By: Matthew L. Howell, Ph.D., associate professor, EKU Department of Government
Much like a Swiss Army Knife offers any tool you need for any job, an MPA student graduates with the knowledge and ability to perform multiple roles and direct multiple projects across the industry spectrum.
Government and the public sector typically consist of groups of highly specialized individuals. These groups often don’t speak the same “languages” or see things the same way. MPA-holding managers are the big picture people with the knowledge and experience to understand each of these groups and coordinate them in a way that yields the best outcomes for all involved.
Government isn’t an assembly line; it doesn’t work well when everyone is in their silos and not communicating. For example, developing the budget for a new road requires experts in engineering of course, but it also requires experts in planning and development, human resources, accounting and project oversight. An MPA is the administrator who knows enough about human resources and engineering to effectively communicate the needs of each group to the other, ensuring resource and personnel needs are met. An MPA has knowledge of municipal and regulatory law, allowing him/her to translate a lawyer’s briefings into instructions the workers hired by human resources can follow.
An MPA has the leadership experience to motivate the workers, the analysis and evaluation experience to monitor the program, the administrative experience to reconcile the competing demands of the different parts of the government, and allocate resources for the best social outcome.
MPAs are flexible, knowledgeable and able to deal with the uncertainties and complications of government programs. They must learn quickly and be able to think on their feet. Specialized groups are important, but MPAs understand the full context of projects in a way no specialist can, making them a critical component of government and public sector organizations.