MPA - Why Study Public Administration at Grand Valley?


Our MPA program emphasizes the managerial, administrative, and analytical principles that are pertinent to employers in today's political environment. Our graduates have gone on to serve in many different capacities at the local, regional, state and even national levels. Our program will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary, and we have an established a strong reputation in public management education. Our MPA program has consistently been ranked by US New and World Report’s list of top Public Affairs and Public Administration programs. We are also the only program in the state of Michigan nationally ranked for Nonprofit Management and Leadership.

We have been accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) for over twenty years, starting in 1995. This accrediting body ensures that programs maintain academic rigor and relevant training for tomorrow's public leaders. Our program, located in Grand Rapids, and the myriad of partnerships throughout West Michigan also ensures that students are exposed to the dynamic intersections between public, private and third sector organizations while enrolled. Our program is flexible for full-time and part-time students and we are supportive of our student's career objectives.


Students exploring the field of public administration are often confused as to what the degree is and how it fits in their career trajectory. Here’s how the MPA fits into the broader options of graduate education:

Masters of Public Policy (MPP)

The coursework for an MPP typically includes an introduction to public policy analysis, statistics, and data analysis, micro/macroeconomics, cost-benefit analysis, budgeting, and finance, studies the processes of political and legal institutions, ethics, as well as quantitative, qualitative methods. Many students with MPP degrees go on to work for government agencies who work specifically in policy development or legal enforcement of law, or as policy consultants.

Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP)

The coursework for a MURP degree typically includes an introduction to urban transportation planning, housing and real estate development, planning and design of public services, emergency management, community and economic development and geographic information systems. Many students with MURP degrees go on to work for local or state government agencies, planning transportation systems, working in economic development organizations, in historical preservation, or in community development settings which focus on housing.

Juris Doctor (JD)

Students who go to Law School traditionally receive a Juris Doctorate (JD). Coursework in this area of study traditionally focuses on the practice of law through the use of Socratic methods, and skill development in preparing adversarial analysis for cases, and the use of logic. Students with a JD typically go on to practice in various areas of the law, work as legal counsel for private businesses, or work for the government in legal relations.

Masters of Health Administration

The coursework for an MHA emphasizes the management principles needed to work in nonprofit healthcare organizations with special attention paid to an understanding of health policy, finance, and program management. Students with MHA's also go on to work for managerial roles within health-related agencies in government or nonprofit organizations. The School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration has its own MHA program, and MPA student who desire health management skills, we offer a 15 credit hour concentration in health administration.

Masters of Business Administration

The coursework for an MBA typically begins with students taking core business courses in areas like finance, marketing, and human resources management. Unlike and MPA, the MBA focuses on the management and leadership of privately owned corporations. Once this coursework has been completed, students often choose to specialize in one of these areas, often taking additional courses in accounting, sales, and consulting. The MBA aims to teach the essential business principles and practices needed to compete in different business areas. Traditionally, entry into MBA programs requires the GRE or GMAT for admission. For students interested in general business management, the Grand Valley MBA degree has many areas of emphasis you may want to explore.

Masters of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership

The MPNL prepare students to act ethically and effectively in leading and managing philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. A large part of the health sector operates as nonprofit organizations. The MPA is the best choice for students wanting to manage in local, state or regional organizations.   Some examples of such local, national, and international organizations include the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation, Access of West Michigan, Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids, Michigan Nonprofit Association and much more. For students who desire to develop nonprofit management skills, The School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration’s MPNL program offers areas of emphasis you may want to explore. 

Masters of Public Administration

The coursework within an MPA program covers the following: budgeting and finance for public and nonprofit organizations, human resource management, strategic management skills, administrative law, urban planning, community development, economic development, and quantitative research methods. Courses within our MPA program also allow students to focus on a specialty, local government management, public policy, health administration, nonprofit management and criminal justice. Courses taken by all students in our program, teach how to conduct research, evaluate program effectiveness and perform data analyses which are useful skill sets in a public-service organization.


Dawne Bell

Dawne Bell (MPA '05) is the CEO of the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona. 

Linda Witte

Linda Witte (MPA '11) is currently program developer/manager for health programs in the Workforce Training Department of Grand Rapids Community College

Page last modified August 14, 2017