MPA Program Takes Center Stage
An audience of more than 350 community members, local business owners and students gathered at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, for the launch of Fairfield University’s First Annual MPA Summit, a yearly public forum focusing on the issues and challenges of public administration in a global marketplace. The inaugural summit’s timely topic, Moving Forward in the Absence of GE, featured a panel of nine state and local elected officials, economists and business leaders, who shared their professional insights while fielding hard-hitting questions about the political and economic impact of General Electric’s recent move to Massachusetts.
Moderated by veteran journalist Tom Appleby, the panel of guest speakers read like a veritable “Who’s Who” in local politics and included Rep. Cristin McCarthy-Vahey (D-133); Michael Tetreau, first selectman of Fairfield; Timothy Herbst, First Selectman of Trumbull; Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy and programs for The Business Council of Fairfield County; Mark LeClair, PhD, master of public administration director and professor of economics at Fairfield University; Senator Tony Hwang (R-28); Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134); Rep. Brenda Kupchick (R-132) and Ken Flatto, city of Bridgeport director of finance/CFO. Each speaker was given two minutes to present their opening remarks, which were followed by a question and answer session that dug deeply into community concerns regarding GE’s effect on the local economy, job market, tax increases and property value.
“The purpose of the MPA Summit is to bring citizens, students, public administrators, community leaders and state and local officials together to participate in a constructive dialogue on matters that directly affect our community,” said Gayle Alberda, PhD, assistant professor of public administration and politics. “Democracy works when we can gather as a collective – Republican, Democrat, elected official, citizen, private and public interest – and exchange ideas, ask tough questions, participate in the decision making process and most importantly, listen. We are excited to be able to offer this type of platform for intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.”
While Fairfield’s Master of Public Administration is one of the newer graduate degrees offered by the College of Arts and Sciences (the program launched four years ago in 2013), it has already had a significant impact on the community and the University. Directed by Professor of economics Dr. Mark LeClair, the program provides a unique mix of theoretical and practical training for graduates interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit or public sector. Courses emphasize theory, research and application in city and state government, nonprofits, healthcare management and private research, which are coupled with hands-on training in data analysis, organizational management and an understanding of the relationship between public and private sectors. The flexibility of the degree and its application to various opportunities in the global community greatly adds to its intrinsic value, especially for individuals who want to chart a unique professional experience that is both personally and financially rewarding.
“During their coursework, our MPA students can either take a nonprofit or state and local government track,” Dr. LeClair explained. “In both cases, our MPA graduates understand how nonprofits and government can work together, which is vital in today’s political and economic climate.”
As Fairfield’s MPA program continues to grow, Dr. LeClair and Dr. Alberda plan to expand its reach beyond the borders of Fairfield County by initiating new tracks in areas like public health management in order to meet the ever-changing demands of the public administrator market. As for the annual MPA summit, program administrators plan to continue using the public forum as a means to address important issues facing the community.
“We invite the community to continue to participate – asking questions, offering solutions, expressing concerns and listening to each other,” Dr. Alberda said. “We plan to expand engagement beyond Fairfield County and become a hub for state and local affairs.”
For more information on Fairfield University’s MPA program, visit www.fairfield.edu/mpa.