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Courses and Curriculum

Courses and Curriculum

The International Master of Public Administration is an interdisciplinary and experiential graduate program with a focus on social and behavioral sciences. Students take foundational and developmental courses in a cohort—which gives you the opportunity to create a strong bond with your peers and work closely with professors in smaller class settings. You also choose two electives from an approved list of courses in the School of Arts and Sciences where you learn with the greater Penn community and expand your network. In order to complete the degree, you must complete 10 course units (c.u.)*.

First semester courses

Critical Issues in Public Administration and Global Leadership (1 c.u.)

Leaders in virtually every nation in the world are struggling to improve and reform their systems and enhance their capacities for creative, cost-effective, public-private problem-solving on issues ranging from economic development to elder care; energy production to water management; environmental protection to public health. In this course, you study readings and case studies from the US, the People’s Republic of China and other nations. Specific topics include the theory and practice of “what works” in the quest for greater productivity; the increased reliance on private markets; enhanced street-level service delivery; devolution to sub-national governments; use of big data and new management and program evaluation technologies; as well as anti-corruption, transparency and accountability protocols.

Concepts and Principles in Economics and Public Finance (1 c.u.)

This course surveys key economic concepts such as scarcity, efficiency and monopoly; basic public policy analytic techniques including cost-benefit analysis; as well as fundamental principles in public budgeting. You practice applying these concepts, techniques and principles through case-based studies and exercises.

Quantitative Data: Reasoning, Analysis and Display (1 c.u.)

Many government, business and NPO/NGO leaders around the globe are drowning in numerical and statistical data. With this sometimes-excessive amount of data, their struggle may not just be how to analyze the data effectively but also how to utilize it effectively. This course is uniquely designed to enhance your ability to use data effectively for real-time problem identification, definition, decision-making and problem-solving.

Collaboration Across Sectors: Boundary-Spanning Leadership (1 c.u.)

Leaders across the world increasingly recognize the necessity of working across boundaries through various forms of collaboration. Collaboration across the government, nonprofit and business sectors has become more prevalent and important, but, at the same time, also more complicated. This course helps graduate students understand the theory, policy and practice of cross-sector collaboration. Students learn the purposes collaborations may serve, the forms they take, what skills and techniques are required and the steps involved in initiating, sustaining and evolving them. Students also learn the characteristics of the three sectors, the roles and contributions each can make to successful collaborations and the competitive forces that are often at work in the collaborative process—as well as their possible implications.

Individual Capstone I: Public Leadership and Biographical Analysis (0.5 c.u.; 2-part course with an additional 0.5 c.u. awarded in the second semester)

Biographical analysis has been increasingly used and accepted by social and behavioral scientists as a way to identify and illuminate the conditions under which a public leader influences others and affects significant, positive and sustainable innovations in organizations and public systems and policy. This course explains the use and application of biographical analysis in relation to a diverse set of past and present global leaders in different sectors. Along with completing and interpreting guided self-study and reflection about your own leadership style, you work independently under the consultation of an assigned academic/capstone advisor to identify a past or present global leader and develop a preliminary bibliography for the biographical analysis.

Elective (1 c.u.)

You choose from a pre-approved list of courses offered by the School of Arts and Sciences in related fields.

Second semester courses

Critical Issues in Leadership Ethics (1 c.u.)

From Confucius to Kant; from Machiavelli’s The Prince to Loyola’s The Spiritual Exercises to John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty; from ideological tenets of Marxist-Leninist communism to catechetical tenets of post-Vatican II Catholicism; from the 20th century prophet of pluralism Sir Isaiah Berlin to the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah; there is no shortage of ideas, beliefs and guiding principles to help leaders recognize and address the inevitable ethical questions related to public problem-solving. Through classic and contemporary readings and case studies, this course covers the basics of contemporary game theory as it relates to the empirics and ethics of negotiation. You are also exposed to several different philosophical, civic, ideological and religious traditions in moral reasoning as they relate to “leadership ethics” and effective public problem-solving.

Class Capstone Exercise and Report: Global Program Evaluation and Forecasting—Eldercare in China (1 c.u.)

In this course, you explore important concepts, principles, protocols and techniques relevant to global program evaluation and forecasting. Sample cases and questions include:

  • For China’s eldercare needs, should a Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs leader consider adopting and adapting the US’ Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly model or their experience with nurse home-visiting programs for low-income women?
  • What facts should a U.N. leader seek before pushing for (or against) more U.N. funding for expanding “bed-netting” programs as a way of containing or eliminating malaria?
  • How does the Bangladesh experience with “food security” programs inform the efficacy of other hunger-relief efforts there and around the world?
  • What is the evidence on “faith-based” programs in Africa relating to STDs?
  • What is known about the conditions under which effective programs in one nation or region can be replicated in another?
  • Are certain leaders consistently better at forecasting problem-relevant developments or trends than others? Are there ways to learn how to become a better forecaster?

The course includes a class-wide “live case study” project on elder care in China that encompasses spring break and results in a collective class capstone report.

China and the US in the 21st Century: Sub-National Sino-American Relations (1 c.u.)

Conducted in collaboration with the China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia, this course reviews the history of US and China relations and examines contemporary issues involving international cooperation and competition. In addition, through on-campus and off-site visits with US and Chinese leaders, you engage with in-depth case studies that spotlight the growing role of “sub-national” (e.g., people to people, academic institution to academic institution, business to business, city to city) projects and initiatives that have improved Sino-American relations.

Individual Capstone II: Public Leadership and Biographical Analysis (0.5 c.u.)

You work independently under the consultation of an assigned academic/capstone advisor to complete the capstone project that was initiated in the first semester.

Elective (1 c.u.)

You choose from a pre-approved list of courses offered by the School of Arts and Sciences in related fields.

Additional learning opportunities and requirements

Academic advisor and I-MPA Faculty-Senior Staff Committee meetings (required)

Meetings each semester with an advisor are conducted in relation to your capstone project. The meetings with the I-MPA Faculty-Senior Staff Committee are for the purpose of having open-ended check-ins, advancing any special help or necessary trouble-shooting and keeping you connected to the widest range of I-MPA resources.

Participation in I-MPA faculty-student social (required)

The I-MPA faculty consider it essential that the social life of the class be acknowledged, enlivened and supported through such gatherings at the opening and closing of each semester.

Participation in Issues in US Politics and Policy Guest Speaker Series (required)

This non-curricular but critical part of the program affords you the opportunity to meet present and former US government, business and nonprofit leaders during evening sessions. Our guests are especially knowledgeable about US politics and policy and noted as both domestic and international problem-solvers.

Participation in Fox Leadership International’s China-US Partnerships for Educational Advancement and Cultural Exchange Student Committee (optional)

Fox Leadership International sponsors a 30-member Penn student group that represents the University’s 2,100 Chinese national students. Known as the China-US Partnerships for Educational and Cultural Exchange-Student and Alumni Society (CUP-SAS), it is led by an alumni executive committee consisting mainly of Chinese national graduates of Penn, with the Penn-Fox Assistant Director Cheng Yao among its permanent members. The CUP-SAS has hosted several major social events for Chinese National Day, the Chinese New Year and the recent Chinese Lantern Festival that came to Philadelphia’s Franklin Square. 

*Academic credit (PDF) is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.

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