A deeper look at the University of San Francisco online MPA

What will you learn in a graduate school program of study? This is an important question, especially as you narrow down your list of desired programs and universities. At the University of San Francisco, students in the Online Master of Public Administration program prepare to increase their skills as effective and compassionate leaders who initiate and facilitate interactions between the public sector and its partners and constituents to provide ethical and workable solutions to societal needs, especially to those who most depend on government’s support and services.

How are these outcomes achieved? In part through a diverse and in-depth curriculum taught by faculty experienced in the public sector and who are active researchers on issues of public significance. Read on to learn more about the curriculum elements that help students reach their individual learning and career goals.

Why pursue an online MPA degree?

Prospective students consider earning the MPA for several reasons, including a desire to positively impact their communities, improve their abilities to provide services to the public, and a commitment to advance social justice. The curriculum offered through the USF Online MPA program can help you accomplish all of these goals, even if you have a busy life and schedule that makes attending classes on a regular basis on campus difficult or near impossible.

The USF Online MPA focuses on the same core practice competencies crucial to on-ground and online students alike:

  • Strategic planning in public leadership
  • Partnership building to solve problems and to implement public policy
  • Resource management to provide service with a public perspective
  • Budget analysis to support with limited resources a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry

Each of these competencies is crucial to crafting a well-rounded educational experience in public administration.

Strategic planning in public leadership

Strategic planning is defined as long-term organizational planning, with an eye on the broader growth, advancement, and success of an organization. Public managers skilled in strategic planning will be able to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks facing their communities at an earlier stages, so they can direct their organizations to act proactively and keep public initiatives moving forward.

USF’s MPA program includes a strategic planning class as one course in its curriculum. Students learn the fundamental elements behind strategy, including defining, establishing and interpreting outcomes, assets, behaviors, values, and more. As they advance, students will better recognize and identify strategy as differentiated from tactics, learning how to establish strategy as the overarching plan and goals; tactics serve as individual steps required to achieve those goals, or else are required activities essential in emergency conditions when strategic imperatives are in the process of being redefined.

Success in this area is manifest in ability to identify obstacles to growth and change, planning ahead to avoid those obstacles, and creating seamless and effective strategies for operational transformation. These skills are valuable for public administrators who are tasked with guiding their organizations to promote positive change in their communities.

Partnership building to solve problems and to implement public policy

Another critical element of the USF Online MPA degree program educates students in public private partnerships to build effective coalitions to serve community missions while also meeting internal organizational objectives.

One class that is part of the USF MPA program is Management Practice, Organizational Behavior, and Human Resources. This class helps students become more adept at workforce management and partnership building.  Learning outcomes include strategies to resolve organizational conflict, techniques that improve the overall performance of a company, and the theories behind the human resources dynamics in an organization and in the community. Students become more knowledgeable on the purpose and contribution of human resources professionals, limitations in organizations that can negatively impact operations if left unaddressed, and the role of management, the workforce, and the social behavior of groups as they impacxt those who work in the public and voluntary sectors.

Another class that helps students in the area of partnership building is Core Value Driven Leadership and Ethics. Learning outcomes include promoting public leadership values and theoretical understanding of ethical expectations of leadership as well as best practices. Students dissect and discuss how failures in leadership have hurt communities in the past,  and how to create a sustainable and equitable culture that promotes ethical behavior in a public-sector organization.

Resource management to provide service with a public perspective

Resource management is another important competency for graduates of the USF Online MPA program. Operational success in a public agency depends on meeting organizational goals with available resources, such as finances and staffing, while also promoting public service values such as sustainability, accountability, and social justice. Leaders who use resources efficiently and sustainably increase the effectiveness of their organizations, and resource management is about how to do that in the public sector.

There are several classes offered as part of the USF MPA program that address skills needed for this competency. One is Managing Budgets, Finance and Economics, where students learn about nonprofit and government budgeting, strategies, and processes. Another invaluable class is Public Policy Analysis and Implementation. Students here learn how to analyze public concerns and develop public policy options that when implemented have a positive impact on both public and private sector businesses. Students learn about cost-benefit analysis in determining tradeoffs between policy options, and also determine challenges to policy implementation in meeting the concerns of key stakeholders.

Data analysis and research also play a role in resource management, as public sector professionals use quantitative methods to draw meaning from mountains of data that is collected to document and advance the public interest. The USF MPA Quantitative Methods and Big Data course covers these topics, preparing students to conduct research and program evaluation using large public data sets that can be explored using several analytic methods.

Budget analysis to support with limited resources a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry

Finally, students who graduate from the USF MPA program can expect to demonstrate competence in budget analysis. As a core competency of the program, budget analysis is important to assure the diverse public has its needs address in a way that allows for fiscal sustainability and operational success. Students learn to analyze a range of budget documents, the pros and cons of certain budget models such as zero-based budgeting, and how to structure a budget that must be created somewhat anew each year to best pursue mission goals and public needs that span decades.

The Managing Budgets, Finance and Economics class is also beneficial for this competency. During the course, students can learn about factors behind government revenue, expenditure, taxation, and more. Students will also cover current trends in public finance, alternative financing methods, and how to deploy capital projects at all public levels. Overall, graduates should become skilled in fiscal sustainability and how to budget properly in a public-sector organization.

Why choose USF?

An Online MPA degree from USF could be the right decision for you. Before you enroll, take time to speak with an enrollment advisor who can help answer any questions you may have about the university, the program, and the graduate school experience.

USF faculty are well-versed in the public sector, and the vast majority have terminal degrees in their disciplines. They’ll offer their expertise on the robust curriculum that helps educate students on these four core competencies, ideally preparing you for success in public administration. Visit the USF MPA website to learn more.

Recommended Readings:

5 Key Differences Between Organizations in the Public and Private Sectors

Career Strategies for Successful MPA Graduates


USF MPA Degree

Why Choose an MPA Degree?

USF: Strategic Planning

USF: Management Practice, Organizational Behavior and Human Resources

USF: Core Value Driven Leadership and Ethics

USF: Quantitative Methods and Big Data

USF: Public Policy Analysis and Implementation

USF: Managing Budgets: Finance and Economics

USF: Assurance of Learning

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