in policy on a larger scale, working with a public think tank that advises government agencies and NGOs is another option to pursue.
Most MPA candidates pursue the degree because of a deep commitment to social justice and public service. This degree prepares individuals to influence justice both at the community level and in ways that have global impact.