University General Course Catalog 2015-2016 
    Aug 14, 2020  

Public Administration and Policy, M.P.A

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I. Contact Information

Robert Ostergard, PhD, Director of Graduate Studies
Mack Social Science Building 218
(775) 682-7767

II. Brief Introduction

The Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program primary objective is to train students on public administration policy within the context of the political science discipline. MPA program guidelines aim to serve the University community by:

  • preparing graduates with opportunities for advanced, specialized careers in the discipline of public administration policy (e.g., teaching, politics, private or public sector, government, personal advancement),
  • preparing students continuing into doctoral degree work/research, and
  • developing professional scholars of political science and leadership. The MPA program offers graduate students the opportunity to develop academically and professionally among leading scholars within the political science discipline.

III. Program Focus and Objectives

In general, the MPA program focus is to provide students with a curriculum rich in knowledge of the discipline and methodology.  MPA students emphasize in public policy and administration. The activities of the department concentrate upon both undergraduate and graduate education, research, and public service. In addition to the MPA, the department offers Bachelor’s (BA), Master’s (MA), and Doctoral (PhD) degrees in Political Science or International Affairs.  As a smaller program, our students are able to work more closely with faculty members and senior graduate students to tailor a program that will help them to achieve their research and professional goals. Our graduate students routinely present research at major conferences and publish on their own or with faculty members.

The MPA program has the following general goals:

  • to prepare people for careers in public administration and policy analysis
  • to improve managerial competence of persons presently in public service through the advanced study of administrative processes and problems, and through an increased understanding of policy issues and research skills
  • to support additional university based research in public administration and policy analysis.

The courses in public administration are designed to increase the student’s understanding of the internal organizational environment, and to help the student develop needed managerial skills. Courses in public policy give the student an understanding of the social, political, and economic environment in which public programs develop and operate. Courses in research methods provide the skills necessary in today’s complex government agencies and activities. A track of specialization provides the student with additional competence in an area linked to individual interests and/or career goals.

IV. Admission Requirements

Admission to the Master’s program is competitive; a limited number of applicants are accepted each year. For the Graduate Committee to consider any application, the applications and supporting documentation must be complete. Please note that the Graduate School, which has to approve all applicants, has its own deadlines and regulations. Students are expected to know these and meet and follow them.  

The Graduate Committee reviews admission applications in three cycles:

  • Priority Fall Admission with application for assistantships: February 15; this deadline is for students seeking admission for the following Fall semester with an application for a departmental research and teaching assistantship
  • Regular Fall Admission: April 15; this deadline is for students seeking admission for the following fall semester without a departmental assistantship application
  • Regular Spring Admission: November 1; this deadline is for those seeking admission for the Spring semester. Assistantship offers are generally not made for the spring admission cycle.


  • Undergraduate Degree (B.A./B.S)
  • Minimum 2.75 overall GPA (B.A./B.S.) or a 3.0 GPA for last two years of B.A./B.S.
  • GRE Scores: Verbal and Quantitative scores should be 154 or higher or in the 60th percentile range, though some exceptions are made for students based on upon their skill set and other qualifications
  • 18 credit hours (6 courses) in Political Science/Social Science

Please note that these are minimum requirements; meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission to the program. We take into consideration a student’s overall record, as well as fit with the faculty’s areas of expertise and research/teaching interests.

  • Undergraduate and Graduate School transcripts (if applicable)
  • Test Scores:
    • GRE/GMAT/LSAT scores are required of all students and cannot be waived. The test scores should have been taken within the past five years
    • For international students studying under a student visa, the Test of English as a Foreign Language test (TOEFL) is required and you must have a minimum TOEFL score of 500 on the paper‐based exam; 61 on the internet‐based exam, or 173 for the computer‐based exam. Students must also meet all other requirements for International Students, as established by the Graduate School and the Office of International Students and Scholars/ 0074, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada 89557‐0074. If admitted, International Students should get in touch with the Office of International Students and Scholars immediately to make sure that all needed paperwork is processed as quickly as possible. Some paperwork needed, such as application for Social Security cards, can take weeks to complete, so students are encouraged to start this process once they are informed of their accepted application.
    • The department reserves the right to request that the English skills of incoming International Students be evaluated by the Intensive English Language Center on campus. The results of that evaluation will be used to determine if the student needs to take additional English or other classes to facilitate their success in the program.
  • Three letters of recommendation of which a minimum of two are from professors with whom you have taken and completed coursework.
  • Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose: the 500-word statement should explain to the Graduate Committee why you have chosen the department for your graduate program, your career and educational goals, your potential research agenda and interests, how your research fits with the department’s research focus and any faculty members with whom you have an interest in working.
    • All statements should be printed with double spacing in a standard 12 pt font and have your name at the top of each page.
  • Students applying for departmental assistantships must complete the department specific application for an assistantship.
  • All applicants must begin the application process by creating an electronic application account with the Graduate School of the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • All additional application materials must be mailed to the Graduate School by the appropriate application date:

