Oct 15, 2019  
2016-2017 Graduate Catalog 
2016-2017 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration MPA

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The Master of Public Administration degree (MPA) provides graduate professional education for students interested in public service leadership positions and careers with public and nonprofit agencies and organizations. The program serves students new to public service as well as those already in the field who are interested in furthering their careers.

Program Director: Christine Martell, PhD



Lloyd Burton, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Angela Gover, PhD, University of Maryland
Mary Guy, PhD, University of South Carolina
Callie Rennison, PhD, University of Houston
Richard Stillman, PhD, Syracuse University
Paul Teske, PhD, Princeton University

Associate Professors:

Tanya Heikkila, PhD University of Arizona
Christine Martell, PhD, Indiana University
Danielle Varda, PhD, University of Colorado Denver
Allan Wallis, PhD, City University Graduate Center
Chris Weible, PhD, University of California, Davis

Assistant Professors:

Todd Ely, PhD, New York University
Benoy Jacob, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
John Ronquillo, PhD, University of Georgia

Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development:

Mark Safty, JD, University of Montana

Research Professor:

Stephen Block, PhD, University of Colorado

Assistant Research Professor:

Kelly Hupfeld, JD, Northwestern University

Clinical Professors:

Malcolm Goggin, PhD, Stanford University
Denise Scheberle, PhD, Colorado State University

Professor Emeritus:

John Buechner, PhD, University of Michigan

Dean Emerita:

Kathleen Beatty, PhD, Washington State University

Senior Instructor:

Wendy Bolyard, PhD, University of Central Florida
Pamela Medina, PhD, University of Central Florida
Robyn Mobbs, PhD, University of Colorado Denver

MPA AND MCJ-General Information

Admission Requirements

  1. Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from a college or university of accredited standing, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Two sets of official transcripts are required from all higher education institutions attended.
  2. Applicants must provide three recommendations from qualified references. Recommendations may be from professors, employers and/or others acquainted with the prospective student’s professional and/or academic work.
  3. Applicants are required to take the GRE, the GMAT or the LSAT unless they meet the requirements for waiver. Standard graduate admission test scores are normally waived when the candidate already has a graduate degree in another field from an accredited institution. Other applicants may have test scores waived if they have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better and they have significant post-baccalaureate professional employment in management or policymaking positions for a minimum of 10 years or the equivalent.
  4. A current resume highlighting professional accomplishments and community involvement, a short essay stating educational and career goals, a declaration of program form, and an application fee are also required.
  5. International applicants may have different admission requirements and should check with the Office of International Affairs.  In particular, international students whose first language is not English are required to take the TOEFL or IELTS. A composite score of 6.5 on the IELTS, or a composite score of 80 on the TOEFL, with accompanying minimum IELTS or TOEFL subscores of 20 or greater, is required.

All application material and test scores should be sent to SPA, University of Colorado Denver, Campus Box 142, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364.

SPA will review applications as soon as they are complete. Master-level applicants generally receive notification of their admission status three weeks after all materials have been received in the office. The preferred deadlines listed below allow students to receive best consideration for scholarships, financial aid and course selection. Students who do not meet the preferred deadline may still submit application materials until approximately one month before the start of classes and will be considered on a space-available basis.

Preferred Application Deadline

Fall - March 1
Spring - October 15
Summer - March 1

Final Deadline*

Fall - August 1
Spring - December 1
Summer - May 1

*Final deadline does not apply to international students who should contact the Office of International Affairs for deadline information.

Provisional Admission

In exceptional cases, a student who does not otherwise meet the minimum requirements for admission may be admitted on provisional status if elements of their application suggest they may be able to succeed in the program.  Students admitted on a provisional basis take two core courses in their first semester, and must earn at least a B in each course. 

MCJ students may select two of the following for their first semester: 

Based on their performance in these courses, a formal decision will be made concerning their admission into the program.  Provisionally-admitted students may not take any other courses at SPA until they have been formally admitted to the program.

Nondegree Admissions

Students may register as nondegree students while developing their application packet. However, students are discouraged from taking multiple courses as a nondegree student if they hope to pursue a degree. No more than nine semester hours taken in the program as a nondegree student may be applied to the master’s degree programs, with approval of an advisor. Taking courses as a nondegree student does not guarantee later admittance into the MCJ program.  Nondegree student application forms are available in the Office of Admissions or online.

