FAQ for Current MPA Students

  • Is there an MPA Student Organization?

    PASO, the Policy and Administration Student Organization, serves graduate students in the MPA program and undergraduate policy and administration (PPA) majors. PASO is professional development and a social organization that is a great way to interact with students who share similar interests and professional identities. Additionally, a new chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) has recently formed in Harrisonburg. Graduate students are encouraged to participate in ASPA to gain valuable professional networking and development opportunities.

  • Does the department have any social events?

    The department generally hosts two large social gatherings for MPA students, faculty, and their families during the academic year. Other opportunities exist throughout the year for students and faculty to meet informally. As well, the local ASPA chapter, the student-led PASO, and the Graduate Student Association (GSA) offer additional occasions for gatherings.

  • Is there an MPA orientation session?

    Yes, all MPA students will be required to attend an orientation meeting prior to beginning classes. Students are also encouraged to attend the university-wide Graduate School orientation.

  • Who is my advisor?

    Currently, all MPA students are advised by the MPA Director. Your adviser should also be identified in MyMadison.

  • What order should I take the courses in?

    For most courses, there are no prerequisites, so it does not particularly matter in which order courses are completed. There are a few exceptions. PUAD 605 (Research Methods) should be taken before PUAD 606 (Program Evaluation). PUAD 692 (MPA Capstone) should be taken in the final spring semester in the program. It is recommended, but not required, that students take PUAD 620 (Politics of Administration) in their first fall semester in the program.

  • I was admitted conditionally, when and how do I upgrade to unconditional status?

    Your admissions letter describes the conditions for upgrading your status. If you have met these requirements, you should consult with your adviser. The adviser and the MPA director must certify that the conditions have been met and request your status upgrade from the Graduate School. All students must be in unconditional status in order to apply for graduation.

  • I want to change my concentration, how?

    Consult with your adviser. There is a form required by the Graduate School to officially change your concentration. The form must be signed by your adviser and the MPA Director. Concentration changes should be completed prior to filing the graduation application.

  • What if I don’t want to do one of the existing concentrations?

    One of the most popular concentration options for students is the individualized concentration. This gives students the flexibility to choose graduate level courses that are specifically relevant to their professional goals. Courses must be approved by the MPA Director in order to count, but past students have taken coursework ranging from Environmental Toxicology to Counseling.

  • I am doing the individualized concentration, what courses are acceptable?

    The MPA Director must approve all courses applied to the individualized concentration. Students have been given wide latitude in choosing courses that are relevant to their professional goals. Graduate level classes from many departments at JMU have been counted by students with specific interests.

  • I took PPA 415 as an undergraduate PPA major. Do I have to take PUAD 615? Isn’t it the same course?

    Students who officially declared the 5-year program are granted a waiver for PUAD 615 (Legal Environment of Public Administration). Other students must complete PUAD 615 in order to graduate from the MPA program. Although there is substantial overlap in content, PUAD 615 has additional requirements for graduate students.

  • I want to do an independent study, how?

    PUAD 680 (Reading and Research) is the MPA program’s equivalent of an independent study. It allows students to pursue advanced study in a narrowly defined area under the guidance of an MPA faculty member. The first step in setting up an independent study is to find an MPA faculty member willing to act as your faculty supervisor. Once there is an agreement, the faculty member should notify the MPA Director. An override into PUAD 680 will then be generated, allowing the student to register for the course. Next, the student should work with the faculty member to develop a plan for the independent study. Department policies require that independent study participants produce at least one written product of at least 35-pages in length.

  • I want to do research with a professor, how?

    If you have a specific research project in mind, talk to the MPA faculty member to see if he/she would be willing to work with you on the project. If you have a more generic interest in participating in research, most faculty members have ongoing research projects on which they may need assistance. The MPA faculty members value the input from students, and encourage their participation. It is important to remember that not all faculty members are able to include students in their research, and that they are under no obligation to provide you with this opportunity.

  • How do I find an internship?

    The internship coordinator may be able to provide contact information for some local internship providers. Your best option is to contact directly agencies and organizations in which you are interested. Some entities have formalized internship programs and others may be willing to take on an intern depending on needs and workload. Make sure you are clear about the agency’s expectations from its interns—the level of autonomy and responsibility varies widely from agency to agency, and the most successful internships are ones where there is an explicit agreement between the parties prior to beginning.

    There are also a number of excellent websites that advertise internship vacancies. To see the list of sites we recommend on our internship page (click here).

  • When do I take the comprehensive exam?

    For MPA students, the written comprehensive exam was replaced by the portfolio produced in the MPA Capstone. Students who earn satisfactory scores on all required competencies in the professional portfolio are deemed by the MPA faculty to have successfully completed the comprehensive exam requirement. As such, a successful portfolio is a requirement for graduation from the MPA program.

  • When do I need to submit my graduation application?

    For most students, the graduation application is completed in the first week of the PUAD 692 (MPA Capstone) during the class period. For students who are not taking PUAD 692 in their final semester, the graduation application should be completed in the first week of the semester in which they intend to graduate. Consult the Graduate School website for filing deadlines or speak to your adviser.

  • I want to take a leave of absence, how?

    The JMU Graduate School requires continuous enrollment once students begin a program. Recognizing that there may be circumstances requiring an interruption, GRAD 597 (Continuance) has been established to allow students to remain enrolled during a period of absence. This course is a one-credit course, requiring payment of a $50 fee.

    In extenuating circumstances, a leave of absence may be granted by the MPA Director and the Dean of the Graduate School.