The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is a membership organization of graduate schools that offer programs in public administration, public policy, public affairs and nonprofit management. NASPAA is an industry-respected network that strives to ensure a rigorous standard of public affairs education for degree programs such as the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP).
NASPAA was founded in 1970 as a successor to the Council on Graduate Education for Public Administration (CGEPA). CGEPA was an organization of approximately 65 representatives who met at Princeton University to discuss and improve public administration course quality. The focus of NASPAA, also founded at Princeton, is largely the same, with the key difference being the number of constituent members. NASPAA maintains a core of elected officials and directors who oversee meetings and vote on the policies and future direction of public administration graduate programs.
The goal of NASPAA is largely the encouragement of growth. While graduate schools can certainly focus on improving their programs independently, by grouping together and sharing ideas, NASPAA founders hoped that universities would improve their offerings more than they could otherwise.
NASPAA also seeks to motivate universities to increase the size of their programs, the diversity of their courses and the quality of the professors who teach their students. In these endeavors, NASPAA has been very successful. Today, NASPAA-accredited programs hold high reputations, both in universities and in the organizations that typically employ MPA graduates.
Villanova University offers several unique programs that have been accredited by NASPAA. One advantage of Villanova programs is that the program instruction is given by local government managers. Here, students may take one-credit courses in a variety of specialized topics, such as Land Use and Zoning or Emergency Management, and gain the benefit of instruction by a professional who has worked directly in the field.
This offers the opportunity to learn practical, real-world administration skills while networking with actual local government officials. In addition to these one-credit courses, Villanova offers three-credit city management courses that are taught by a team of three township managers. The knowledge and experience gained in these courses can be invaluable to MPA students who wish to work as administrators in local government organizations.
Since Fall 2005, Villanova has also offered a Graduate Certificate in City Management as a specialization of its MPA graduate program. This certificate builds upon the success of Villanova’s one- and three-credit course offerings and also serves to guide students to internships in the organizations for which their professors have worked. The response has been positive.
In a 2009 survey of NASPAA program directors, institutions affirmed that Villanova’s approach is unique and offers a compelling way to connect students directly to the organizations that interest them. Indeed, Villanova now serves as a model example for effective city and county management education among NASPAA member institutions.
With accreditation from NASPAA and unique course offerings that pair students with experienced public professionals, Villanova can be an excellent choice for those interested in the local side of public administration. For further information on both NASPAA and on Villanova’s approach to public administration education, students may check the Villanova public affairs program website.