Public Administration: Managing for the Public Good

Public Administration: Managing for the Public Good

Posted: May 1, 2013

As a manager, how do you perform successfully if your employer isn’t trying to make money?

Public sector organizations, which include governments and governmental agencies at all levels, and not-for-profits operate differently than for-profit enterprises. The master’s in public administration (MPA) in in public and nonprofit management at Buffalo State provides such professionals with the skills they need to succeed.

About 110 students are enrolled in the M.P.A. this semester, up from about 25 in fall 2011. “The program’s rapid growth attests to the demand for it,” said Keith Henderson, professor of political science. “It helps administrators in the public and not-for-profit sectors do their jobs well in a challenging environment.”

The M.P.A., which is directed by Laurie Buonanno, professor of political science, offers two concentrations: nonprofit administration and public administration. Henderson coordinates the public administration option, which meets the needs of government employees, including elected officials. Angelo Conorozzo is coordinator of the nonprofit administration option.

“We have distinguished ourselves by meeting the demands of professionals working at not-for-profits,” said Conorozzo. “The MPA is like an MBA designed for the public and not-for-profit sectors.” He explained that success in a for-profit organization is measured by financial gain, and is accountable to shareholders.

“However, in a not-for-profit organization,” he said, “accountability is measured differently. You assess how you achieve your mission, how you use your resources, and how well you satisfy your consumers and constituents.” Conorozzo cited many examples of not-for-profits, including the United Way, People Inc., and cultural organizations such as the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

Henderson, who holds a doctorate in public administration, served in Los Angeles city government before embarking on his career in higher education. “In many places, government officials are expected to have graduate degrees in public administration,” he said. He believes that Buffalo State’s MPA program is especially strong because it emphasizes the need to provide services more efficiently.

Janet Penksa, who earned an MPA from SUNY Binghamton before completing her Ph.D. at the University at Buffalo, is now teaching in the program. She served as commissioner of administration, finance, policy, and urban affairs in the City of Buffalo from 2007 until 2012, when she accepted a position as executive director of the Jacobs Institute.

During her career at City Hall, the need for people with MPAs was recognized. “Locally, we didn’t have the pool of MPA graduates that other regions have,” said Penksa. “The mayor charged me and the commissioner of human resources to address that issue.” That led to a meeting between City Hall and Buffalo State faculty members, and a graduate certificate program was designed. The master’s program in public administration was launched in fall 2011, and Penksa became one of the instructors.

“A lot of our students come from county government,” said Penksa. “It’s an excellent continuing education program for executives from the government and from not-for-profits.” 

Stanton Hudson, president of the board of trustees of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, has served on the boards and committees of more than 40 not-for-profits locally, regionally, and nationally.

“I believe what Albert Einstein said, 'Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,'” said Hudson. He was looking for a meaningful advanced degree program, and he found it in the MPA program.

“I thought it could help me be a better leader,” he said.  

Hudson said that the not-for-profit world is changing, and he expects the MPA to help him implement that change. “Everybody is having to do more with less,” he said. “It’s important to match a not-for-profit’s mission with the individuals and entities that support it.” Human capital is changing, too, as new generations join both the paid and volunteer ranks of not-for-profits. “I’m learning a great deal about how to help people embrace change,” he said.

“This is a very practical program,” said Henderson. “It’s oriented toward practitioners who will put their skills to work for the public good.”

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