MPA Blog

This blog features short essays written by EMU MPA faculty, alumni, students, university partners, and community partners about trends, reflections, and advice regarding public and nonprofit administration.

Nope, Not Going to Do It: Overcoming Resistance to Change

September 5, 2018

by Deborah Orlowski, Ph.D., Senior Learning Specialist and the Program Manager for the Leading Change Practicum at Learning and Professional Development, University of Michigan

If the #1 fear of people is public speaking, I think the #2 is change.  Although some say they welcome it, in my experience, most people resist change, especially cultural or whole organizational change.  Living in the non-profit world, we know not only is change inevitable, but it’s often necessary. Read more

Interested in a Ph.D. after the MPA? Three Factors to Consider 

May 9, 2017

by Sam Gedman, Deputy Director of Elections in Durham County, North Carolina 

After graduating from the EMU MPA program and working three years in the public sector, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science. For those students seeking to pursue a Ph.D. in Political Science or a related discipline at some point after the completion of an MPA, I hope my perspective may be helpful in your thought process. 1. Where to Apply. Most programs are small relative to a professional master’s program and as such have limited space in seminars and limited funding for assistantships. Read more.

Why an MPA if You’re a Public Safety Professional 

April 11, 2017

by John Seto; Retired Ann Arbor Chief of Police; Director of Housing Security, University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security

When I decided to pursue a graduate degree, the obvious question for me was: In what “major?”  At that time, I had already been a police officer for over 20 years, and to be honest, I just wanted to have a graduate degree on my resume.  I already had 12 graduate level credits from completing Police Staff and Command, and I also just wanted to get done as quickly as possible.  As I look back now, although perhaps practical, those were not the right reasons for spending the time and effort in obtaining a graduate degree.  Read more.

Local Governments in the Trump Administration 

March 14, 2017

by Andy LaBarre, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chairman and Executive Vice President and Director of Governmental Relations of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber

A Trump administration represents not just a departure from what was expected in 2017, but a departure from traditional Republican administrations as we have known them since Dwight D. Eisenhower. For local governments this is especially worrisome because of a great deal of uncertainty. Read more.

Managing local government: The council-manager governance model 

February 27, 2017

by Dan Smith, a former Township Trustee and County Commissioner

When thinking about managing government, many people are likely to gravitate towards an executive, such as the President or Governor. While this structure is obviously very well-known, it is likely to have the least amount of impact on the daily lives of most citizens. Outside of the federal government and states, typically only large cities and large counties use the “legislature-executive” model. In many local government units some type of administrator manages government, not only in Michigan but throughout the country. Read more.

Tips for Networking 

February 6, 2017

by April Calkovsky, University Advising & Career Development Center

Networking is the single most important thing you can do to enhance your employment prospects. By networking, I mean meet people – face to face or even online. Creating a professional network is about making connections with those who may share an interest, building rapport, and developing relationships that foster enough care to encourage idea sharing, support, and connection to resources. Read more

Internships: Students applying classroom skills to the real world 

January 9, 2017

by MPA Students Melissa Benson, Christopher Preston, Alexa Timmreck

Three of our graduate assistants share their recent internship experiences. Pursuing an MPA degree, as well as a graduate certificate in Management of Public Healthcare Services, was a perfect fit with a summer internship with the Health Information Management (HIM) Department at the University of Michigan Health System. I worked on defining the Legal Health Record policy, which specifies which healthcare records will be released for legal purposes. Read more

So. You Still Want a Career in Healthcare Administration. 

November 21, 2016

by Laura Shue, Director of Data Quality, Compliance and Operations, University of Michigan Health System

I initially submitted this blog article on October 12, 2016. After it finished the review cycle and was ready for public consumption, much of what I had written about the regulatory environment giving rise to big data was subject to be turned, exactly and precisely, on its collective head. More importantly, I was struck with the realization that writing about how data is used in healthcare administration is not what I feel compelled to emphasize to our students at this moment. What you need to hear now, as both future public administrators and future healthcare administrators (not to mention as consumers of healthcare), is... Read more

Successful Relationships in Personnel Administration: Looking at University Administrators and Department Chairs 

October 24, 2016

by Carl Abrego, Chief Administrator for the University of Michigan Residential College

For my MPA capstone, I wanted to focus on a project that would have a direct impact on my current profession as a Chief Administrator for the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts. From my perspective, public universities operate in similar ways to government and public entities. There is a fiscal responsibility they all have not only to themselves, but to the state government that provides various resources and funding. Transparency and freedom-of-information are two aspects that many private businesses do not always have to abide by. The role of the chief administrator is to make sure fiscal responsibility is being upheld within the department while balancing the resources and people needed to make sure the department runs effectively and efficiently. Read more

An Obituary for Ohren 

October 11, 2016

by Dr. Joe Ohren, Retired MPA Professor
NOTE: this is an edited version of the text of Dr. Ohren’s comments on the evening of September 27, 2016, at a celebration of his 44 years in the profession. His comments followed those of several former students and professionals who had been invited to reflect on his impact.

