On the first day of Public Administration and Democracy, Professor Tina Nabatchi asked us students, “What is Public Administration?” The only thing you heard in the room was the humming of the AC as no one had a quick and definite answer to her question. As I approach the end of the semester, let us take the time to reflect on what I have learned about Public Administration and what this degree consists of!
I graduated from the University of Redlands with a degree in Political Science. Until my senior year (which I only completed six months ago), I had no interest in Public Administration as I was set on going to law school since I was a kid. Thanks Elle Woods! After months of “soul-searching” and countless meetings with my Academic Advisor, I decided that I was not going to continue my path to law school and instead pursue a Masters degree in Public Administration. Once I broke the news to my family and friends that I would be getting my MPA instead, a number of questions followed, all asking “what the heck is Public Administration?” As many current and future students face this question, here is a quick summary of what we do here at Maxwell so that you too can explain what an MPA is at Thanksgiving dinner this year!
Our wonderful admissions director, Christine Omolino, has defined public administration as the development and implementation of programs and services that are provided to the public. Public Administration is not all local and federal government, it also consists of non-profit organizations and international affairs. Here at Maxwell, we take a variety of classes that teach us the strategic thinking behind the implementation and delivery of public programs and services. For example, I am currently taking a State and Local Financial Management class that focuses more on the budgeting side of a local government rather than the organizational and management side. On the other hand, many students take conflict resolution or negotiation classes that give them the skills to effectively manage an organization. The curriculum at Maxwell offers an assortment of courses that allows students to explore their areas of interest that will expose them to different fields of public administration.
One of the things I love about this degree is the idea that the people come first. As a public servant, it is your job to care for the members of the community or organization that you work for. Although it is important to not run a deficit every fiscal year, it is equally (or more) important to provide services that better the lives of the people you serve. A degree in public administration gives you the skills to make positive and impactful change in the lives of others. Seriously, what is better than that?! Whenever I am feeling down about my difficult statistics class or missing my home in California, I like to refer back to the Athenian Oath that is displayed in Maxwell Hall. When I saw the Athenian Oath during my visit day to Syracuse, I knew this was the place for me and that I was destined to be a public servant! The oath ends in, “… we will transmit this City not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” This phrase embodies what it means to be a public servant and a Masters of Public Administration from Maxwell will continue to give me all the expertise I need to uphold our beloved Athenian Oath!
That moment when you realize you have found the school meant for you.
If anyone has watched the NBC series, Parks and Recreation, you know that the main character is the epitome of a dedicated public servant. One of the great things about Maxwell is that each of us all have a Leslie Knope in us. One of my favorite quotes about public service from the show is,“These people are members of the community that care about where they live. So what I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.” Serving the public won’t be easy, but as long as I remember to “Be the Leslie Knope you wish to see in the world”, it will be all worth it!
Cheers and happy application season!