Masters in Public Administration


Overview | The MPA is the key professional degree for individuals working in the fast-growing public and nonprofit sectors, and our graduates succeed in obtaining work in those areas (see figure; read our program mission and values statement). The College of Public Service MPA is the only NASPAA-accredited MPA program in Middle Tennessee.  Located in the state capital and a vibrant city, we can offer opportunities to interact with state and local public policymakers, administrators and nonprofit leaders during your studies.  The MPA can also be combined with a graduate certificate to emphasize Public Policy or Nonprofit Management, increasing relevance for these dynamic fields; agency cohorts may also pursue the PA Executive Leadership graduate certificate. While this is an on-ground degree, throughout the curriculum courses are offered in a variety of delivery approaches (evening, hybrid, weekend) which help meet our students' needs as working adults.  You can start the MPA program in spring, summer or fall. Students who have less than one year professional-level experience in a public or nonprofit setting, as evaluated by program advisor, complete a 300-hour internship, gaining real-world experience in their desired sector (recent host organizations). Qualifying unconditionally admitted students can apply for a graduate assistantship, subject to funds availability; contact us to learn more. Always seek advising before registration to make sound course choices (Contact your advisor).  In particular, students who want to pursue a certificate along with the MPA should seek advising before choosing any electives in the MPA or certificate to minimize chances of having to take an extra course while satisfying each set of requirements. Our Handbook for the MPA offers more detail on our program. Apply now!

MPA Program Mission. Our MPA program prepares students, as ethical public and nonprofit managers and leaders, to respond equitably, effectively, and efficiently to the needs of a diverse society. We recognize the goals of our students working in, or preparing for, public service by emphasizing flexibility and quality in teaching and learning. We teach the core concepts of public administration with a focus on practical application, while strengthening students’ ability to solve problems analytically. Students may build specialized skills on one of the program’s areas of expertise: public policy, leadership, or nonprofit management. As instructors and advisors, we work closely with students to support both their classroom and career achievement; in return, students are expected to pursue academic excellence and demonstrate integrity. As scholars, we engage in research and service to the University, community, and profession. By building relationships with public and nonprofit organizations in Middle Tennessee and beyond, we enhance our ability to develop students as professionals.

Public Service Values Statement. The guiding public service values of the MPA program in the College of Public Service at TSU are:

  • EQUITY – Public servants should practice impartiality and fairness in their daily work, while balancing that pursuit with the need for effectiveness and efficiency.
  • EFFECTIVENESS – Public servants should work in a proficient and productive manner towards the common good, setting transparent performance outcomes to measure progress while balancing that pursuit with the need for equity and efficiency.
  • EFFICIENCY – Public servants should be careful and innovative stewards who seek to create the most public value out of scarce resources, while balancing that pursuit with the need for effectiveness and equity.
  • DIVERSITY – Public servants should understand, value, and respect both individual differences and commonalities, working to create and maintain inclusive organizations and communities.

--current mission and values statement adopted May 2018 by MPA program faculty

MPA alumni employment field or sector bar graph; most common sector of employment is State gov't, then healthcare admin (any sector) and then nonprofit sector.

Recent MPA alumni employment sector or field; top category is public sector-state, then private and public sector-local


HANDBOOK:  Masters in Public Administration (MPA) Degree

Table of Contents

Point of contact

I. Key guiding documents

II. The purpose and uses of the MPA degree

III.  TSU MPA degree Program Competencies and Student Learning Outcomes 

IV. Applying for admission to the MPA degree

V. Graduate Assistantships and other funding support

VI. Advising and course selection

VII. Succeeding in your coursework and making satisfactory progress towards your degree

VIII.The MPA internship requirement and exemption

IX. The MPA writing portfolio requirement

X. The MPA comprehensive exam

XI. Preparing to graduate

HANDBOOK:  Masters in Public Administration (MPA) Degree 

Point of contact for prospective students:  Dr. Rodney Stanley, Department Chair
Point of contact for admitted students: Advisors

I. Key guiding documents | back to Table of Contents

  1. TSU Graduate Catalog - Relevant policies are found both in the front of the catalog which apply to all TSU graduate students (p. 18-40 of 2017-2019 Catalog) as well as the program-specific part in the College of Public Service section (begins p. 155 of 2017-2019 Catalog).  Please note that this handbook, while it provides useful details for prospective and current students, does not replace or supersede the Graduate Catalog, nor does it cover all the important elements of policy included in the Catalog.  All applicants and students are responsible for knowing and abiding by TSU, Graduate School, and program policies outlined in the Catalog.
  2. The MPA program mission and values statement

II. The purpose and uses of the MPA degree| back to Table of Contents

  1. Why public service?  Our accreditor, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), provides background on the MPA degree and its uses. Information is also available from our accrediting agency on accredited programs.
  2. To learn more about our program's goals, please review our MPA program mission and program factsheet.
  3. For a one-page overview of the degree, review this program flyer.

