Master of Public Administration Cohort for Executives


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A Curriculum Designed to Meet the Needs of County Leaders

closed captioning icon Dr. Henrik Minassians outlines why the CSUN MPA Cohort for Executives is the smart choice for leaders committed to delivering excellence in the public sector.

In an era when external forces such as globalization, population growth and citizen demands place extraordinary pressures on public sector managers, the ability to respond effectively to complex situations requires new paradigms and skill sets. It is also essential for educators to address these issues in new and innovative ways. We at CSUN understand the challenges being faced by leaders in county government, and have developed a curriculum to help today's executives succeed as well as to develop into the next generation of leaders.

The CSUN Master of Public Administration Cohort for Executives program, designed in consultation with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), features a comprehensive, integrated curriculum, with a focus on:

  • Governance and Partnership
  • Reflective Practice
  • Organizational Development and Change
  • Leadership Development
  • Management Skills
  • Strategic Thinking

These features have been considered in the curriculum design, consisting of online classes and practitioner-based workshops at the CSAC Institute in Sacramento. Particular attention was given to the sequencing of the courses and workshops, to provide students with a highly relevant, interdisciplinary educational experience.

Online Courses

Courses are listed in the order in which they are presented. Later courses build on earlier ones to provide a powerful, cumulative learning experience.

  • MPA 610: Seminar in Public Administration & Its Environment
  • MPA 620: Research Methods for Public Administration
  • MPA 630: Seminar in Organization Theory and Human Behavior
  • MPA 644: Public Budgeting and Financial Administration
  • MPA 650: Seminar in Public Policy Process
  • MPA 612A: Intergovernmental Relations
  • MPA 632B: Strategic Management
  • MPA 632A: Organizational Leadership
  • MPA 642B: Public Sector Labor Relations
  • MPA 642A: Ethics and Professionalism
  • MPA 623A: Seminar in Effective Public Sector Management
  • MPA 697S: Culminating Experience


Course descriptions

Practitioner-Based, Executive-Workshop Series

(Three Saturdays at the CSAC Institute, Sacramento; details will be sent to students after program begins. Workshops are not mandatory.)

Workshop No. 1: Succession Planning in the Public Sector

The successful implementation of effective succession planning is essential in order for public organizations to fulfill their strategic planning goals. In this workshop students will learn how to identify employees who possess key competencies required for organizational leadership, conduct needs assessments, and design a developmental plan for future hiring.

Workshop No. 2: Action Research

Action research engages and empowers employees as active participants in the needs-assessment processes of their own organizations. Participants in this session will learn how to conduct deep inquiry into their own professional practices in keeping with the visions and goals of their organizations.

Workshop No. 3: Performance-Based Management

Because effective public-sector organizations must be responsive in addressing the needs of their communities, they are increasingly being compelled to develop effective performance-measurement and management systems. Participants in this session will explore not only how such systems can be used most effectively but also how organizational cultures can be re-shaped to embrace performance-based practices.

MPA Cohort for Executives Culminating Experience/Project: "The Capstone Workshop"

The new MPA Cohort for Executives program features a unique "Capstone Workshop" in which students assume the role of consultants and will choose/or be assigned to (1) conduct an analysis of an existing problem at a public-sector organization and (2) produce a policy- and/ or project-oriented solution to that organization.

MPA Cohort for Executives Course Descriptions

Courses are listed in the order in which they are presented. Later courses build on earlier ones to provide a powerful, cumulative learning experience.

course name units description
Seminar in Public Administration and Its Environment 3

Taken at the start of the program, this introductory seminar provides students an essential framework for examining the work of their organizations – as well as their own – in the public sector. The course examines both the role of public administration in our society, and the role of society in public administration. Covering the seven pillars of public administration, it addresses the foundational concepts of classical issues, as well as the rise of new public management concepts and practices. Upon completing the course, students will have a clear understanding of the political, social, and economic environment of public administration, and will better appreciate how their organizations operate within it.

Research Methods for Public Administration 3

Unlike traditional research methods courses, this course is sequenced early in the program, the better to introduce students to a variety of social science research techniques, and to enable them to develop their own research projects. Addressing both the theory, and limits, of scientific inquiry, and covering quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis, research design, and implementation, it encourages a critical analysis of the research underlying policy recommendations.

Organization Theory and Human Behavior 3

Building on the preceding courses in strategic management and leadership (MPA 632B and MPA 632A), this class begins by tracing the historical development of organization theory. It examines contemporary approaches to the study of organizations, and discusses such key organizational behavior concepts and processes as decision-making, power, conflict, communication, leadership, motivation, group effectiveness, organizational change, and personal and organizational autonomy. Students complete the course understanding the impact that their own leadership styles, and various issues related to managing employee behavior, can have on the successful implementation of their strategic plans.

