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Master of Public Affairs (MPA) Program

MPA Biltmore Park Exterior


The Master of Public Affairs (MPA) Program equips students with the knowledge and skills to address public policy challenges in all levels of government and nonprofit organizations. A combination of academic, practical, and multidisciplinary study offers students the opportunity to test the ideas they learn in class in real-world situations.

Western Carolina graduates have been remarkably successful finding positions in public service as well as advancing in their current careers. The department’s extensive alumni network includes town managers, directors of non-profit organizations (NGOs), professors, police officers, and many others in public service. 

The MPA Program generally enrolls 40-55 students who are taught by full-time professors and experienced public servants. Most courses are evening classes taught in Asheville.

The program requires 39 credit hours to complete. Applications to the program are accepted throughout the year. The typical length of the MPA degree program is two years for a student who is taking courses full-time (9 hours per semester). Most part-time students take two courses a semester and can complete the degree in three years or less with courses in summers.

The Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree program is designed for in-service students who possess professional experience and seek additional education to prepare for career advancement. It is also designed for pre-service students planning careers in the public service area. The program requires a minimum of 36 semester hours. NOTE: An internship is not required for in-service students.

The internship experience is an important component of the MPA Program. All students without public sector work experience are required to perform an internship, write an internship report, and receive positive feedback from the internship sponsor. An internship is not required for in-service students.

Our program has been successful in placing students into rewarding internships in the government, nonprofit and private sectors. Our faculty, program alumni, and career center work with students to find an opportunity that will advance their career goals. Internships vary from year to year based on student interest. In the past two years, most of our students have chosen to intern with local county, city, or regional governments. Others have chosen to serve in local or regional nonprofits.
If you are currently working in public service or have considerable experience in public and/or nonprofit management, you may petition the MPA faculty for an internship replacement. Students replacing the internship do so by enrolling in another three-hour elective course instead of PA 685 (Internship in Public Affairs). This keeps the MPA required hours at 39 for all students.

Alumni Success

In its 30-year history MPA has prepared hundreds of students for careers in public service. Graduates of Western Carolina University’s MPA program are working at the executive level in city and county management, community development, natural resources administration, legal defense, law enforcement administration, municipal government administration, and corporate management. Hear from one of our successful graduates working in the western North Carolina region:

Mission Statement

The Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program is a professional degree designed to prepare students for leadership positions in the public and non-profit sectors. The program integrates public affairs theory and practice to improve the managerial, analytical, and communication skills of students. The program promotes teaching, applied research, and service activities that enhance public and non-profit sector performance, particularly in Western North Carolina.  The MPA program provides accessibility to working professionals and flexibility for students to choose from specialized elective courses to fit their personal and professional goals.  Program electives are offered to address regional needs.

MPA Graduation and Employment Statistics

Graduation Statistics

Employment Statistics

MPA Program Faculty

The WCU MPA program is taught by an award-winning faculty of accomplished teachers, scholars, and public servants. The MPA has 5 core full-time, tenure-track faculty members dedicated to the governance of the program. Several other faculty in the department periodically teach in the program and several adjunct lecturers teach more specialized courses backed by years of experience in the practice of public and nonprofit service.

Todd Collins Ph.D.; Public Policy Institute Director, Associate Professor; Public Law, Judicial Politics
Chris Cooper Ph.D.; Department Head; Professor; American Politics, Public Administration, Research Methods
Jay Gerlach Ph.D.; Associate Professor, Public Policy, Nonprofit Management, Environmental Policy
Heather Rimes Ph.D; MPA Director, Assistant Professor, Public Administration, Public Policy
JoBeth Shafran Ph.D.; Assistant Professor, Public Policy, Public Administration, American Politics
Part-Time Faculty & Staff
Andy Coburn M.E.M; Adjunct Faculty
Paul Dezendorf Ph.D.; Adjunct Faculty
Laura Jeffords MPA.; Adjunct Faculty
Ashley Fay MPA.; Adjunct Faculty
John Connet MPA; Adjunct Faculty

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