III. TSU MPA degree Program Competencies and Student Learning Outcomes | back to Table of Contents

  1. MPA graduates in our program are expected to achieve the following five overarching Program Competencies (PCs; derived from the standards of our accrediting body, NASPAA), consistent with our mission:
    1. Each MPA graduate will be competent to lead and manage in public, nonprofit, or public affairs governance.
    2. Each MPA graduate will be competent to participate in and contribute to the policy process.
    3. Each MPA graduate will be competent to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make decisions appropriate to public and nonprofit administration settings.
    4. Each MPA graduate will be competent to articulate and apply a public service perspective.
    5. Each MPA graduate will be competent to communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workplace and citizenry. (see also our Communication Resources page)
  2. A set of more detailed student learning outcomes (SLOs) are associated with each of the five PCs above. To understand what specific skills, abilities and knowledge areas are included in the MPA degree at TSU, review our competency and learning outcomes by course.
  3. For more insight into how the detailed course content in various topic areas of the curriculum relate to the SLOs and program-level competencies, examine sample syllabi (these are past examples provided for prospective students; current students should always ask the instructor for a current syllabus.)
  4. Please review this advice about textbooks.

IV. Applying for admission to the TSU MPA degree | back to Table of Contents

  1. To review the current MPA degree admissions requirements, read the MPA section in the current Graduate Catalog (begins p. 158 of 2017-2019 Catalog ).  The Catalog section details GPA requirements and the GRE exam requirement.  Students with excellent performance in one of the Department's graduate certificates (i.e., achievement of a 3.33 or better GPA on the successfully completed certificate program) may have the GRE requirement waived.  Review as well as the general Graduate School admissions information in the front portion of the catalog. Consult this FAQ for further information regarding the MPA GRE requirement, and general information about the exam. Please note there are additional Graduate School admissions requirements for international students.
  2. Apply to the Graduate School directly (615/963.5901).
  3. If you are interested in pursuing both the MPA and a graduate certificate simultaneously, consult this FAQ to find out how to apply for both, or to add one program if you have already been accepted into the other.

V. Graduate assistantships and other funding support | back to Table of Contents

  1. Unconditionally admitted students may apply for MPA graduate assistantships, subject to available openings and funds. This is a selective process and only individuals who have been unconditionally admitted to the MPA or current students who have achieved unconditional status may apply. Please note that we cannot guarantee that graduate assistantships, once awarded, will be available in subsequent years to the same student.
  2. For further details, please consult the FAQ about financial support for the MPA program.
  3. To apply, complete the graduate assistantship application and submit to Department of Public Administration via fax to 615/963.7245 or via email to the Department Chair Dr. Rodney Stanley

VI. Advising and course selection | back to Table of Contents

  1. Advisors are assigned by program and/or certificate being pursued; see this list of advisors and their contact information.  
  2. In your first semester you should arrange a meeting with your advisor to complete a draft program of study (plan for graduation). After completing 9 credits successfully, arrange a second meeting to finalize your program of study which will be submitted to the Graduate School, and to discuss the internship or internship waiver requirements. Continue to check in with your advisor every semester before course selection to verify that your choices are appropriate and to complete any necessary paperwork to complete program benchmarks. You should arrange a meeting with your advisor prior to your last semester in the program to discuss necessary steps for graduation. Seeking advising regularly is your responsibility as a graduate student and will help to ensure a smooth path through the program.
  3. Admitted students may access the course schedule and register for a semester's coursework in the myTSU system.  That system is also where you access information about billing and financial aid status, view your unofficial transcript and see which programs you have been admitted to, and where you register your vehicle to obtain a parking permit. While registration and the most current course schedule information is inside myTSU, for our students' convenience we also produce a summary sheet periodically showing the upcoming semester's course schedule.  These summaries are available here with other resources for registration. A 3-semester course schedule is provided as an aid to planning, but does not replace advising.
  4. Upon successfully completing 9 credits in the program and satisfying any outstanding conditions on your admission, you must contact your advisor and schedule an appointment to complete the program of study for MPA students.  This form is essential for continuing in the program and ensuring that you have a plan for completion that has been approved by your advisor.
  5. If you are pursuing a certificate as well as the MPA, read the relevant FAQ carefully. These FAQ include curricula and degree maps to aid in planning completion. Students in the Public Administration Executive Leadership certificate must consult their advisor directly.
    - Course selection and forms - MPA plus Graduate Certificate - Public Policy
    - Course selection and forms - MPA plus Graduate Certificate - Nonprofit Management
  6. If you become interested in adding a certificate to your MPA degree studies, review these frequently asked questions about completing both the MPA degree and one of the PA department graduate certificates to learn how.
  7. This summary sheet provides an overview of the Department of Public Administration course offerings.  It should not be a replacement for consulting your advisor, but it can help you understand which semester coursese are typically offered.
  8. With advisor permission, under certain circumstances we allow students to substitute specific courses from the MPS program (through TN eCampus, formerly known as Regents Online Campus Collaborative) for specific required courses in the MPA program.  If your advisor gives you permission for this substitution, review this FAQ about taking an MPS course.

