Q&A: The Value of SPEA
Why should you study public affairs? Why should you do it at SPEA? And what will you gain if you do? SPEA Connect Faculty Director, Distinguished Professor, and Director of Online Education James Perry explains.
What is the value of a public affairs education?
The world today is so different from the world that past generations entered. The levels of complexity, interdependence, and systemic risks are extraordinary. An MPA or public affairs certificate prepares our graduates to confront the challenges of tomorrow with the knowledge and skills to solve problems and lead. Our graduates are using what they know across all sectors of society—public, nonprofit, and private.
Why is a top-ranked school like SPEA offering an online MPA and certificates?
We believe high-quality programs like ours should be available online. In the future, professionals in public affairs and many other fields will routinely turn to online education because of its flexibility and rigor. We are fortunate that we can be among the first schools of our reputation to bring our quality curriculum and faculty together with students unable to access our residential programs.
Why are these programs noteworthy?
The programs are noteworthy for many reasons. Students interested in acquiring an internationally recognized degree or certificate can do so from anywhere in the world. They will have the latitude to construct a curriculum that meets their professional goals. Students will also become part of two networks of professionals, one united by the online experience and another, larger group with connections to SPEA. A distinguished faculty helps make all these other things possible.
What kind of students do you expect to attract?
We expect diversity to be a hallmark of our online student body. We are planning for cohorts of students across demographic and geographic spectrums. This diversity alone should present many opportunities for learning and networking. I expect students to share some other characteristics, among them experience, a clarity of purpose, and an interest in making a difference in their lives and the lives of others as a result of their SPEA education.
What do you expect students to gain from these programs?
The big-picture outcome for many students will be the doors their new degree can help them open as they build careers of increasing responsibility and challenge. Given their commitments to public service, students will take a great deal of satisfaction from mastering the knowledge and skills that permit them to better solve problems and lead their organizations.
What are the courses and learning environment like?
Our courses are taught by world-class faculty and experienced professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge to the virtual classroom. Students will typically complete a class over a 16-week semester. They will be able to complete a certificate in a year and the MPA in three years, but they will also have opportunities to move at a faster or slower pace to fit their personal situations.
How do you see these programs fitting into students’ daily lives?
I know from years of teaching working professionals that balancing work and education is challenging. The advantage of online education is that students can better fit their reading, writing, and course participation into their work and family lives. The format does not eliminate the need to invest time, but it makes the experience easier to manage.