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The Clemson University MPA program undertakes regular internal and external assessments of all program features. A spring 2018 student survey was conducted using the online survey platform, Survey Monkey. This survey evaluated student perceptions of strengths and weaknesses in four primary areas:

  • Overall program perceptions
  • Existing specializations
  • Advising needs
  • Technology needs and requirements

Overall Program Perceptions

Ninety-one percent of students indicated the MPA program was important for their career success. This response has shown steady growth over the last six years (Figure 1).  The 2018 results related to overall program perceptions remain consistently high. Also, a key positive fact emerges from our students: all would recommend the Clemson MPA program. When compared to the 2017 survey, there was a slight increase (97%). These results are consistent with the last five years, with results of over 85% consistently.

Overall Program PerceptionsSeveral highlighted comments on the value of the Clemson MPA program include:

  • “My degree will help propel me into local government administration which is my career goal.”
  • “With this degree I can have a better chance of getting the jobs I want, make a better wage and have the knowledge to get things done.”
  • “Having an MPA from Clemson University is an important step for career advancement. The next step is understanding how to use it and all the knowledge and experience gained to earn it.”

When asked about core coursework opinions, students reveal a wide range of perceptions on which courses hold the most value. There is no clear trend regarding which are the favorite or more useful core courses. The majority of students found the core courses relevant. The diversity of profiles in the MPA student body reflect the different preferences for different core courses. Some examples are: 

  • “Research methods and data analysis because it provides vital tools for working and understanding the public sector.”
  • “Personnel Administration covered many topics that I never experienced in the military and Admin Leadership allowed me to learn from others within the class.”
  • “Public Data Analysis; I've learned …how to better analyze and present data relative to research performed at my job.”
  • “I have found tremendous value in every class I have taken at Clemson…. Which two classes I do feel are critical to success in Public Administration- Financial Management and Personnel Administration.”

Existing SpecializationsExisting Specializations

Survey results indicate that existing MPA specializations attracted over half (57%) of the current student body. However, there are also a significant number of students indicating that specializations were not a factor for choosing Clemson MPA program (43%).
A strength of the program lies in the diversity of professional and academic interests across our student body. Figure 2 illustrates this, as these results reveal a broad interest in different specializations, with many students indicating an interest in a hybrid mix of elective courses, a preference revealed by 32% of the respondents. From this, an essential element emerges: the MPA program is capable of attracting students with a broad interest in Public Administration, and that interest is not concentrated in one or even a few areas.

Value of a Clemson MPA

All students who responded to the survey would recommend the MPA program to their friends or colleagues. More than 70% of respondents strongly agreed that they are satisfied with the education received in Clemson’s MPA program, and 27% agree (Figure 3). Only 2% remained neutral to this statement, with no respondent disagreeing.  The reasons provided by students vary, but there is, overall, contentment with the professors and staff and the uniqueness of Clemson’s live online education. Examples of comments include:

  • “The professors, staff, and others related to the program were outstanding and it was an incredible experience! My fellow students also challenged me and as someone with a doctorate, the experience was probably one of my most worthwhile Educational achievements."
  • “I feel the value of the MPA is competitive with other universities and I truly have learned something in every class. I have taken other master's classes from other Universities and did not feel the same….I see the value or I would have made a different decision...good things are on the horizon”.
  • “With such amazing faculty and staff in the MPA program, I have had such a positive experience and continue to value the education and knowledge I am able to gain from faculty, staff, and peers.”

Advising NeedsAdvising Needs

A clear majority of respondents (87%) believe their advising needs and questions have been met in a timely and effective manner. This metric has improved from last year’s survey (80%).  However, there is some room for improvement in this area. Some students’ suggestions were:

  • “I feel that during advising it would be nice to look out further than the next semester. Having a full plan up front with changes along the way would make it more comfortable.”
  • “A virtual chat for advising could be very helpful, but I have found email to be a very fast and effective means of communication so far (particularly emailing with Bianca or Carolyn).”
  • “I have had some confusion about which classes meet which requirements. Those questions have all quickly been answered but maybe presenting that better online.”

Technology Needs and Requirements

According to student responses, technology is one of the most central components of the program. Ninety percent of respondents were attracted to the MPA program because of the synchronous, online platform; this metric increased compared to the previous year where 83% mentioned the synchronous platform as an attraction. Most students (92%) agreed that the MPA IT staff and proctors are a critical resource for the MPA program. This sentiment remained stable when compared to the results of our 2017 survey.

Regarding Zoom, the newly implemented synchronous online learning platform, the overall opinion is very favorable. Student responses indicate that almost all (98%) strongly agrees or agrees that it is an effective and user-friendly way of communication. The same number of respondents (98%), also agrees or strongly agrees with the idea that Zoom enhances the overall learning environment of MPA courses (Figure 4).

Technology Needs and RequirementsAlmost 64% of students agreed they were sufficiently trained for the transition from Adobe Connect to Zoom. However, 20% strongly disagreed with this statement. Ensuring effective program changes and transitions is a key area for future program improvement. Regarding students thoughts on this transition, there were some suggestions:

  • “I experienced a bit of technical difficulty with Zoom trying to play the sound of a video for a class presentation in Zoom. The use of videos displayed during classes could be used in a meaningful way."

There is a generally positive perception about MPA professors’ use of Canvas. While most of the students’ responses agree with the statement that professors effectively use this tool, 10% of students strongly disagree with this idea. There is further room for improvement in faculty use of Canvas, along with the effective use of Zoom.  There were some suggestions by the students:

  • “I would greatly appreciate if all of the instructors would use Canvas to post grades throughout the semester so that I know my standing and the reasons for my grade. Some do a great of this, but others post almost nothing about grades.”

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, survey results reveal that the MPA program is doing many things well and improving in identified areas from previous year’s surveys. MPA Program staff and faculty has been and will continue to dedicate themselves to responsiveness in advising and meeting student information needs. Continuous improvement in advising and consistency in use of our online learning management tools will continue to be important goals. Ongoing assessment of the program will ensure that the Clemson MPA program continues to deliver quality academic programming to all students.

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Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management department has appointed Lori Dickes as its associate chair. Dickes, who has served as assistant professor in the department and program director of Clemson’s master of public administration program, will work to further establish the growing department’s strategic direction and aid it in achieving its research ambitions. Read More

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Friends at MPA Spring FlingThe MPA Spring Fling has become an annual tradition for the Clemson MPA program. Spring 2016 brought in warmer weather and the opportunity for Clemson MPA students to get together with classmates, staff and faculty. This year’s events included the following fun activities:

This was truly a wonderful day full of learning, networking, and coming together as a Tiger family to celebrate our thriving program. There is no doubt this annual tradition will continue to be a can’t-miss event year after year. 

Be sure to check back for more information on the 2017 MPA Spring Fling. 

MPA Spring Fling Funny Hats   MPA Spring Fling Funny Hats    MPA Spring Fling