University of Nevada, Reno
Graduate School/0326
Reno, NV 89557-0326

Please do not mail application material to the department without consulting with the department’s Director of Graduate Studies. The Graduate School evaluates all applications for completion and then electronically forwards them to the department’s Graduate Committee for evaluation and admission decision. We cannot guarantee that materials sent to the department will be included in the student’s application file.

Completed applicant files are reviewed by the department’s Graduate Committee and forwarded to the Graduate School for final approval. The Graduate Committee reserves the right to specify additional application material if necessary. It is possible that the Graduate Committee may recommend admission for a student contingent upon the student taking additional coursework to make up for deficiencies in the student’s record. Such make‐up coursework can generally be completed while the student is pursuing an approved program of graduate study.
Admitted students will receive an email welcoming them to the department, but the official letter of admission will come directly from the Dean of the Graduate School. The Graduate Dean’s letter is the official offer of admission. To accept the offer of admission, students must contact the Director of Graduate Studies by email to acknowledge that they are accepting the admission offer. This communication will allow the department to establish department records and to add the new student to the department’s list serves. If the student does not respond to the department’s offer of admission by the established deadline, they will forfeit their seat for the incoming class.

At the discretion of the Graduate Committee, the committee may recommend admission with a Prescribed Program of Study. Generally, students whose application does not meet standard admission requirements for the department can be admitted under this option. A prescribed program admission requires the completion of one semester of full-time study of 9 credits or 12 credits over two semesters for those working full-time. The student must attain a grade of at least “B” in each course taken over the probationary period.  The courses prescribed may be graduate or undergraduate classes the Graduate Committee has identified as needed to strengthen the student’s skills and academic background. Undergraduate courses cannot be applied as credit toward the graduate degree. Students who successfully complete the prescribed program then continue with regular graduate studies. Students admitted under a prescribed program should complete the Prescribed Program Form in conjunction with the Director of Graduate Studies.

For students who are not sure about Graduate School and want to try a few classes before submitting a full application, the Graduate School allows students to apply for Graduate Special status. This status allows students to take up to 9 credits without being formally admitted to the program. This program can be useful for students who want to try a few classes before making formal application to any graduate program. For those who have had a long absence from the classroom, graduate special status will provide a re-introduction to the classroom environment. The 9 credits can be applied to a degree program once a department admits the student.
Application for Graduate Special Status must be made directly to the Graduate School, not through departments. Students can receive additional information and an application status from the Graduate School’s website.
Students admitted as a Graduate Special should get in touch with the Director of Graduate Studies immediately to discuss which courses the student should take, given the student’s background and objectives.

V. Program Requirements

Changes made to the MPA program in 2012 have eliminated theses and professional papers from the degree requirements, creating a faster, more streamlined process for students to complete their MPA degrees.

All MPA students are required to complete the following 36 credits of course work:

B. Specialization Track (9 units)

The program offers three defined specialization tracks: 

  • Public Management;
  • Policy Analysis and Evaluation; or
  • Environmental Policy and Management.

The courses supporting each track may be interdisciplinary, in which case those courses may be taken outside the department. Other courses may be included to match the special interests of individual students, in consultation with the student’s committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies. Students may augment the required nine credits in the specialization track with additional elective courses.

Students may also devise more specifically defined specialization tracks (e.g., Comparative Administration, Urban Management and Planning) upon consultation with and approval by their advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.