VII.  Succeeding in coursework and making satisfactory progress toward your degree | back to Table of Contents

  1. Review this FAQ on Taking graduate courses and maintaining good standing.
  2. Review this FAQ on Advice about textbook and other required course materials.
  3. Consult our Communication Resources selected by the program faculty, which can benefit MPA students throughout their studies,

VIII.  The MPA Internship requirement and exemption | back to Table of Contents

  1. MPA students have a six-credit internship requirement.  Those students with a year or more professional-level experience in the public, nonprofit, or healthcare sectors may apply for the internship exemption subject to advisor and department approval. You should discuss your professional experience with your advisor at the Program of Study advising appointment, which you should schedule as soon as you have 9 credits successfully complete in the MPA program.
  2. Read the frequently asked questions about the MPA internship requirement, and exemption from the requirement; including necessary forms and links to recent internship host examples. Information on recent internships by year of graduation is also included in our MPA program factsheet.

    Direct links to internship documents are as follows:

    - MPA internship instructions for host organizations
    - MPA internship syllabus (instructions for students re: internships for credit requirements)
    - MPA internship details FORM (student submits to internship coordinator/dept. chair prior to starting internship)
    - MPA internship evaluation FORM (internship supervisor to complete)

  3. If your advisor has approved you to apply for exemption from the internship based on your professional experience, then review the materials you will need to submit:  application for exemption from the internship requirement.  The internship exemption materials are due to your advisor by the Friday after the comprehensive exam.

IX.  The MPA writing portfolio requirement | back to Table of Contents

  1. All MPA students must submit the writing portfolio for evaluation to their advisor in their last semester (by the Friday after the comprehensive exam).  To make this process easier, make sure you save your papers as you take your MPA coursework. Back up your electronic files regularly.
  2. For details on the materials to be included in the portfolio, read these instructions for submission of MPA writing portfolio.

X.  The MPA comprehensive exam requirement | back to Table of Contents

  1. All MPA students must pass a comprehensive exam in order to graduate with the degree.
  2. You can request to take the MPA comprehensive exam when you have at least 30 credits complete in the program and you have completed (or are completing that semester) your core courses.  You must have a 3.0 GPA to sit for the exam. The exam covers core courses, not electives.
  3. Upcoming MPA comprehensive exam dates
  4. Review these frequently asked questions about the MPA comprehensive exam. They include details of exam format; a link to sample comprehensive exam questions; and also study strategies.
  5. You must submit the  request to take the MPA comprehensive exam to your advisor at the beginning of the semester in which you would like to take the exam.
  6. All major degree exam dates for the Public Administration department are listed here.  If you don't see the MPA comp exam date for the semester you are interested in, contact your advisor.

XI. Preparing to graduate | back to Table of Contents

  1. Please read this detailed FAQ on preparing to graduate. Important points are summarized below, but full information is in the FAQ.
  2. If you are planning to graduate in the upcoming semester, you must apply online inside myTSU to notify the Graduate School.  Apply to graduate inside that system separately for each program you plan to complete (MPA and/or certificate(s)).   Check the Graduate School graduation information website  for deadline. Application is mandatory whether or not you plan to attend Commencement ceremonies; instructions on how to apply to graduate are available. If you have any problems registering to graduate for all program(s) you are completing, contact your advisor immediately.
  3. Also complete the Graduate School survey for commencement book information (link available on this page).
  4. Visit the TSU commencement site to obtain important information on the "Grad Finale" which you must attend to get fitted for cap and gown; this event typically occurs before mid-semester) as well as on Commencement exercises themselves. Commencement ceremonies are held only in May and in December.  In May, the ceremony for graduate students may be held at a different time than the undergraduate ceremonies; the site will have these details.
  5. Students who have achieved at a high level during their MPA studies may be eligible for membership in the Pi Alpha Alpha Public Administration honor society; please consult this FAQ.

webpage contact:
Public Administration