The Master of Public Administration Senior Leadership (MPA-SL) program at Clark University, which held a graduation ceremony in May for students in its third cohort, continues to make an impact in communities across New England.
Former graduates of the program range from the principal staff assistant for the City of Worcester and the administrative manager at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, to the director of institutional giving at Fenway Health in Boston. This year’s cohort includes public service professionals from Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Offered through Clark’s School of Professional Studies, the MPA-SL program is designed for administrators in municipal, state, and federal government and nonprofit organizations who are either not inclined or unable to put their jobs on hold to go to graduate school.
According to Executive Director Robert Spellane, the program makes the master’s credential attainable for established professionals who are looking to upskill for leadership roles. “Some organizations give preference for certain positions to candidates with master’s degrees,” Spellane says.
“Our program makes it possible for people to pursue such a degree while attending to the responsibilities and demands of their current job and personal obligations.”
The MPA-SL program is an asynchronous online course of study that offers students the opportunity to learn with peers with similar career backgrounds. Two-day in-person residencies at the start of each semester complement the program’s online design.
For Sarah Nichols, UniServe Director with the Maine Education Association and a city councilor in Bangor, Maine, the mix of in-person and online learning was essential. “The program has an in-person component without requiring you to be in person in a classroom all the time. Being from out of state, finding that balance was critical for me.”
Drew Russo, Personnel Director for the City of Lynn, chose the MPA-SL program because he wanted to advance his professional skills. He credits his cohort and its range of perspectives for helping him achieve his goal. “The connections I’ve made with colleagues from different political philosophies than mine have helped me become a better public servant,” he says.
The MPA-SL program awards credits for prior learning and encourages students to focus their capstone project on an issue or problem from their own workplace. Members of this year’s cohort were especially grateful for the program’s supportive faculty.
“The faculty are great at opening your mind up to understand how to look at different problems in a new light,” says Massachusetts State Representative David Muradian. “And learning with the residency has been great because you get to travel, not just in Massachusetts where Clark is, but throughout the New England region, and you’re hearing from industry leaders, and it’s giving you a new perspective.”
“Having those cohort residencies really helped me bond with my peers and learn from them,” Nichols adds.