Public Administration  {SF State Bulletin 2013 - 2014}

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Public Administration

College of Health and Social Sciences

Dean: Don Taylor


School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement

Director: Gerald Eisman

Public Administration Program

Downtown Campus, Suite 679
Phone: 415-817-4455

Graduate Coordinator: Sheldon Gen



Professor: Stowers
Associate Professor: Gen
Assistant Professors: Joaquin, Shea, Wang



Master of Public Administration



Program Scope

The goal of the degree program is to prepare people for responsible positions in the public and nonprofit sectors. This includes positions in government but also in such entities as community development corporations, nonprofit social service agencies, planning and consulting organizations, and activities of private firms in public affairs and public policy areas. Applications are welcome from those with experience who wish to strengthen their capabilities or prepare themselves for new opportunities. Those without any work experience are advised to work in either the public or nonprofit sectors before applying for admission.


The Master of Public Administration is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).


The program is based on the premise that policy and administration must be understood in relation to each other, and the core of the program seeks to develop knowledge, skills, and understanding in both public policy and public administration. The common core of the program is heavily focused on essential knowledge and skills for public and nonprofit management. Beyond the core, the program offers six areas of emphasis as an opportunity for specialization. They are nonprofit administration, public policy, public management, urban administration, criminal justice administration, and environmental policy and administration (offered in conjunction with the Department of Geography & Environment). The requirements for the M.P.A., in general, and the specialty emphases, in particular, are shown in detail on the following pages. Taking an emphasis for specialization is optional. Those who choose not to pursue an emphasis may take appropriate electives to satisfy their professional needs, and students may opt to design their own emphasis. Students may choose courses relevant to their professional interests offered by other departments and programs throughout the University.


Career Outlook

Graduates from the M.P.A. program pursue their professional careers in various government agencies at federal, state, and local levels, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Government Accounting Office, city management, and state offices. In addition, those interested in the nonprofit field find careers in the numerous varieties of nonprofit organizations. Those in both areas may also go to work for consulting and research firms. Some go on to the Ph.D. in Public Administration at other universities to enter into a career in higher education.


Master of Public Administration

Graduate Advisors: Gen, Joaquin, Shea, Stowers, Wang


Admission to Program

After submitting the application for post-baccalaureate study to the University graduate admissions office, applicants should:

  • Write a Letter of Application to SF State MPA Program. All applicants to the San Francisco State University Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program need to submit a Letter Of Application containing the following information (in no more four pages, double spaced):
    1. Life experiences that have led you to an interest in public service (public or nonprofit)
    2. Background in the public service, including any work or volunteer experience you might have in public or nonprofit agencies
    3. Areas of specific interests in the public service, including what has led you to these specific interests
    4. Career and professional goals and aspiration
    5. Describe how the MPA degree will be helpful and consistent with your career goals and aspirations
    6. Describe why this is the right time in your career to come into a MPA program and seek the degree
    7. Describe why the SF State MPA degree program is a good fit for you and your career / professional goals
  • Send two letters of recommendation to the MPA program from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic or professional ability and who could speak to the candidate’s potential for succeeding in graduate school.
  • Send one set of transcripts of prior academic work directly to the MPA program. Another set is required by the graduate admissions office.
  • Candidates are required to have a GPA of at least 3.0 in the last 60 units. Due to limited space in the degree program, this requirement is only a minimum.
  • Non-native English speakers must submit scores of at least 550 from the paper-based TOEFL, a 213 for the computer-based test, or 80 for the Internet-based test to the graduate admissions office. Scores from the IELTS test will also be considered.


Applicants must meet all university admission requirements to be accepted into the MPA program. Applicants are judged on a competitive basis.


Potential applicants who are still completing their undergraduate work should strengthen their preparation for the program with courses in public administration, economics, politics, public policy, and research techniques as well as experience working in either the public or nonprofit sectors.


Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One: Satisfactory performance on the Letter of Application should be achieved in order to gain admission to the degree program.
Level Two: Master’s thesis or strategic assessment memo from P A 800 must be written at a level commensurate with professional standards in the field.


Advancement to Candidacy

Approval of a student’s proposed course of study (the Advancement to Candidacy) advances a student to candidacy. Completion of the Advancement to Candidacy requirements qualifies the student to apply for the award of the master’s degree. Besides meeting university requirements for advancement to candidacy, students are required to:

  • Complete prerequisites and any other conditions specified by the program.
  • Complete at least 6 units of work in graduate courses.
  • Maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all course work and in courses specified in the Advancement to Candidacy.
  • Consult regularly with a program advisor.


Upon advisement, upper division and graduate courses in other disciplines may be accepted if they contribute to a coherent program related to the student’s educational objectives.


Courses that are required for the major must be completed with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and a grade of B- or better.


Culminating Experience Requirement

Students in the public administration program can choose between two options for their culminating experience:

Students may choose to take a capstone course (P A 800) and to complete a written comprehensive examination, the Strategic Assessment Memorandum (SAM). The capstone course focuses upon synthesizing the knowledge, skills, and abilities learned during the course of each student’s program through the analysis of case studies of policy and organizational issues from the field. Students complete their e-portfolio, analyze selected case studies, and present their strategic assessment of what managers operating in those cases should do to take the issue "to the next step"—to resolve it. The strategic assessment memo is the written presentation of each student’s analysis and plan for that case.

Students may also choose to undertake a traditional social science research project in the guise of the Master’s Thesis (P A 898) option. Working with a faculty committee, students write a prospectus, have it approved the semester before undertaking the research, and write the thesis. After initiating this option, students must enroll each additional semester in P A 897, Research in Public Administration, until the thesis is completed.


Public Administration (M.P.A.) — minimum 39 - 42 units

Courses are 3 units unless otherwise indicated.

Core Requirements — 12 units

Management Perspectives: — 12 units

Select four from the following:

Internship Requirement — 0 - 3 units

Internship requirement may be waived upon evidence and approval of previous or concurrent educationally appropriate work experience in public policy or administration or may be met with equivalent courses in related programs.

Emphasis or Electives on advisement — 12 units

See below.

Culminating Experience Requirement: — 3 units

Select one from the following: (see above)



Nonprofit Administration — 12 units

Select three from the following

Public Policy — 12 units

Select two policy content courses, such as P A 776 Environmental Policy, or P A 777 Criminal Justice Administration.

Public Service Management — 12 units

Select three from the following:

Urban Administration — 12 units

Select three from the following:

Environmental Administration — 12 units

The elective emphasis in Environmental Administration is offered jointly by the Public Administration Program (School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement) and the Department of Geography & Environment. Students should take P A 762, one other course from the list of MPA courses below, and two courses from the list of Geography courses below.

Select one from the following:

Select two from the following:

Criminal Justice Administration — 12 units

  • P A 763 Criminal Justice Administration

Select three from the following:

A variety of 1 unit courses, typically available in the Winter and Summer sessions, will be available that, together, can be used to make up a 3 unit elective.

Public Administration Program Eportfolio

San Francisco State University public administration students graduate with a portfolio of work products and evaluations of student work designed to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired in the public administration program. The required components of the portfolio have been chosen based upon a careful assessment of the skills that are crucial for the success of the public administrator in the new millennium. Students publish selected program work along with explanations of their accomplishments in the degree program on websites as eportfolios available to potential and current employers.


Eugene I. Pearl Memorial Scholarship

Students specializing in urban administration are eligible, on a competitive basis, for the Eugene I. Pearl Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship reimburses students for the cost of their textbooks; can be renewed each semester, also on a competitive basis.


Cho Public Service Scholarships

SF State Cho Public Service Scholarships are available on a competitive basis for incoming and continuing students. Students are selected on the basis of outstanding academic achievement, outstanding community service, and potential for excellence in the public and nonprofit sectors.


Please contact the program office for information and applications.



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