Executive MPA Courses and Curriculum

The Executive Master of Public Administration degree requires 10 c.u.* to complete. In addition to the required courses, students take three elective courses chosen in consultation with their advisor. Executive MPA courses are "hybrid" format, with weekly synchronous, online meetings and once-monthly, on-campus meetings in Philadelphia.

Executive MPA course schedule

Fall 1
  • GAFL 6120 Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis
  • GAFL 7330 Public Management and Leadership
Spring 1
  • GAFL 6220 Economic Principles of Public Policy
  • GAFL 6410 Program Evaluation and Data Analysis
Summer 1
  • GAFL 6520 Financial Management of Public and Nonprofit Institutions
  • GAFL 6300 Public Law and Public Process
Beginning in fall 2020, GAFL 6300 Public Law and Public Process replaced GAFL 7350 Performance Imperative in the EMPA core curriculum.
Fall 2
  • Elective #1
  • Elective #2
  • GAFL 7980 MPA Capstone I (0 c.u. course)
Spring 2
  • Elective #3
  • GAFL 7990 MPA Capstone II
Required courses

This course helps students learn how to make evidence-based decisions in a public sector context. The course introduces important data analysis skills and help students evaluate the quality of studies undertaken to measure the impact of public policies and programs.

How do citizens, interest groups, and elected officials work to turn ideas into public policies? What factors help to determine which policies succeed, and which fail? How does this process play out at the state, local, and national levels? This class gives students the tools to understand the policy making process and how they can most effectively advocate for changes in government policy.

This course introduces program evaluation in the context of research methods. Students learn about design and the application of data collection skills to all phases of program/service delivery from needs assessment to analysis of findings to implementation of changes based on results. Students learn to appreciate how these skills can be used as practical tools for identifying problems to developing and implementing programs. This applied course provides students with practical experiences to apply guidelines of evaluation and research methods in actual program evaluation projects in Philadelphia.

This course provides an introduction to financial management principles for public and nonprofit organizations. The primary objective of this course is to demystify financial information and improve student’s ability to effectively engage in financial discussions, regardless of their role in the organization. This course focuses on the vocabulary and tools necessary to interpret, analyze, and properly communicate financial information in order to develop and execute an appropriate financial strategy.

How can you become an effective public manager? Technical skills in budgeting, organization, and management are not enough; you need to understand the social and political context of the organization and be able to effectively coordinate with relevant stakeholders to produce change. Working with real-world examples, this class helps students develop this competency.

This required non-credit class is the first part of the MPA Capstone, which is a requirement for the Executive Master of Public Administration program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. During MPA Capstone I, students work through the early stages of their capstone projects, including project planning, and project research and design. Examples of early-stage work include conducting background research, creating a working bibliography, designing the project, and planning and executing data collection. Students work with their capstone instructor, advisor, and community partner organization. Executive MPA students take MPA Capstone I during their second fall semester.

Successful completion of a capstone project is one of the academic requirements for the Executive Master of Public Administration program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. During MPA Capstone II, students work through the middle and final stages of their capstone projects, including conducting analysis, writing, and creating and presenting deliverables. Students work with their capstone instructor, advisor, and community partner organization. This core course is designed to give students direct guidance as they apply and consolidate knowledge and skills gained across the curriculum through the completion of a rigorous capstone project. Capstone students are responsible for designing and completing a public policy or public administration-related project and presenting a to the Fels community and other stakeholders. Executive MPA students complete MPA Capstone II during their second spring semester.

Examples of recent electives

Successful leaders must be able to convey their integrity and their ideas, their vision and their values clearly and convincingly in public settings. By analyzing great political speeches and affording students the opportunity to prepare and deliver different types of speeches, this course teaches the fundamentals of persuasive public speaking while encouraging students to develop their own voice. This is a performance course. Students will gain skill and confidence in their speech writing and public speaking skills through practice, peer feedback, and extensive professional coaching. Class lectures and discussions will focus on persuasive strategies and techniques for handling community meetings, Q and A sessions, and interactions with the media.

The purpose of the course is to study the theory and application of certain, key quantitative methods utilized in financial and fiscal decision-making in state and local governments: defining and measuring efficiency and equity; statistical analysis, multivariate analysis, linear and multiple regression; inter-temporal decision-making; and cost-benefit analysis. Primary emphasis will be on understanding the context and quantitative basics of these methods to prepare students for effective careers in state and local governments. Each student should have a basic understanding of market economics, the roles of government in our market economy, accounting/budgeting basics, and the Philadelphia metro area economy and government.