Public Budgeting and Financial Administration 3

Strategic planning is always contingent upon public finance and budgeting. Acquiring a complete understanding of budgetary issues and processes allows public sector leaders to develop a solid understanding of managing funds and seeking fiscal resources. Sequenced as it is directly after labor relations (MPA 642B), this course helps participants to develop a solid understanding of just how fiscal issues impact strategic planning, leadership, and labor relations issues within a local government. Students also have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in their introductory courses, and to develop a solid appreciation of the challenges (internal or external) that accompany public budgeting. Specifically, participants will discuss budgeting processes and administrative control, including various techniques of budgeting: line item, performance, program and zero base; fiscal policy in implementing public policy; public revenues; sources and effect of principle taxes; intergovernmental aspects of revenue problems; revenue-sharing.

Public Policy Process 3

Both turbulent external conditions, as well as evolving federal and state policies make responding to change a constant for local organizations. This course, which directly follows the introductory seminar (MPA 610), enables students to develop a better understanding of the forces that continuously affect the on-going decision-making required of public administrators. Students in the course will examine the impact on localities of recent federal health care reforms in order to understand in real terms how decisions are made, and to appreciate fully the implications such decisions can have on policy implementation.

Intergovernmental Relations 3

Understanding the formal relations set by the U.S. Constitution between federal, state, and local governments is essential for managing public organizations effectively. However, with the rise of new public management theories and practices, more and more of these relationships are subject to contractual relations, both formal and informal, known as network governance. Successful network governance relies on creating public value and societal outputs via partnerships between public, private, and non-profit entities. Upon completing the course, students will have a greater understanding of the formal constitutional issues, and the contractual relations, between various entities.

Strategic Management 3

Falling in the program sequence directly after the introductory and research methods coursework (MPA 610 and MPA 620), this course gives students a full understanding of the external and internal factors that impact planning and decision-making within organizations. The course examines how managers guide organizations (e.g., establishing goals, setting priorities, coordinating disparate activities), as well as how they adjust to a changing environment. By the end of the course, students will have completed the design for an actual strategic plan.

Organizational Leadership 3

Individual leadership styles and strategies have an impact on the successful implementation of organizational strategic goals. In this course, students learn about different leadership styles and objectives. Then, taking in hand the strategic plan designed in the preceding management class (MPA 632B), they reflect upon, and examine, their own leadership styles the better to determine whether their own style of leadership is congruent with that plan.

Public Sector Labor Relations 3

Beyond managing the impact of both their own leadership styles, and of issues related to managing employee behavior on the implementation of their strategic plans, successful managers and leaders in the public sector must regularly overcome bureaucratic challenges. In this accelerated intensive study of labor-relations concepts, students further develop an understanding of the concrete challenges of implementing strategic plans within public organizations. They also acquire applied skills in this area, by participating in role-playing exercises, the better to understand the realities of negotiation between labor and management, as well as the essentials of formal arbitration.

Ethics and Professionalism 3

Ethical considerations are central to the leadership of public sector organizations and inform the accountability of public managers to citizens and taxpayers. This course – which comes only after students have mastered fundamentals of strategic planning, management, organizational behavior, labor relations, and budgeting – allows them to examine ethical issues in their full context, and in cases relevant to public administration. The course prepares students to analyze and confront ethical challenges in their professional lives by focusing on professional relationships and responsibilities, as well as the key role that factors such as public power, violence, deception, and justice, play in public administration.

Seminar in Effective Public Sector Management 3 Focusing on the effective functioning and management of organizations in the public sector, this course addresses key management issues, and how to strengthen the leadership function in such organizations. Seminar participants are encouraged to relate work-life issues to the theoretical perspectives, and to draw upon their own professional experiences in seminar discussions. This final course encourages the synthesis of ideas, concepts, and practices acquired in the program, with the goal of enabling students both to develop their own managerial styles and to reflect upon the practices of others.
Culminating Experience/Project: "The Capstone Workshop" 3

As M.I.T. social scientist Don Schon noted in "The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action" (1983): "Many practitioners locked into a view of themselves as technical experts find nothing in the world of practice to occasion reflection… For these reasons… reflection-in-action is critically important." The MPA culminating experience allows program participants to apply knowledge, concepts, and skills acquired through the two-year journey in an applied reflective format. In this unique "Capstone Workshop," students assume the role of consultants and will choose/or be assigned to (1) conduct an analysis of an existing problem at a public-sector organization and (2) produce a policy- and/ or project-oriented solution to that organization.