Advising in the MPA Program at the University of North Florida includes at least five elements.
Immediately after your acceptance in the MPA program, it is important that you do at least three things:
- Graduate School's Online Orientation, Graduate Student Handbook, and Admitted Students web pages. The Graduate School has an online orientation for graduate students, as well as a shorter list of topics for students to review after admission, and prior to starting classes. These sources provide a range of information about the broader context of study here at the University of North Florida.
- Graduate School's Student Loans page. The Graduate School strongly advises all students to fill out and submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, even if you do not anticipate needing loans. If you change your mind, costly delays can be prevented by having a completed FAFSA on file.
- MPA web page. The MPA program webpage has other information (beyond this Advising page) intended to provide students with a range of information specific to the MPA program. This includes career opportunities, curriculum, faculty backgrounds, funding sources, and various other resources.
Second: Self advising
Within the structure provided by the curriculum and scheduling, students make their own decisions regarding what to take when. The program curriculum (with checklist) is available online, and updated 2-3 year projected course offerings are sent out each semester. This should facilitate student planning. myWings also makes it easy for students to check their academic progress (though the 'audit' function isn't always accurate!), as well as to enroll for classes.
So it is the student's responsibility to know the curriculum, and to have a plan for completion. We do make an effort to get students graduated on their timing if our schedule doesn't permit that. However this only applies if the student has taken classes when offered.
'Normal load'. There is no normal load, or standard progression through the program. Generally students follow one of the following models:
- One class per semester. Perhaps 10% of our students take one class per semester. These generally work full time, have family and social obligations, are comfortable in their careers, and so are not in a hurry. It can take 4-5 years to finish.
- Two classes per semester. Students who work full time and have family obligations find that two classes per semester (and one per summer semester) keeps them busy. These generally finish within three years.
- Three classes per semester. Students who work part-time find three classes per semester to be feasible. They finish in two years.
- Four classes per semester. Full-time students find this load challenging, but manageable. Note that you will likely have classes every evening, Monday through Thursday. It can also be hard to complete a concentration (especially local government or public policy) in this compressed time frame. These students finish in a year and a half.
- Go with the flow. Many students vary: take two classes, find it manageable and so try three. Or take three classes if one is online. Or take a semester off due to work or family issues. Again, there is no set load, and progress is up to the student.
- Don't overdo it. One of the most common causes of failure in the UNF-MPA is over-zealous students taking more classes than they can handle. Especially then if they do not withdraw in time, a couple of early grades of 'F' will make graduation impossible. So especially be conservative when starting.
Core courses. Core courses are offered annually, except for PAD 6060 (the introductory course in the program), which is offered both Fall and Spring semester (enrollments permitting).
The current rotation for core courses is as follows:
Fall -- PAD 6060, PAD 5700, PAD 6417, PAD 6436
Spring -- PAD 6060, PAD 6227, PAD 6106, PAD 6066
Summer -- PUP 6006 (a six week, online intensive class: clear the decks!)
Other core course tips:
PAD 6060 is the introductory, gateway course to the program, and should be taken very early, preferably in the first semester of study.
PAD 5700 is a pre-requisite for some other classes, and so taking it early is also a good idea to avoid bottlenecks later.
PAD 6066 (Capstone) should be taken in the last Spring semester you expect to be in the program. So if you expect to finish your required credits in the Fall, take Capstone in the preceding Spring.
Nonprofit certificate and concentration. Nonprofit certificate students want to finish this program in a year, and there is high demand for these classes. As a result, all required Nonprofit Concentration and Certificate classes are offered annually. The current rotation is as follows:
Fall -- PAD 6142 Nonprofit Management
Spring -- PAD 6208 Nonprofit Financial Management
Summer -- PAD 6164 Nonprofit Stakeholder Relations (a six week, online intensive class: clear the decks!)
Note that we rotate some classes in at the Jesse Ball duPont Center, a new nonprofit hub for Jacksonville. Check the course rotation for details.
Health administration concentration. Classes for the Health Administration concentration are offered by the Masters in Public Administration program through the Brooks College of Health. As a result, these courses are also offered annually. The current rotation for required courses is as follows:
Fall -- HSA 6435 Health Economics
Spring -- HSA 6114 Health Organization and Delivery (also offered fall, but Brooks prefers UMP students take it in spring)
Summer -- HSA 6905 Health Policy
Local government. The Local Government concentration can be completed within two years, rather than one. As a result, students in this concentration should prioritize these classes (even over core courses) when they are offered.
Public policy. Like Local Government, this concentration will also be scheduled to be completed in two years, rather than one. Again, it will therefore be imperative to take these classes when they are offered.
National security. Concentration courses are taken through the Naval War College's Fleet Seminar program, available only to serving Navy officers, officers from other uniformed services, and some senior federal personnel. Admission to the Fleet Seminar program must be applied for through the Naval War College.
Graduation! You must formally apply to graduate. You do this online, through Mywings. There will be reminders sent out about this. If you forget, contact the MPA Director, we've been able to get people graduated as late as a week before the ceremony.
Third: the MPA Director
The third element of UNF-MPA advising involves the MPA Director, who is the formally assigned adviser to all UNF-MPA students. The MPA Director should be consulted whenever self-advising fails, or when there are any questions that the above steps cannot answer. These questions might include program admission, waitlist approvals, registration level restriction over-rides, transfer credits from other institutions, verification of substituted classes, beating my head against the wall to bend a pesky UNF rule, etc. Keep records (copies of emails) of all important communications with the MPA program regarding class substitutions. I do this, but do so yourself as a backup.
As indicated, this element of UNF-MPA advising involves the MPA Director. While maintaining the intellectual integrity of the MPA program is our first priority, we do practice what we preach and remember that the program exists to serve students, not the other way around.
Student number, and previous thread. Please provide your student number (if you don't use your UNF email) on all advising related communications. As well, include the most recent conversations (email thread) that we have had on the issue.
Make a plan. Between the Checklist and the projected class schedule (updated and sent out each semester) you should be able to project a schedule to completion of the MPA. Do this to ensure you are taking needed classes when offered.
Fourth: the MPA community
The fourth, and most important part of UNF-MPA advising, involves career planning. You should aim to learn as much as possible from the MPA experience, as well as to take courses that will position you as strongly as possible for the career direction you are aiming for. Also develop your professional skills: work on your resume, develop interviewing skills, learn professional culture, continue to refine your writing, attend public talks, council meetings, keep up with the news, etc.
This element of UNF-MPA advising involves the MPA Director, the entire Department faculty, fellow students, community stakeholders, and other contacts. Individuals who share your interests will be best able to advise you within specialized areas.
Fifth: keep in touch!
Please keep in touch. Especially for those of you looking for work, upon graduation you'll fall off of the MPA mailing lists. Join our Facebook page, as we forward job leads there, among other things. For those of you who have found the career that you entered the MPA program for, please become part of the community described in the fourth step, and help us mentor and facilitate the professional careers of current students.
Please contact us if you have any questions.