The Course, Critical Issues in Public Finance will consider contemporary issues affecting the fiscal state of local governments. Covered will be issues that have distressed municipalities; the policies/initiatives that seek to rectify such including privatization /public-private partnerships; reformation of municipal pensions; sustainable education funding alternatives; and tax policies aimed at promoting economic growth. Students will be assigned to a team, which will identify and provide a solution for an issue or issues plaguing a fictional government. Each team will prepare a written report and make a presentation all of which will constitute the final project. Assignments will serve as the building blocks for the final written work product and presentation developed by each team. The class is divided into four modules. The first module will take a historical look at events behind fiscal distress in municipalities and then explore current day drivers that are causing the same today. Modules two, three and four will examine some of the tools that have been used successfully or otherwise to remediate the drivers of fiscal distress. In each module case studies will be used to further analyze the particular fiscal challenge of a municipality. Written assignments will be based on case studies.

Leading Nonprofit Organizations is designed for those interested in leading and managing a nonprofit organization. It takes a practitioner’s perspective on strategic realities of modern practice. Each section will seek to rapidly orient a new manager to the complexities, strategic issues, & politics. The course is taught through a combination of theory and practice using selected readings, lectures, guest presentations, group activities (Mock senior staff discussions) and field assignments (pairing with area nonprofit leader and attendance at one of the organizations' board meetings.)

With an increasingly competitive market, the landscape for private, not-for-profits and government organizations nationally and globally has become more complex and diverse. Leaders across government, private, and not-for-profits are being challenged to lead differently given the diversity and complexity of organizations that cross and blend the traditional organizational legal structures. The course includes providing students with the essential competencies and tools to create, lead, and influence system and policy change utilizing Social Enterprise, Social Finance, and Collective Impact strategies and tools. The knowledge accumulated through this course will be “translated” to a working level knowledge of a Critical Thinking that is important for any leader or manager in government, private, or the non-profit sectors. Critical thinking involves making judgments based on reasoning: leaders consider options; analyze these using specific criteria; and draw conclusions and make judgments. Critical thinking competency encompasses a set of abilities that leaders use to examine their own thinking, and that of others, about information that they receive through observation, experience, and various forms of communication.

To influence public policy, you need analytical skills to discover optimal solutions to problems, and good negotiation skills to tailor implementable solutions that address the needs and priorities of multiple stakeholders. What resources you want to invest, whom you engage in discussions, and what you expect to receive in return are open to explicit and implicit negotiations. This course will provide a working understanding of key negotiations concepts, including: Strategic elements of negotiations – interests, goals, positions, rights, power, value creation, high stakes, disputes; Preparation for and the details of negotiation processes; Ethical encounters and conundrums; Leveraging your strengths / understanding your negotiating personality. You will learn cooperative and competitive strategies, have a solid grasp of the decision-making science of negotiation, and better understand cognitive processes and emotional dynamics that affect the ways people negotiate.

Executive MPA students admitted prior to fall 2019

Current Executive MPA candidates who matriculated into the program prior to fall 2019 complete seven core classes covering the fundamental competencies needed for effective public management, preparing you for purposeful leadership in government, nonprofit organizations, and private firms that serve the public interest. In addition to our core curriculum in management, finance, data analysis, and politics, students have the opportunity to complete four elective classes from around the University of Pennsylvania and a capstone.
This 12-course, 12 c.u. program includes the following courses:

  • Core Executive MPA courses (seven courses)
    • GAFL 6120 Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis
    • GAFL 7330 Public Management and Leadership
    • GAFL 6220 Economic Principles of Public Policy
    • GAFL 6410 Program Evaluation and Data Analysis
    • GAFL 7350 The Performance Imperative
    • GAFL 6520 Financial Management of Government and Nonprofit Organizations
    • GAFL 6230 Leading Diverse Organizations or GAFL 5810 Politics, Policy and Religion in 2020
  • Electives (four courses)
  • Capstone (one course: GAFL 7990 MPA Capstone)

If you have questions regarding your Executive MPA course plan or requirements, please contact your academic advisor.

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.

Ready to join the Fels community?

Apply now

Want to know more about what Fels has to offer?

Request information

Our team is here to help.

Contact us