Maxwell’s online Executive MPA program graduates inaugural class

At the end of December, 15 students in Maxwell’s online Executive Master of Public Administration program (EMPA) completed coursework and became the program’s first graduating class. The program, ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse, includes instruction in policymaking, organizational management, and decision making. The inaugural class consists of 15 leaders, innovators, and public servants — a diverse group of experienced professionals with a common commitment to drive change in their communities.

Launched in July 2017, ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse is designed to help advance the careers of experienced public service professionals. The program reinforces Maxwell’s global perspective by offering worldwide online access to Maxwell’s renowned faculty, educational resources, and alumni network. Students can complete the 30-credit degree, which includes multimedia course content and lively online discussion, in as few as 15 months.

The program’s first cohort arrived with diverse backgrounds, interests, and accomplishments. Within it were career public servants with 15 to 20 years of experience working in federal, state, or local government; and younger midcareer professionals (5-10 years’ experience) seeking the analytical framework and leadership skills necessary to succeed in the next stages of their careers. Close to 30 percent of students in the program possess military experience, including currently serving or veteran military professionals, many of whom aspire to transition out of the military into roles in local government or nonprofit organizations. The program also attracts private-sector professionals, some of whom are using the degree to transition into work with foundations, nonprofits, or other civil society organizations.

Many of the recently graduating students have already achieved degree-driven success. More than half have attained a promotion or a new position since starting the program. Many others have earned accolades through their coursework, research, or related capstone projects.

Part of the success of the program, says Nell Bartkowiak, ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse director, is that it fosters the sort of tight-knit, collaborative environment ordinarily associated with on-campus programs. “The sense of community created among these students in the online program is impressive and speaks to the enduring impact that Maxwell can have on our students, regardless of location or format,” says Bartkowiak. “Our faculty, the coursework, and the community created within the program is just as strong as that here on campus.”

While additional cohorts are now amid their degree progress, ExecutiveMPA@Syracuse continues to build toward the next incoming cohort. Maxwell faculty have adapted more than 10 courses offered fully online, designed and led by the same faculty who teach on campus, but with the benefit of an advanced virtual campus platform that is accessible to the students 24/7.  Meanwhile, recent marketing campaigns have generated increased inquiries and interest from prospective students. Bartkowiak expects the program to build toward annual admissions of 50-60 new students.   The program’s success has provided a proof of concept for this type of instructional model moving forward.  Among online programs currently in development are a Certificate of Advanced Study in Conflict Resolution, offerings in non-profit management, and the consideration of an expansion of the School’s new data-analytics study track to an online platform.

Bartkowiak credits the inaugural class with helping Maxwell ensure the successful launch of the online EMPA.  “This is truly a remarkable group of individuals who have worked hard to be successful in their coursework,” she says, and “whose feedback has been invaluable to improving the program for those students who will follow.”