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MPA-SL program presents master class on exceptional leadership

Highlighting the need for skilled leaders to address policy challenges

Joe O'Brien teaching class

Clark University’s School of Professional Studies Master of Public Administration Senior Leadership program recently hosted an online master class “Exceptional Leadership for Extraordinary Times.”

Presented by Joseph O’Brien, MPA, former director of the MPA-SL program and former Worcester mayor, the class focused on the five framing questions that guide public policy development: Who benefits, who pays, who cares, who decides, and what are the politics and the context of the policy?

O’Brien emphasized the importance of reviewing these questions when developing new policies and programs. “Even the best policy ideas will not advance if they are not cognizant of, and relevant to, the context of the times in which we’re living. And policy makers need to recognize that they have to build political support,” he said.

At a time when confidence in government is most important, O’Brien noted the reality is that public confidence has been steadily declining. Many people have lost faith in the government to respond to and answer problems. “The only way to restore public confidence in government is through solid, thoughtful, engaged public leadership that is focused on advancing the public interest,” he asserted.

There is a strong need for public leaders who can solve the complex problems facing the world of today and tomorrow. The MPA-SL program recognizes the need for a next generation of deeply committed, passionate, highly skilled leaders to face future challenges. The program, which is flexible, affordable, and relevant, is taught by current public service leaders who collaborate with students to face real-world problems and create real-world solutions.

“The goal of the MPA-SL program is to provide leadership experience. Our objective is to give knowledge and tools to help advance careers and create more effective public leaders,” said O’Brien. “The work and case studies are geared towards what is going on in the real world right now.”

The program was specifically designed for busy public sector and nonprofit leaders who are moving forward in their careers but need to build their capacity for leadership and grow their skills as well as get an academic credential.

The online component provides flexibility, with classes on an individual’s schedule, combined with residency sessions for rich in-person networking with faculty and fellow classmates.

O’Brien was joined by current cohort members Laura Paladino, Chief of Staff, Massachusetts State Senate; Che Anderson, Deputy Cultural Office, City of Worcester; Robyn Kennedy, Associate Executive Director YWCA of Massachusetts; Deb Ruggiero, Rhode Island State Legislator; and Daniel Racicot, Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor, City of Worcester who discussed their views on policy implementation and the MPA-SL program.

“The program has been really effective in putting a name on what it is that we do. There is tremendous value in the ideas and the tools the program provides,” said Racicot.

For Paladino, meeting her classmates is a major strength of the program. “I have been in touch with some during this pandemic to bounce ideas of each other. Building my network is a huge component and benefit of the program — they have become like my family,” she said.