C. General Electives (6 units)

D. Comprehensive Exam (3 units)

VI. Total Units

36 units

VII. Notes

  1. GRADUATE GRADES AND GRADE POINT AVERAGE STANDING: Students must maintain a 3.00 grade point average (GPA) to maintain good standing with the Graduate School. If a student’s GPA falls below a 3.00 GPA, the Graduate School will give the student one semester to increase their GPA to a 3.00 level. If the student fails to do so, the Graduate School will dismiss them from graduate studies at the university; this decision is not made by the Department of Political Science. In graduate studies, generally grades below a “B” are considered failing by the faculty and are frowned upon. These grades can seriously affect your progress and will certainly affect a student’s ability to maintain department level funding. While the Graduate School uses 3.00 as their minimum threshold, the Political Science Department may terminate a student’s program if s/he receives six or more credits of B‐ or lower grades, or three credits of C or below grades.
  2. ABOUT COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATIONS: MPA students are required to pass comprehensive examinations in 3 of the 6 required general core courses, excluding PSC 780 for which there is no comprehensive examination offered. The procedures for the comprehensive examinations are as follows:
    1. Students decide in consultation with their advisor which comprehensive examination they would like to take.
    2. When students sign up to take the class in which they would like to take the comprehensive examination, they must inform the instructor at the beginning of the semester that they wish to take the comprehensive examination for that course.
    3. The student then registers for 1 credit of PSC 795 - Comprehensive Examination  and 2 Credits of PSC 791 - Special Topics . Why register for the Special Topics?  Because students taking the comprehensive examination also have to study additional material for the comprehensive examination as well as the regular course material; the Department grants students extra credits for the time students use to study that material, hence the 2 extra credits.
    4. The student takes the comprehensive examination at the end of the course.
    5. The instructor grades the examination and submits grades for both the course and separate grades for the comprehensive examination and special topics.
  3. ADVISING, COMMITTEES, AND THE PROGRAM OF STUDY: Upon admission to the program, the Graduate Committee will assign students to an advisor that works in the area of the student’s research interests. Students should be in contact with that professor to discuss their first semester of classes and other coursework advice. 
    At the end of the student’s second semester, students must complete a Program of Study ( The Program of Study (POS) is crucial as it represents the plan of study and degree completion. Essentially, your POS is a form of contract with both the department and university— you list out all courses required to complete your degree. This would include accepted transfer credits and Graduate Special credits. You will also establish a committee through the POS, keeping in mind that this committee is not permanent and can change based on the student’s needs and advice of your committee chair. It is likely that the POS will change over the course of your studies, so you need to keep this form updated as necessary to reflect changes in your program. All committee members must sign your POS and the Graduate School has to accept it for compliance with degree requirements.
    The chair of your committee directs class advisement, exam study, and thesis advising. Your other committee members serve in an advisory capacity—they are not your primary advisors, but they are there to offer specific advice about topics related to your coursework, exams, and dissertation. Members of the committee should be individuals with whom the student can work, who have some interest in the student’s research, and who can materially aid the student’s development. All committee members on faculty at the university must be designated graduate faculty (professors approved by the Graduate School as qualified to work with graduate students). MA Committees consist of three members.  The chair and another member must be drawn from our department; one must be from another department (The Graduate School Representative). 
  4. TRANSFER/SUBSTITUTION OF CREDITS: A maximum of 9 semester hours of graduate credit MAY be transferred for credit towards the MPA degree. These credits may be from another university or from a previous degree program at UNR. Up to nine credits may be taken as “graduate special” courses at UNR (described above). The Director of Graduate Studies, the student’s committee chair and the Graduate School (where those courses are transferred in from another institution) must approve credit transfers. Only those courses that relate to a student’s particular program focus will be approved for transfer and/or substitution.
    Courses older than six years, whether transferred in or taken in‐residence, cannot count toward the credit requirement for the MPA unless those courses were part of a student’s previously completed Master’s or J.D. program.
  5. TIMEFRAME: Students have six years to complete all MPA requirements, a timeframe that begins the date of your acceptance into the program. No courses taken in residence (including credits taken as a Graduate Special) in pursuit of the MA may be older than 6 years, at the time of graduation from the program.

VIII. Undergraduate Prerequisites

  • Undergraduate Degree (B.A./B.S)
  • Minimum 2.75 overall GPA (B.A./B.S.) or a 3.0 GPA for last two years of B.A./B.S.
  • 18 credit-hours of social science courses taken at the undergraduate level

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