Transfer of Credit to SPA

Up to 9 semester hours of appropriate graduate work from an accredited college or university may transfer, if such credit was not applied to a completed degree.

Limitation of Course Load

The normal course load for a full-time MCJ student is 6 to 9 graduate credit hours per semester; full-time status for MCJ graduate students is 5 graduate credit hours per semester for financial aid determination. A student who is employed full-time is strongly advised not to carry more than 6 graduate semester hours in the MCJ program. Students who wish to carry a graduate course load above 9 hours per semester must consult their advisor and/or student service coordinator first.

Financial Assistance

Students in the master’s degree programs are eligible for several types of financial assistance. Educational loans require application to the CU Denver Office of Financial Aid and completion of the FAFSA. A number of students secure internships or other part-time positions with local, state and federal agencies in the Denver metropolitan area. Scholarship assistance is available on a limited basis.

The school receives announcements for fellowships from various government organizations and actively seeks additional funding for student support in the form of internship positions and research assistantships.

Persons interested in applying for financial assistance should inquire in the SPA office. The deadline for current students is March 1 for the fall term. Prospective students seeking scholarship funds should have complete scholarship applications on file at the SPA office by the preferred application deadline for the semester they are requesting funds.

The Internship Program

An internship for the MPA and MCJ programs is required for students who have not had the equivalent of at least one year of professional full-time experiencein the field, following the awarding of their Bachelor degree. The purpose of the internship is to continue the linkage between theory and practice that is the philosophical basis of SPA. Internships generally involve substantive part-time work undertaken during the course of one semester. A maximum of three semester hours will be awarded for internship service. Placements have included the Governor’s Office, Colorado General Assembly, Denver Mayor’s Office, City of Denver, Denver Police Department, Boulder Crime Lab, Western Governor’s Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Time Limit for Master’s Degree

Master’s degree students must complete all course work and degree requirements within seven years of registration in their first course.

MPA Degree Requirements

The minimum requirements for the basic MPA degree are outlined below. Occasionally, changes are made; students may graduate under the requirements that were in effect when they were admitted.

1. Graduate Course Work

All students must complete a minimum of 36 semester hours of graduate course work, with a cumulative GPA of B (3.0) or better. No more than 6 semester hours of independent study can be applied toward the degree. Students who have not had at least one year of professional work experience in the public or nonprofit sectors must complete an internship through an additional 3-semester-hour course described in No. 6 below, bringing their total semester-hour requirements to 39.

2. Core Courses

All MPA students (with the exception of those in the executive MPA option) must complete the following core courses or approved equivalents, for a total of 18 credit hours. Students must receive a grade of at least B- (2.7) in each core class.  Students who earn a lower grade in a core class may repeat the class once in an effort to improve the grade.

3. Electives

All MPA students must complete 12 hours of electives. Elective courses in which a student earns a grade of less than a C (2.0) will not be counted toward a degree.

4. Capstone Class

All MPA students, except those pursuing the thesis option, must complete the capstone course during the last semester of their degree program.  All core courses must be completed before beginning the capstone.

5. Thesis Option

The thesis option is available in lieu of PUAD 5361 for MPA students who have an interest in pursuing a topic in-depth or who are planning to pursue a career in research or academia.  Students must receive approval from their faculty advisor or the MPA director to pursue the thesis option.  The thesis is a six credit course that normally spans two semesters.

6. Internships

Students who have limited experience (generally defined as less than one year of experience) in public, nonprofit or relevant private-sector service must enroll in PUAD 6910, Field Study in Public Administration. The decision to require PUAD 6910 for a particular student is made by the faculty admissions committee or the student’s faculty advisor upon the student’s acceptance to the MPA program. A minimum of 300 hours of supervised work and study is required to earn 3 semester hours of credit. This requirement raises the total semester hours needed to earn the MPA degree to 39.

MPA Options

Concentrations and Graduate Certificates

All SPA concentrations are a total of 12 semester hours and may either be taken as part of the MPA program or as a stand-alone graduate certificate.