...As is often the case for my lectures or speeches I take my cue from a newspaper article or a current event and weave it into what I hope will be a coherent presentation. Read more

Charity Fraud Met with a Yawn 

September 26, 2016

by Gary Snyder, Nonprofit Author and Speaker

For more than a decade, I have had an ongoing concern about the charitable sector­­--- its direction and future. Two simultaneous things are happening---an explosion in malfeasance coupled with a decrease in trust. This is an elixir for alarm. Despite empirical evidence that fraud is omnipresent within the nonprofit world, the term “fraud” is unmentionable in the same sentence as charity or nonprofit even though nonprofits had the second highest percentage of cases behind financial services. Read more

Public Servants as Policy Advocates: A Case Study of Payday Lending 

September 12, 2016

by Elle Getschman, Analyst, Novi City Manager’s Office

You have probably seen one of the many commercials promising fast, easy cash with a payday loan, but most of us won’t ever need to utilize this type of service and put little thought into the concept. While researching state-level payday lending policy to complete my MPA, I quickly discovered just how problematic the industry can be in practice. Many people do choose to use payday loans, amounting annually to 12 million borrowers and $9 billion in loan fees. Read more

Ethics and Public Administration 

September 6, 2016

by Jeremy Rosenberg, EMU MPA Alum

An esteemed professor in the EMU MPA program once poignantly stated to his class: “Ethics is hard.” While this may seem simplistic, it is nonetheless the truth, and ethics is made more difficult by the fact that it is often taken for granted. We envision ourselves being the voice of reason. We are thus able to reassure ourselves, “If I were working in the department responsible for the Flint water fiasco, surely things would have been different.” Read more

Reflections from the West 

August 15, 2016

by Dr. Jeffrey L. Bernstein, Interim MPA Director & Political Science Professor

I recently had the opportunity to take a vacation out west to visit seven National Parks (Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Mesa Verde).  It was a fantastic trip; message me if you’d like more info on what we did!  Half of the trip took place during the Republican National Convention, a fact that I think is of more than passing interest.  As I drove and thought about the issues that divide us politically these days, one of the biggest ones is the role and size of the federal government. Read more

Classroom Ethics Translating to the Real World: It Can Be Painful 

August 1, 2016

by Kelly Mendenhall, Foster Parent Recruiter/Trainer and Home Study Writer, Youth Villages, Tennessee

In my senior year of my bachelor’s program at EMU, I really had no idea what I wanted to do long term. One day I was standing in the Political Science Department lobby when a fellow student mentioned something about a Master of Public Administration, with certification in nonprofit management. I thought, “Eureka! This could be the answer!” I returned in 2008, and one of my very first courses was Foundations of US Nonprofits with John Fike. This was when the issue of ethics in the nonprofit sector was first introduced to me. Read more

What exactly is an MPA? An Alum’s Reflection on Choosing to Pursue a Graduate Degree 

July 18, 2016

by Lynn Isaacson, COO/Adoption Supervisor, Open Door Adoption Services

When looking at returning to school for an advanced degree, graduate or otherwise, there are so many options out there that it can become confusing, and making the determination as to whether or not a specific degree will be beneficial to you can be overwhelming. Read more

Running Government like a Business: Customer Service and Succession Planning 

July 5, 2016

by John Buzuvis, Community Development Director, City of Plymouth, MI

Today’s world of government is changing quickly. By design, government is set up to move slower than a private business. This design, in theory, ensures the opportunity for those who wish to have input to do so at several points in many governmental decisions. Typically private businesses are not required to hold a public hearing to change a rule or policy. Juxtapose this with the “time is money” mentality of folks waiting to see what government is going to do, and you find yourself on the precipice of sacrificing inclusiveness for efficiency or efficiency for inclusiveness. Read more

Ready for Career Advancement in the Healthcare Industry 

June 21, 2016

by LeeAnn Woody, Service Line Development Coordinator, Detroit Medical Center

Born of a desire to strengthen my capacity for career advancement, I began researching graduate programs at EMU after having gained several years of practical experience as a professional at Detroit Medical Center (DMC). The academic and professional enrichment I gained as an EMU Political Science office assistant motivated me to apply to the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. I fondly recalled listening to both undergraduate and graduate students engaged in passionate, insightful, and useful dialogue among peers and professors alike, and I was seeking the same rewarding experience and education. Read more

Education, Cooperation and Empowerment – a Finance Professional’s Perspective 

June 6, 2016

by Marie Sherry, Treasurer/Finance Director, City of Dexter

Many years ago, as a young petty officer in the US Navy, I learned my first lesson in government budgeting.  That lesson was to spend every last penny of your department budget this year so that your department budget next year would not be cut.  It didn’t matter what was best for the organization as a whole, just what was best for us.  It’s no wonder the military ended up with $600 toilet seats.  In today’s world of public administration, the model described above is unimaginable.  Think about it, though.  Have we really moved that far away from that model? Read more

Oh, the places you'll go! 

