The Master of Public Administration degree was introduced at the University of Memphis
in 1971. It was placed within the Department of Political Science as a direct response
to a request by government leaders in Memphis and Shelby County to help to enhance
the professional capacity of public administrators in the region.
The program began with three concentrations: General Public Administration, Urban
Management and Planning, and Comparative Development Administration. Serving as
the principal medical center for a broad region that encompasses western Kentucky
and Tennessee, eastern Missouri and Arkansas, and northern Mississippi, the MPA program
soon responded to the needs of the health sector by adding a concentration in Health
Administration in 1975.
Growth and Change
Through the 1980s, the program’s health services concentration experienced strong
enrollments growing to become over two-thirds of the MPA program’s students. Faculty
members took the lead in developing a proposed Master of Health Administration degree
program in 1991. Although the creation of the new MHA had an initial negative effect
on student enrollment in the MPA, program changes undertaken by the Division began
attract new students. The faculty and students had a new mission.
Memphis area public and nonprofit community leaders had identified a need for graduate
level nonprofit administration education through program surveys and focus groups
in the early 1990s. Faculty members educated themselves through workshops, literature,
and consultants on the emerging field of nonprofit administration. As a result, a
Nonprofit Administration concentration was created in 1994 and linkages were made
to the University College’s Bachelors of Professional Studies program in nonprofit
development and administration. To further recognize the nonprofit emphasis of the
Program, Division faculty requested a name change to the Division of Public and Nonprofit
Administration (DPNA). The change was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents
in June 2001.
There was one other significant change affecting governance of the Program when the
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences appointed an ad hoc committee to consider
the development of a new interdisciplinary school related to urban issues and policy.
The school, titled the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy (SUAPP), was approved
as a unit within the College of Arts and Sciences by the Tennessee State Board of
Regents in June, 1999. The constituent units included the Department of Criminology
and Criminal Justice, the Division of City and Regional Planning (from the Department
of Geography), the Program in Health Administration (from the Department of Political
Science), the Program in Public Administration (from the Department of Political Science),
and the Division of Social Work (from the Department of Sociology).
The newly independent Division was assigned responsibility for two academic programs,
the MPA and the Bachelors of Science minor in Public Administration degree programs.
The divisions function with the same responsibilities as departments in the University.
Raising the MPA Program from a subunit within a Department of Political Science to
a primary program in a major University unit has increased its authority, control,
visibility, and stature.
The story of The University of Memphis MPA Program is one of continual assessment
of the local environment, community and regional needs, as well as national and global
trends. Program faculty members have responded and provided leadership in creating
new curricula and programs, engaging in personal professional development and directing
their research and outreach agendas to address local and national needs, opportunities
and changes in public and nonprofit administration. In the last five years, the Division
as added professional graduate certificates in Local and Nonprofit Management. The
Division has also embraced new technologies, and now offers fully online and hybrid
classes to meet the needs of Mid South learners. The mission of the Program and the
Division t continue to advance the primary foci of the University, engagement with
community and region in scholarship and instruction addressing urban issues.