On Campus with the Oakland University MPA Program

Posted on March 8, 2014

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Master of Public Administration – Oakland University



What do we know about the Oakland University Golden Grizzles. We know ELGL leader John McCarter is in the MPA program at Oakland. We know that the Oakland basketball team made the NCAA tournament in 2005 where they had the priviledge of losing to eventual national champion UNC. We know that during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, Oakland University hosted a debate between Republican presidential candidates. And perhaps, most importlantly, we know that David Hasselholf attended but did not graduate from Oakland.

For those of you less concerned about David Hasselholf, Oakland University is located in the cities of Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills and was initially named Michigan State University–Oakland. OU has an enrollment of 20,169 students and is the 12th largest college or university in Michigan. Previously known as the “Pioneers”, their teams are now known as the “Golden Grizzlies”.

Background Check



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1488959_10152144556200746_652866004_n (1)The Master of Public Administration (MPA) at Oakland University provides a challenging education for recent graduates seeking professional careers and for those already employed in governmental and other public agencies. The need for such programs is recognized, given the growth in the number and complexity of agencies at the state and local level and the concerns for both responsive and effective public service at all levels. The MPA program seeks a generalist focus through a set of core courses and provides an opportunity for specialization through the electives and the directed project/internship option. Persons with significant experience in public service will be advised to undertake a directed project; those seeking a transition to a public service career will be encouraged to find a public administration internship in one of the area agencies. All courses in the program will be offered weekday evenings, or in some cases, on Saturdays.

newgrizzOakland University’s Master of Public Administration is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, the national accrediting body for MPA programs. You can also view the NASPAA Code of Good Practice, the established criteria to become a member school.

In addition, Oakland University has an active chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha, the national honor society of public affairs and administration.


Suzanne Rossi

Rossi photo

MPA Program Coordinator

Education: Oakland University, BS, PsychologyOakland University, MPA, Master of Public Administration, and Career Development Facilitator Certification, Career Development (expected)

Connect: LinkedIn

The 4-1-1


Full-time or part-time program:

We have rolling admission. Not having cohorts allows students to choose (each semester) if they wish to attend full-time or part-time.

Number of students enrolled each year:1601485_10152273478985746_1076144407_n

We have 85 to 98 students enrolled in any semester.

In state vs. out-of-state:

Most students are local. Only 2 percent are out of state and this also includes our international students.

Online classes offered:

We do have a few online courses; most are offered as electives during the summer. Our student feedback consistently shows that the majority prefer to learn in a classroom setting.

Contact person for prospective students:

Suzanne Rossi, MPA Program Coordinator/Adviser  ssrossi@oakland.edu  248-370-4117.

Q & A with Suzanne

Suzanne Rossi began working in the MPA program as a graduate assistant in 2008, then graduated with her MPA degree in December 2010.  She officially became the MPA program coordinator in March 2012.  Suzanne advises students and provides administrative assistance to the program.

Three top selling points of the program.

  • Applied Nature of curriculum – practitioner instructors in electives
  • Student participation with professional organizations in several areas of interest.
  • Flexibility and consistency of scheduling

Madison-Heights-QR-Code-350-inlineExamples of alumni working in local government (name and position). 

  • James Hoch, City Manager, Joliet IL

Three biggest challenges for those entering the program.
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  • Balancing work/home and school responsibilities. Most graduate students have significant life responsibilities outside of school.
  • Reading and written assignments are very rigorous compared to undergraduate classes.
  • Presentations and research required is expected to be polished, well written and presented professionally.

Give three tips on finding the right graduate school.

  • Know your learning style and choose a program with the majority of courses taught in that modality.
  • Look for NASPAA accredited program with low student to faculty ratio.
  • Choose a program that provides specialization in your area of interest.

1401359_10151987860625746_1251152079_oWhat would alumni describe as the most difficult parts of the program?

The capstone project is a difficult part of the program. It is independent study researching a real community organization’s problem and providing recommendations for a solution that is/may be implemented.

Most MPA students find the Quantitative Methods course difficult. As potential managers and administrators, the skills necessary to do well in this class are not common. Students must be committed to learning and willing to spend whatever time is required.

Do you recommend prospective students gain a couple of years of work experience before going to graduate school?

This is a personal decision that has both pros and cons. If possible, having some work experience always helps focus career decisions. In our local environment, many young professionals have chosen to continue their education while pursuing part-time or internship opportunities to gain the experience necessary to obtain full-time positions.

Name three skills that entering students are most often lacking.



  • Public speaking
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Career building people skills

Outside the classroom, give us an idea of the places that graduate students can often be found.

We are a commuter school and graduate students are the ultimate commuters. Most are at work, driving from work to school, maybe taking family time, and then lots of study time. Most study at home. There is no need to be on campus as our library offers remote access.

1009089_10152226219645746_2107831699_oWhat classes would make up a typical first semester?

Our Foundations in Public Administration course is the recommended first class in the program. It is a survey course that gives an overview of all the areas one can be an administrator and work in public service.

If a student is taking more than one class, the second class of the first semester is typically an elective. This gives the new student an opportunity to experience the work load of two courses with one being more rigorous than the other.

What are the most recent additions to your course offerings?

In Fall 2012, we added two courses in Court Administration creating our fifth concentration. Court administrators in our state urgently need trained successors. We collaborated with them to develop the curriculum of the two new courses.

Supplemental Reading


MPA Newsletter

Ask OU – Master of Public Administration

New Sensation: Alex DeSantis, Oakland University MPA

John McCarter Archives

New Focus: Circuit Court administrator brings tech expertise to job


03.07.14 Pure Midwest with John McCarter

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