MPA Courses and Curriculum

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The Full-time Master of Public Administration degree requires 9 c.u.* to complete, in addition to a summer internship. In the fall and spring, students take elective courses chosen in consultation with their advisor. In the summer, students complete their capstone project and gain practical experience through an internship with a relevant nonprofit or government.

Full-time MPA course schedule

  • GAFL 6110 Statistics for Public Policy
  • GAFL 6210 Public Economics
  • GAFL 6310 Public Law and Public Process
  • Elective #1
  • GAFL 6400 Program Evaluation and Data Analysis
  • GAFL 6510 Public Finance and Public Policy
  • GAFL 7320 Public Management and Leadership
  • GAFL 7980 MPA Capstone I (0 c.u. course)
  • Elective #2
  • GAFL 7990 MPA Capstone II
  • Internship

Required courses

The modern world is built on data. How can public managers, policymakers, and political leaders learn to use data to make informed decisions and improve public policy outcomes? This class covers the data and statistical tools students will encounter in the public sector. Students will also learn to use the R statistical computing language, which is widely used across both the public and private sectors.

How can—and how should—governments manage a market economy? To understand how to design and implement public policies, as well as lead public agencies, students need to understand the economic behavior of citizens, governments, and private entities, how they interact, and how this affects the design and administration of government 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.

How do we know if a given program is effectively achieving its goals? How can we compare which of several programs is actually producing the most benefit to society? Students learn the tools needed to analyze policies, with a particular emphasis on presenting the results of quantitative analysis effectively for a non-technical audience.

How do governments budget, tax, and spend? Students master the theoretical, empirical, and practical tools used to analyze government budgets and understand the political and economic forces that affect government spending decisions.

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 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. Full-time MPA students take MPA Capstone I during the spring semester. 

Successful completion of a capstone project is one of the academic requirements for the 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. Full-time students complete MPA Capstone II during the summer 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 course is designed to provide the student with an understanding of the primary financial management issues and decisions that confront senior management in nonprofits and government. Students will examine financial analysis techniques from both a practical and strategic perspective as they examine operating and capital decisions. The objective of the course is to allow the student to understand how managers integrate the various discrete financial decisions within a broader framework that allows them to analyze, develop and execute a coherent overall financial strategy.

In the 21st century, “Big Data” surround us. Data are being collected about all aspects of our daily lives. To improve transparency and accountability, an increasing number of public organizations are sharing their data with the public. But data are not information. You need good information to make sound decisions. To be an effective public leader, you will need to learn how to harness information from available data. This course will introduce you to key elements of data science, including data transformation, analysis, visualization, and presentation. An emphasis is placed on manipulating data to create informative and compelling analyses that provide valuable evidence in public policy debates. We will teach you how to present information using interactive apps that feature software packages. As in all courses at Fels, we will concentrate on more practical skills than theoretical concepts behind the techniques.

Leading Nonprofit Organizations is designed for those interested in leading and managing a nonprofit organization. It takes a practitioners 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 organization's board meetings.)

In a system of representative government, organizations and individuals with interests at stake often seek the support of a government relations professional. This course addresses government relations from the varying perspectives of the current or aspiring professional, the client, and the government official.

*Academic credit (PDF) 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.


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Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326