A new UW-Green Bay program is igniting the passion in those who desire to serve and impact change
Story by Sue Bodilly, Writer
New Master of Public Administration program enrolling now for September 2023 start
A decades-long drive to prepare people to serve in leadership positions such as city managers, directors of nonprofit organizations, and county administrators is on the horizon. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is now enrolling its first students in a Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. Classes will begin in Fall of 2023 and can be taken fully online, or face-to-face—offered as “interactive video” course.
“While the MPA is quite common in other states, it’s not common in Wisconsin,” according to chair of the program, Associate Prof. Kerry Kuenzi. UW-Green Bay is now the first University in Wisconsin to offer both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Public Administration.
Graduate students will have three pathways—traditional, accelerated and executive. Credit for prior learning will be offered to current public or non-profit professionals, and students who have completed their bachelor’s in Public Administration are automatically offered the accelerated option.
“People who work in (or plan to work in) the public and non-profit sectors are often those with a heart of gold, and with a great desire to see others succeed and thrive,” said Kuenzi. “They have a tremendous desire to impact change in their communities. The MPA will provide specialized knowledge in public or non-profit management to help them effectively grow and run their organizations.”
Pursuing an MPA allows individuals already in the field to expand their knowledge and better position themselves for leadership positions within their agencies or as a city or county manager or administrator. For those new to the public sector, pursuing an MPA provides a strong foundation of information, and the process can lead to excellent experiences and networking opportunities in the classroom, or through internships and course projects, that can lead to better career opportunities or collaborations in the future.
Kuenzi says a bachelor’s degree provides them with a solid foundation for entry-level careers in government and non-profit work. But, as those employees grow in their careers, they may need additional training in leadership and management skills, workforce development, human resources management, etc.
And there is demand. The public service sector is projected to grow by at least 17% through 2029, said Kuenzi. While it’s not, as they say, “about the money,” MPA medium salary range is $15,000 to $20,000 higher (annually) than a bachelor’s degree in the same field.
UW-Green Bay Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Public Affairs at UW-Green Bay, Lora Warner, has 25 years of experience working closely with non-profits and public service organizations, while focusing on quality-of-life gaps and improvements, both regionally and statewide. Her time with non-profit leaders is well documented, and many leaders say they have passionate employees who need growth opportunities in management skills and professionalization.
“I see tremendous opportunity to help organizations in the public/nonprofit sector to run effectively, efficiently, and equitably,” Warner said. “The program will focus on competency areas like human resource management, leadership and budgeting, along with unique areas like board governance. We also heard from our community leaders that they are looking for continuity in well-trained leaders and are preparing for a significant number of retirements impacting leadership in the next few years,” Warner says.
Community leaders are chiming in about the MPA and the hope it can bring to employees and the communities they reach.
“A Master’s of Public Administration program is exactly what our community needs to take our community’s nonprofit leadership to the next level,” says Susan Garot, President and CEO of the Green Bay Botanical Garden. “Many of our employees are seeking ways to fulfill their career dreams in the nonprofit realm, and having these credentials, can help catapult them into positions of leadership, while serving the needs of our community and achieving the missions of their respective organizations.”
Dennis Buehler, President and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation is excited about the potential.
“UW-Green Bay is committed to building leaders who can shape equitable and just communities,” he said. “Their (MPA) program is designed to translate (ones) passion for service into skills our community-based organizations need.”
UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. David Helpap, who has research interests in state and local government, public management and budgeting and public policy, has a beat on the pulse of state and local government.
“For public organizations, having employees with advanced degrees can improve organizational management capacity at a time when budget constraints can limit training opportunities or the ability to hire additional staff members,” Helpap says. “This is particularly important for smaller and more rural communities, where these challenges can be particularly acute.”
Some ask, “what is the difference between an MPA and a Master of Business Administration (MBA)?” Both an MPA and an MBA teach learners about management curriculum like budget analysis and project management. MPAs differ from MBAs in that they also include a curriculum designed to teach students about the multifaceted approaches which governments and institutions employ to improve communities, uphold regulations, and instill legal norms. In addition, MPA students can also gain educational experience in grants administration—an important financial component of the public sector as grants fund economic development, infrastructure projects, educational initiatives, nonprofit programs and infrastructure, and community growth.
Students within the university’s 16-county footprint, as well as throughout the state are invited to apply. The MPA program is available in person as well as synchronous, online.
More information including the many career opportunities available to graduates of an MPA, see the program website.