On Campus with University of North Texas MPA Program

Posted on January 16, 2014

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We head to the Lone Star State to learn about the University of North Texas MPA program, which is ranked 8th in city management and public policy by US News and World Report. In 2012, the program celebrated its 50th anniversary of producing talented public administrators. Our new ELGL columnist Tim Clark is a first year student in the UNT MPA program and is an example of the quality of talented attracted to the program. Tim connected us to Dr. Bob Bland, UNT MPA coordinator who will guide through learning about the opportunities available at UNT.

Through our continuing partnership with Strategic Government Resources, ELGL is committed to making an impact in Texas through highlighting  MPA programs, offering practical work experience for Texas students and professionals, and connecting with Texas leaders such as Dr. Bland. On January 29 and 30, ELGL will travel to Dallas, Texas to present at the Strategic Government Resources conference and to attend a special networking event. If you’re in the Texas area, please join us as we connect with our Texas counterparts.

Background Check  on UNT MPA Program

Connect: Facebook and World Wide Web

download (3)Founded in 1992, the Department of Public Administration is located in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service.  The department’s three programs predate its founding, however. The Emergency Administration and Planning program began in 1983 as one of several  degrees in the Center for Public Service and became part of the Department of  Public Administration in 1994.  The master of public administration  traces its origins to 1961 where  its predecessor was established in the Department of Political Science.  The PhD program began in the 1970s as a specialization in political science.  In 2004, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board approved moving the specialization to the Department of Public Administration as a stand-alone degree.

Today the department’s twelve faculty and five professional staff serve more than 350 majors in these three programs.  Student-centered  education is a hallmark of this dedicated faculty who take personal interest in every student’s progress from the first day they enter and beyond graduation to their professional  career.  Our commitment to student-centeredness also includes the services of an internship coordinator who assists EADP and MPA majors in securing a quality internship, then monitors the students’ progress throughout the internship appointment.


Dr. Bob Bland


University of North Texas, Professor and MPA Coordinator

Areas of expertise: state and local tax policy, capital and operating budgeting, and municipal debt management

Presentation: GFOAT.Tax Incentives Presentation


Background Check on Dr. Bland

Dr. Bland joined the faculty at UNT in 1982, then along with the other faculty in political science helped to establish the new Department of Public Administration. He now serves as the department’s first chair and teaches courses in government finance management, revenue policy, and governmental budgeting. He is the author or co-author of five books, and his articles on local tax policy, the municipal bond market, and governmental budgeting have appeared in a number of journals. In 2007 he was awarded the Terrell Blodgett Academician Award by the Texas City Management Association and the Stephen B. Sweeney Academic Award by the International City/County Management Association.

Q & A with Dr. Bland

Three top selling points of the program.

  • More Texas city executives (city managers, deputy CMs, and assistant CMs) hold a master’s degree from UNT than any other university.
  • In 2012 U.S. News & World Report ranked the UNT program #1 in Texas and #8 nationally in the field of city management/urban policy.
  • Pre-career students complete the MPA degree in five semesters, including a paid internship under the mentorship of an experienced public manager.

Examples of alumni working in local government (name and position). Oregon practitioners?
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  • Plus approximately 500 other alumni in local government in 34 states and 14 countries, each serving with distinction and dedication to public service.

Biggest challenges for those entering the program.

  • The greatest challenge for most students is financing a graduate education.  We provide over $150,000 annually in scholarship awards to MPA students.  UNT is committed to keeping a graduate degree affordable and marketable.
  • A graduate degree is a major commitment of time and money and one that should open doors to a fulfilling professional career.  Our placement record for MPA graduates is exceptional, with most graduates finding a full-time position by the time they graduate or shortly thereafter.

Give us four tips on finding the right graduate school.

download (5)Questions a student should ask of the MPA programs they are considering:

  • Is it affordable? Can I get a degree without incurring a lot of debt?
  • What is the MPA program’s reputation among employers?  Do its graduates get hired?
  • Is it student-oriented? Do I get treated as a professional?
  • Does it offer paid internships?  What kind of support does it give to help students find a good internship?

What would alumni describe as the most difficult parts of the program?

The comprehensive exam poses a challenge but then this is graduate school and it is reasonable to expect a higher benchmark for excellence. A challenging graduate education is going to provide better preparation for the inevitable challenges that will come during your professional career.

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

If a student is uncertain about whether public service is a good fit, then work experience will be worthwhile. But if a student is relatively certain about pursuing a public service career, then work experience is not necessary. Generally the work experience a student gets prior to completing an MPA degree does not compare well to the career that a graduate will ultimately pursue.  The greatest benefit of an MPA degree is that it covers a broad range of career options. MPA graduates can be found in almost every type of organization imaginable.  The common denominator is that MPA graduates are leaders working on behalf of the public interest.

Name three skills that entering students are most often lacking.

  • Writing competency, especially being able to write clearly and succinctly;
  • Presentation competency, especially making effective presentations using multi-media;
  • Everyone has some deficiencies. A good MPA program will enable a student to become a well-rounded communicator, decision maker, and leader. Most importantly that program should endow a strong sense of integrity as the cornerstone to a successful career in public service.

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

  • Completing an internship; hanging out with fellow classmates; studying for the next exam with other class members at their favorite coffee bar.
  • Conversing with one of the 12 faculty in the MPA program who keep an open door policy with students.
  • Frequently sharing lunch or other social occasion with alumni and other professionals in local government .

What classes would make up a typical first semester?
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  • PADM 5010, Public Administration and Society
  • PADM 5020, Leading and Managing Public Organizations
  • PADM 5400, Managing Financial Resources
  • PADM 5800, MPA Internship Preparation

 What are the most recent additions to your course offerings?

  • PADM 5700, Public Sector Marketing
  • PADM 5700, Civic Engagement in Public Administration
  • PADM 5700, Planning Regional Services
  • PADM 5700, Risk, Hazards, and Disasters

What question(s) should we have asked?

What is the most important reason a student should pursue an MPA degree at UNT?

Response: An affordable graduate degree at a nationally ranked program with an extensive and supportive alumni network.

General Program Information

Full-time or part-time program: Both. Approximately 70% of the MPA students are full time (pre career)

Number of students enrolled each year: 100 students

In state vs. out-of-state:  28% out-of-state

Online classes offered: No, although there are online components to most classes

Number of faculty: 12 faculty coming from such disciplines as public affairs, political science, sociology, urban planning, and international relations

Supplemental Reading

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