May 23, 2016

by David Behen, Director of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget and Michigan’s Chief Information Officer

It’s 2014, Tel Aviv, Israel, I’m standing on a stage in front of a few hundred people at one of the world’s top cybersecurity conferences – and everyone is focused on what I have to say. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be speaking at a major international conference, be invited to the White House, be a member of Governor Snyder's cabinet, or have personal meetings with several IT/business CEO leaders/icons such as Michael Dell, Steve Balmer, and Jack Dorsey, I would have never believed you. But, guess what? I have had these wonderful experiences. Read more

Graduate Assistants Share their MPA Experiences 

May 9, 2016

by Elle Getschman, Joe Martinez, Jeremy Rosenberg

Three of our graduating Graduate Assistants share their experiences in the MPA program. Despite the craziness of my final semester in the MPA program, I can already look back on the experience with great appreciation. I tailored the program to my interest in planning, including learning the basics of GIS software, while gaining a larger foundation of knowledge in public service and administration. This knowledge will serve well in future positions of leadership in government, or even the nonprofit sector. Read more

Public Administration and the U.S. Health Care Delivery System 

April 21, 2016 

by AnnaGloria McCormick, Senior Quality Improvement Analyst, Altarum Institute

Public administration intersects within the United States health care delivery system in a variety of levels and capacities on a daily basis. The implementation of federal and state policy is not only necessary for public health programs to exist; it is required. Concepts learned in graduate school such as nonprofit budget planning, state and/or federal funding, reimbursement for healthcare, data analysis, and public policy are a part of my professional world regularly. Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Public Administration Program prepared me in ways that I truly would have never imagined. Read more

Civic Engagement + Millennials = IMPACT 

April 11, 2016

by Susan Badger Booth, Campus Executive Director, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance @ EMU

95 million Americans fall into the category of the millennial generation roughly between the ages of 16 and 36. Of this group an impressive 61% have, are or will attend college. My work with current Eastern Michigan University students has left me impressed with their ability to see beyond individual interests and look to broader issues of public good. Although often engaged civically, these students seem to connect to issues rather than institutions. They often chose to curate their own programs to address these issues by pulling together like-minded peers, often through social media, rather than looking for existing programs to join. Read more

Public Sector Leadership and the Relevance of Data 

April 4, 2016

by Brittany Beaster, Program Analyst at Mathematica Policy Research

Assuming its position as a centerpiece of public sector conversations over the last few years, data is contributing to a transformational shift in the operations of public service delivery. The landscape in which leaders are required to deliver services—and moreover, acquire, manage, and disperse funding for those services—is rapidly evolving in favor of reducing resource requirements, maximizing positive outcomes, and defending decisions with data all the while. In light of this, it is critical that current and future public leaders ensure that they’re preparing themselves with the tools requisite to success in this environment. Read more

Lessons from Flint: Failure of a Culture 

March 28, 2016

by Dr. Raymond Rosenfeld, EMU Professor of Political Science

So much has been written about the Flint water fiasco that it is a challenge to understand how this public health crisis unfolded and what to make of it. The simple truth is that it’s a significant disaster for the residents of Flint and a major setback for the State of Michigan! I have spent a career studying local public policy and intergovernmental relations, and like many I find this situation hard to fathom. I was pleasantly surprised to read the Final Report of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force. My own conclusion is that Michigan is in desperate need of a reset of our culture of government. Read more 

Choosing Better Partners for a Better Society 

March 21, 2016

by John Fike, EMU MPA Nonprofit Administration Lecturer

A government’s choice of partners shapes the society it governs. The subservience of the American state to the objectives of enterprise, under the banner of the “private-public partnership,” has established an informal global economic empire. It has also fostered neoliberal “shock-doctrine” economic policies that, while making the world safe for investors, have made it a good deal less secure for others. Read more

How What I Learned in Graduate School Helps Me in My Job as a Village Manager 

March 14, 2016

by James Krizan, Former Village Manager of Decatur

I entered EMU’s MPA program fully anticipating that I would pursue a career in nonprofit management; I had spent the previous seven years working in the nonprofit sector. However, that changed with my first course in the program. It sparked my passion and desire for service and my life in public administration and local government. Read more

Why would anyone want this job? Reflections on the local government manager's job 

March 7, 2016

by Dr. Joe Ohren, EMU MPA Public Administration Professor

Along the way I have talked with numerous students about their interest in serving as a local government manager. (The titles of such positions can vary depending on the region—city administrator; type of unit—township manager; and tradition—superintendent or chief administrative officer—so I have used the generic title.) And, the positions extend beyond those at the top of the organization as well; there are a variety of department manager positions in local governments, often defined by function (police, fire, public works, utilities, finance and so on). In each case, part of my advice to students, even those who already worked in local governments, was to be clear about expectations, know what you are getting yourself into. Read more

Career Fair Strategies 

February 29, 2016

by April Calkovsky, University Advising & Career Development Center

Career fairs are an opportunity to connect with employers face to face and make a great first impression. Many employers use online application systems that, once completed, seem to disappear into a black hole, and you are left to wonder if your application even made it to human resources personnel. Read more

We welcome your blog ideas and feedback. To submit a piece for consideration on this blog, please contact MPA Coordinator Rose Soliven ([email protected]) with your name, email, and blog idea.

Opinions expressed in the blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of the MPA Program, Political Science Department, or Eastern Michigan University.

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