A student may choose to select one of the concentrations described below or may complete the MPA without a specified concentration. Students completing a concentration take their electives in the area of their concentration, complete the advanced seminar project in the area of their concentration and are advised by faculty from the concentration. The concentrations and their particular required courses are:

Environmental Policy, Management and Law Concentration

Students take the two courses listed below, plus three electives approved by the concentration director:

Total: 12 Hours

Local Government Concentration

Total: 12 Hours

Total: 12 Hours

Emergency Management and Homeland Security Concentration

Students must take two out of the three courses listed below as well as electives approved by the advisor.  We recommend that students take all three courses if possible.

Total: 12 Hours

The emergency management and homeland security concentration requires the completion of three electives chosen from a preapproved, multidisciplinary list of courses relevant to emergency management. Students may choose electives in one of three tracks: policy and management; spatial analysis, planning and quantitative assessment; or public safety, homeland security and justice.

Nonprofit Organizations Concentration

Students take two required courses as well as nonprofit electives approved by advisor.

Total: 12 Hours

The Accelerated Cohort

The accelerated MPA is a fast-paced, full-time option that brings academically superior students together with a dedicated research and teaching faculty in the midst of the vibrant downtown Denver environment.

The accelerated option enables students to focus their energies in a concentrated program of study and earn a nationally accredited, 36-hour MPA in 12 months. (It is preferred that applicants have some knowledge of economics, statistics and political science.)

The accelerated option is priced at a flat fee, regardless of in-state or out-of-state student status, providing out-of-state students with substantial savings.

The students in the cohort enjoy a unique experience as they go through all classes in the MPA together, fostering a community of scholar-practitioners.

Students are admitted to the program in cohorts of approximately 20 participants. A new cohort starts each August. The cohort format helps to increase the opportunity to become acquainted with other graduate students and increases the opportunities for interaction between program participants and faculty.

The Executive Option

The School of Public Affairs currently offers an executive MPA option for senior level professionals in the nonprofit and public sectors.  The Executive MPA option requires 30 semester hours of credit.

Initial Leadership Experience (3 credit hours):
All students will enroll in the Rocky Mountain Program, a SPA residential leadership program. This is a six-day seminar typically held in Breckenridge that brings together public and non-profit professionals from across the country to collaborate on current management issues while honing leadership skills. Federal employees may elect OPM’s federal Management Assessment Seminar at either the Western or Eastern Management Development Centers in lieu of the Rocky Mountain Program. For more information about the OPM program option please see www.leadership.opm.gov.

Required Courses (15 credit hours):
All students are required to complete two courses (6 credits) held on the Denver campus in an intensive format (1-2 weeks). Students complete two additional core courses (6 credits) in either an online, weekend intensive, or through the traditional campus based classroom setting. All students complete their program with a capstone project (3 credits). The capstone project allows students to synthesize the information learned during the program and put it into practice within a professional setting.

Elective Courses (12 credit hours):
In consultation with an advisor, students select elective courses that best meet their professional goals. These may be taken online or in the classroom. Students may complete up to 9 credits through the federal OPM Management Development Center provided they are approved for graduate credit by the American Council on Education.

Online Option

SPA provides a unique opportunity for students who live at a distance from the university to obtain a MPA degree.

Designed to serve students who are looking for a high-quality education, but who need an alternative to traditional classroom instruction, students may elect to do one or all of their courses online. This option allows students to complete the entire degree at a distance or to choose to come to campus for some courses while using an interactive online format for others. For both in-state and out-of-state online students, tuition is comparable to the rate charged to in-state students for courses that meet in the classroom. The nonprofit organization concentration is available online, and other concentrations are being added annually. As well, a variety of other electives leading to a general MPA degree are available online. Students in the executive option may also choose to do all SPA course work online.

Gender-Based Violence Cohort

The first graduate program of its kind in the nation, the University of Colorado Denver’s MPA concentration in gender-based violence focuses on the management and policies surrounding gender-based violence, as well as grass-roots social justice work and best practices in this emerging field.  Each fall, 10 to 20 students are accepted into the cohort program, allowing the participants to build a strong community of advocates and learners.  

The program invites students from around the world to participate in a unique cohort program, which combines online courses with five intensive campus seminars spaced throughout the two-year program. Students may choose to take all courses in the classroom if they wish.

The cost of the gender-based violence concentration courses is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.  Nonresident students pursuing the MPA with a concentration in gender-based violence may also qualify for reduced tuition through the Western Regional Graduate Program which covers 14 western states. 

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