Jun 18, 2024  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog (As of 06-27-19) 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog (As of 06-27-19) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, M.P.A.

Judith L. Millesen, Program Director

Marla Robertson , Program Coordinator and Community Assistance Program Director


Mission Statement

Our mission is to prepare public service leaders. Upon graduation our students will have the ability to think critically and creatively about public issues, the dedication and capacity to serve a diverse community and the skills to enter a professional position in a public organization. As a professional program the M.P.A. provides the applied skills necessary for upward mobility in the public service sector.

To accomplish our mission, our program provides the following: 

  • A rigorous core curriculum that combines applied learning with an examination of the theoretical underpinnings of public service and offers concentrated areas of study in arts management, environmental policy, nonprofit management, and urban and regional planning; 
  • An environment that nurtures a commitment to service; 
  • Opportunities to support collaboration and the creation of partnerships among communities and public service organizations.

Program Description

We are nationally accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Program governance and admissions decisions are made by all core faculty in the M.P.A. program. The M.P.A. program at The Graduate School of the University of Charleston, South Carolina is designed to provide the following:

  • A carefully structured core curriculum that focuses on the major components of modern public management.
  • An elective curriculum that allows the student to develop a program of study suited to his/her career goals.
  • Opportunities to apply administrative knowledge and skills and gain practical experience in a public or nonprofit agency.
  • Opportunities for graduate assistants to learn through participation in various research and community service projects.

The program’s curriculum is 33 credit hours. It is designed to explore the essential elements of public management and public policy and to prepare students for increasingly complex public responsibilities in local and state government, nonprofit organizations, public/private partnerships and regional and federal agencies. In addition, as more students seek opportunities for study abroad, and for study and internship opportunities with international NGOs and other global agencies, the program is working to facilitate these options.

The MPA is offered in two convenient formats, a traditional format focusing on pre-service students, with semester-long classes that meet on the main campus in the evenings; and an executive format targeted toward mid-career professionals, with express hybrid classes offered intermittent Saturdays on the North Campus.

Core Curriculum

The core curriculum emphasizes both the skills and knowledge required to effectively manage and develop organizational resources and to understand the larger constitutional and political setting in which policy is developed and administrative tasks are defined and assessed.

Specialized Study

Elective courses are available in four areas of specialized study:

  • Nonprofit Administration
  • Arts Management
  • Municipal Government and Urban Planning
  • Environmental Policy and Administration

Opportunities to develop higher levels of skill and specialized study include a thesis project (PUBA 710 ), directed independent studies (PUBA 711 ) and special topics seminars (PUBA 502 ). Any specialization consisting of fewer than 18 credit hours will not be listed on students’ transcripts.

Admission Requirements and Application Deadlines

Institutional Requirements

  • A completed application form with a nonrefundable application fee of $50.
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework. An earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university is required.
  • International applicants should refer to the International Students area within the “Admissions Information”  section of the catalog for information on providing appropriate documentation with the application.

Program Requirements

Students from diverse undergraduate backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. In certain cases, students with no prior training in American administrative institutions or the social and behavioral sciences may be required to enroll in undergraduate courses to properly prepare themselves for graduate study in the M.P.A. program.

Degree-Seeking Students

  • Minimum grade point average of 3.000 (on a 4.000 scale) is preferred.
  • A letter of intent stating your reasons for applying to the program, areas of interest, and career objectives.
  • A current resume.
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with your academic record - at least two references should be collegiate-level instructors. References should address your academic ability and motivation to successfully complete a graduate degree. If a prospective student has been out of college for a number of years, it is appropriate to provide two letters from work-related individuals, with one additional letter from a former professor.
  • Official copy of test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). A minimum composite score of 300, and 4.0 on the writing assessment section is preferred. The GRE requirement is waived for applicants with a Master’s degree, and may be waived for individuals with at least five years of significant public or nonprofit work experience (see the program website for more information).
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a writing sample, such as undergraduate theses or term papers, samples of work projects, etc.
  • Training in basic statistics. Otherwise, you may be required to take a basic statistics course prior to enrolling in Research and Quantitative Analysis for Public Administration.

Note: The admissions committee will carefully consider both GPA and GRE scores, as well as letters of recommendation and significant life experiences, particularly in public administration. Unconditional admission status requires a minimum score of 300 on the GRE and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.000. Students who demonstrate the likelihood of success in graduate school through adequate academic performance, previous professional and/or volunteer experience and supportive reference letters can be considered for conditional admission status.

Non-Degree Students

Occasionally, students may desire to take courses in the M.P.A. program but not pursue the degree. These students are welcome to enroll in M.P.A. courses on a space-available basis as professional development students. Those seeking to enroll as professional development students must:

  • Provide verification of successful completion of an undergraduate degree with at least a 2.500 GPA.
  • Receive the written permission of the director.

Note: Students wishing to take courses while fulfilling admission criteria (for example, waiting to take the GRE) are restricted to six hours of enrollment prior to admission.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall: March 1, Priority; July 1, Final
  • Spring: November 1
  • Summer: March 1


Transfer Credit Policy

All transfer credits (no more than twelve [12] hours) completed at other institutions must be approved by the director.

Applied Focus

Students are introduced to practical administrative and analytic skills in a variety of ways. The program regularly uses adjunct faculty to teach elective courses. These practitioners instruct students in their particular specialty, providing them with a valuable, hands-on perspective useful in supplementing their broader training. In addition, the program fosters contacts with professional mentors. A variety of workshops, training sessions, and speakers are sponsored by the program and by the Master of Public Administration Student Association (MPASA). Finally, students gain practical experience in the internship component of the program by working with practitioners on a daily basis.


The internship should augment the student’s area of study. To satisfy the requirement, students will be required to work no fewer than 300 hours over the course of the semester for three hours of internship credit. A contract is required between the supervisor, student and program director. The student will be expected to satisfactorily meet the expectations of the agency. To that end, the M.P.A. director and the internship coordinator will periodically evaluate the student’s performance, and consult the on-site internship supervisor. Finally, the student must submit several short papers that describe their duties and responsibilities and assess their experience in light of key concepts in public service management. Internship supervisors will provide valuable feedback to the program regarding the student’s performance and capabilities and this feedback will become part of the program’s evaluation of the student’s work. Those who are in-service or who have significant experience in public administration may formally request to have the internship requirement waived by providing a resume and a letter describing their work experience to the program director. Students granted a waiver will take an additional elective course (3 credit hours) in order to satisfy the hourly requirements for the degree.


Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis for full-time students. Individuals receiving assistantships must be enrolled full-time each semester. Graduate assistants work 20 hours a week on research projects for the M.P.A. programs’s Community Assistance Program or may be assigned to individual faculty for research assistance. A variety of assistantships are also available with the Arts Management Program, the Riley Center for Livable Communities and other offices on campus.


It is recommended that all students take PUBA 701 Public Administration Capstone (3)  to complete the M.P.A. program. If a student has intentions of pursuing a Ph.D. in the field, this course may be waived by the program director in lieu of writing a thesis. In order to complete the thesis requirement students must have a core M.P.A. faculty member as their advisor along with a committee of two other faculty. In order to register for thesis hours, students must develop an independent study contract with their advisor containing an agreed upon research proposal and timeline. The final thesis must adhere to all the guidelines set forth in the Graduate School’s Thesis Manual.

Program Requirements
Student Learning Outcomes