Kristi Henderson
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

University of Kansas creates School of Public Affairs and Administration

Fri, 07/01/2011
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LAWRENCE — The top-ranked Department of Public Administration at the University of Kansas is now the School of Public Affairs and Administration, effective July 1.

“This is a big step toward enhancing an already impressive program,” said Provost Jeffrey Vitter. “As a department, KU’s public administration program has established a solid footing among the top 10 programs in the field. Its new designation as a school will greatly aid its continued climb in the rankings.”

Since 1998, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Master of Public Administration degree (MPA) in city management and urban planning at KU as first in the nation. The department is currently ranked alongside the University of Michigan at No. 7 in overall program rankings.

“The change of status from ‘department’ to ‘school’ reflects the reality of a full-service research and teaching enterprise in public administration,” said Danny J. Anderson, dean of the College. “Our program has been the only public administration program ranked in the top 10 not designated as a school or college. This new designation will further solidify the program’s reputation as a leader in the field of public administration.”

Because the department already functioned much like a school, it will not be restructured. The names of the degrees currently offered will not change. The school will maintain academic administration of degree programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels. The Public Management Center will remain a separate unit within the school.

The program will remain in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and will continue to be led by Marilu Goodyear as director of the school.

Of the other top 20 national programs, two are constituent parts of liberal arts colleges – at University of Wisconsin-Madison and George Washington University. The connection to the liberal arts is an integral part of KU’s program, Goodyear said.

“We prize our place in the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and our relationship to the social sciences,” she said. “Our school offers a unique combination of social science theory and practical application to public sector organizations. Our students are liberally educated and public service oriented, and our research speaks directly to public sector problems.”

The change was first proposed by an external review panel in 2008. In addition to the opportunity to enhance the program’s reputation, the panel also recognized many characteristics in the department that are common to schools in the discipline. These characteristics include offering baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees; professional education opportunities (through the Public Management Center based in Topeka and Overland Park); extensive connections with professional communities; and assistance in city management throughout the state, the United States and abroad.

The new designation was recommended unanimously by program faculty, endorsed by Vitter and approved by the Kansas Board of Regents in April.

The change of name from “public administration” to “public affairs and administration” reflects the legacy of education for committed public sector professionals who lead local governments and other public sector organizations (public administration) as well as the interdisciplinary contributions to the field of public affairs, recognized by broader academia and external funding agencies.

The school’s Edwin O. Stene Master's Program in Public Administration is one of the oldest and most respected programs in the United States educating local government managers. The school has its roots in the late 1930s and early 1940s when Edwin O. Stene in the Department of Political Science conducted seminars to aid practicing city managers in their professional development. In 1948, with support from the Carnegie Foundation, the first students enrolled in the MPA program established under the direction of Stene. Today the program serves students pursuing careers in city management and those seeking leadership positions in all public service organizations.

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