Gauging Alumni Perceptions of the Effectiveness of the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) Program at Texas State University-San Marcos in Meeting its Mission: A Follow-Up Study
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The Texas State University Master in Public Administration (MPA) graduate program is the setting of this research. According to its mission statement, the focus of the MPA program is to prepare students for careers as managers and leaders in public service. The primary purpose of this research is to survey alumni of the MPA program to obtain their perceptions of the program success in meeting its mission. The alumni survey serves two purposes. The first is to assess the effectiveness of the MPA program in meeting its mission based on the perceptions of alumni. Second, the research provides data that can be used in the MPA program 2009 re-accreditation self-study. This study is a follow-up to Cindy Cavazos's 2000 ARP, which surveyed graduates from 1991-1999 to gauge their perceptions of the MPA program in meeting its mission. Those findings indicated that, overall, alumni believed that the MPA program was successful in carrying out its mission. This recent survey was open to alumni to complete in the early fall of 2008. Recent alumni (graduated between 2002 and 2008), the group since the last self study, was the focus of the research. This group was made up of a total of 159 students, and 70 completed the survey. Of the alumni that graduated more than 7 years ago (pre-2002), 42 responded. The results of the present survey are compared to the survey findings from the research conducted in 2000. The results of the 2008 survey indicate that, overall, alumni are satisfied with the MPA program and believe the mission is being carried out. The items that showed a significant increase in satisfaction, as compared to the 2000 survey, are course work, applied research projects, networking opportunities, technology, emphasizing the central role of ethics in public service, providing professional and educational opportunities to a diverse student body, integrating theoretical and applied approaches to public management, and preparing students as managers and leaders in public service. The following were alumni recommendations to improve the MPA program at Texas State University: 1) Do more to prepare students for the Applied Research Project by introducing the conceptual framework and research methodology class earlier in the program, 2) Offer grant-writing classes, 3) Provide skills in oral communication (e.g., public speaking), 4) Do more to assist pre-service students and students to find employment and provide career advising as well as internship opportunities, 5) Provide more mentoring and networking opportunities for current students and alumni.