On Campus with the Villanova MPA Program

Posted on August 11, 2014

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Lorde Invades Local Government

Our tour of MPA programs takes us to Philadelphia and Villanova University. We connected with the Villanova MPA program when Bonnie Svrcek, ELGL advisory board member, spoke at an event at Villanova. She recommended that ELGL and Villanova MPA connect to discuss partnership opportunities. The first opportunity was Villanova profiling ELGL in their Leaders’ Lounge. This article lead to a number of new ELGL members who are current students or graduates of the Villanova MPA program. Today, ELGL presents its profile of the Villanova MPA program.  And, by the way, who doesn’t love the Villanova MPA programs’ version of “Royals” by Lorde.

Background Check

Connect: TwitterLinkedIn, Facebook and Leader’s Lounge.

“Villanova University has been synonymous with academic excellence for generations. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Villanova as the #1 Regional University in the North – a distinction held for 20 years,” according to the school’s website. The MPA program is split into on campus and online tracks, about 80 students enroll each year for the on campus program and over 200 students enroll online. This year there are 230 online students. Students can choose to enroll either full time or part time, and adjust their course load as they go through the program and complete internships at nearby local governments and non-profits.

Q & A with Shanna Lodge

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MPA Candidate ’15 | Research Assistant, MPA Program
President, Graduate Student Council
Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Full-time or part-time program:

Either! Students can elect to enroll full time, two or three classes per semester, or part time, one class at a time.

Number of students enrolled each year:

80 on campus, 200+ online

In state vs. out-of-state:

75 % in state on campus/ approx. 75% out-of-state in the online program

Online classes offered:

Yes! Villanova’s MPA has a thriving fully online program with more than 230 students currently enrolled.

Three top selling points of the program.

While you work toward your MPA at Villanova, you can also earn one of our Two Certificate Offerings – either in Nonprofit Management or City Management.

Real World Opportunities! Put your classroom learning into action through real-world class projects and internships. The campus’s proximity to urban, suburban, and rural environments allows for a variety of experiences sure to suit your interests.

Highly qualified faculty get to know their students. The faculty in our program have a wide variety of backgrounds and research interests, and in addition to their academic knowledge, they are practitioners in the field.

BONUS: Getting to root for the Villanova Wildcats! #novanation

Examples of alumni working in local government.

Sally Slook, Assistant Manager, Upper Merion Township, PA

Aaron Bibro, Manager, Hatfield Township, PA

Cate Schneider, City Recorder, Lake Oswego, OR

More alumni are profiled on our website!

Three biggest challenges for those entering the program.

Learning to be a student again – Many of our students have been out of the classroom for several years and a return to the “student life” can be an unnerving experience.

Scheduling – Students who begin the program often struggle to create a schedule that works for them and allows them to tend to their professional and personal obligations while leaving time for school. Students learn they have to prioritize their personal/professional commitments and become a more organized person in order to be successful.

New and unexpected choices – It’s not uncommon for a student to begin the program with a focus on one field, like the nonprofit sector, only to become fascinated by another, like local government. This can be exciting, but choosing among a new world of career possibilities is often a challenge.

Give three tips on finding the right graduate school.

  • Meet with the professors. You’ll be able to learn about their teaching interests and style of communicating.
  • Talk with students and alumni to learn why they chose the program and what they’ve been able to apply in their careers.
  • Visit the campus, if possible, and sit in on a class. You’ll get a feel for the culture of the institution.

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

Balance – Many of our students work full time or are completing internships while they take their classes. In this day in age, balancing these obligations with a personal and social life is hard for students everywhere!

Each student’s experience is unique. Some students are not comfortable with statistics and math, so they might find courses in financial management and quantitative research to be the most challenging, whereas others might find the writing intensive courses to be more difficult.

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

villanova tableThat depends on the student. Some of our students have spent a lot of time working in the field before starting the program. Others come to our program straight from their undergraduate work. One great aspect of our program is the internship requirement for those students who do not have relevant professional experience. Many of the classes ask students to call upon past professional experiences; therefore, students who do not have the knowledge base to draw from are required to complete an internship so they are able to participate in the discussion and practical application exercises.

Name three skills that entering students are most often lacking.

  • Critical thinking
  • Professional writing skills
  • Statistical knowledge

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

On campus, you might find students at Falvey Library studying in the Graduate Student Lounge, or chatting about class over a cup of coffee in Bartley Hall.

Off campus, you’ll find our students applying their classroom learning in the workplace, or at their internship sites. Our students intern at local and national nonprofit organizations, federal and state organizations, and local government offices. When they aren’t hard at work, you might find our students at Gullifty’s Pizza Grille and Bar – we love their happy hour specials! – or competing in quizzo nights at some of the other great local pubs.

happy hour

What classes would make up a typical first semester?

The program is designed so that classes can be taken in any order, but some core classes include Organization Theory, Public Personnel Management, and Financial Management. Popular elective courses include Managing Public Networks, Fundraising for Non-Profit Organizations, and Leadership Ethics.

What are the most recent additions to your course offerings?

We are always adding new options to our list of one credit topic courses.  These courses are taught by practitioners in the field and cover topics such as Debt Management, Program Evaluation, and Labor Relations.

The most recent addition to our variety of three-credit electives is Cultural Competency, which looks at the policies and best practices in dealing with diversity in the workplace.

What question(s) should we have asked?

What student organizations can your students be a part of?

At Villanova, we have a student chapter of ICMA, as well as a chapter of the global honor society for public affairs and administration, Pi Alpha Alpha.

Supplemental Reading


Leaders’ Lounge with ELGL

Bibro Named New Hatfield Township Manager

Slook appointed assistant township manager

Plugging the public sector

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