Webinar: MPA State and Local Government Management

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Hello everyone and welcome to our MPA State and Local Government Management Webinar. Thank you so much for joining us today. A couple of items I would like to point out to you all before we get started into the topic and the meat and potatoes of today’s webinar. You will see on your screen a Q&A section for you to begin inputting questions that you might have. As we go we will give a little bit of time towards the end of today’s presentation to allow for questions. Please note that if we do not get to all of your questions during the live webinar, we will however respond to them if you update that Q&A section and input your question. Also what you’re seeing on your screen of social media buttons that you can share the presentation with anyone you would like to LinkedIn so on and so forth feel free to use those to share the webinar.

So let’s go ahead and get started. The intros today. My name is Aili Byng. I am an enrollment advisor with Ohio University. We have you see here Dr.Jolley and he is unable to attend today, he is on our slide. Fortunately but we have Dr. Marsha Lewis and Dr. Ruhil with us. Dr. Lewis is our Senior Associate Dean and one of our online MPA professors and Dr.Ruhil is also one of our MPA professors. Dr. Lewis if you don’t mind introducing yourself briefly to our attendees, a little bit of your background.

LEWIS: Sure, thanks Aili. Again my name is Marsha Lewis and I’ve been on the faculty here at the Voinovich School since we started offering the MPA program. I’ve worked at Ohio University for 27 years and doing applied research in just this area that we’re talking about today, state and local government and working with governments at all levels and my background and expertise is in program evaluation and performance measurement. I teach a lot of methods courses in the program as well as program evaluation and performance measurement. I look forward to talking with folks today and answering any questions that that you may have.

AILI: Thank you so much Dr. Lewis. And Dr. Ruhil, if you don’t mind introducing yourself to our attendees, a little bit of background.

RUHIL: Sure Aili. So as just like Dr. Lewis, I teach in our MPA program, which you already mentioned. And in fact Dr. Lewis and I, we both of us teach the the MPA 6010 which is one of the first methods courses the introduces students to the basics of statistics, data analytics from an applied perspective using Excel. So she and I teach that course on a rotation basis and then I also teach another course towards the tail end of the program which is MPA 5830 which is a I guess a more hands on analytics focused course and less statistics necessarily. So we do a little bit of data visualization mapping and then trying to look at some datasets and answer some interesting questions. And I teach these courses largely because ever since I have been at the school which has been, oh god, I think almost 15 years now, I have been working again with Dr. Lewis for the most part on a lot of program evaluations for state and local agencies. The bulk of these have been in the area of education, K12, some post-secondary as well but then of late we’ve been doing a lot more health work as the Opioid crisis and other challenges for example Medicaid expansion, what does it mean for rural, non-rural folks. It’s our state and then given I guess my experience with data, I get roped in every now and then when there’s a need to take a look at some data or there’s some quirk in the data that needs to be pieced out.

AILI: Very good. Thank you so much for sharing. As you can see ladies and gentlemen two very experienced experts that are going to be speaking to you today and that you will be learning from as you go through our MPA and are with us for the next couple of years. So let’s go ahead and get started. Dr. Lewis, if you don’t mind we will start with you. Why would you say one of our attendees should choose the online MPA?

LEWIS: Well we. There are a number of reasons as you can imagine that I could list for that but we have been working and delivering the MPA program across a variety of platforms for many, many years. We we started the online MPA program based on the need that we were seeing for in-service professionals people who were working, wanted to advance their credentials, wanted to continue to advance in the field working with public and nonprofit agencies in some capacity. So we developed that based on working with our in-service professionals in our executive program. Our executive program is part online and then part residency and we were hearing from folks that the residency component. It prohibited them from participating and from getting this important credential and so we developed the online MPA program in response to that. Our online MPA program is different than than many that you’ll see and and I can talk just about a couple of those differences today. One is our core faculty that who teach in our on-campus program, who teach in our executive program, we also teach in the online program. We developed all the courses. We deliver the courses. You’re going to. Your faculty members in each of your courses will either be core faculty here at Ohio University in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs or they will be seasoned professionals, who are experts in their area, who teach across all of our platforms. So we don’t use facilitators. We don’t farm out courses to adjuncts who only teach in our executive program. We keep our executive or online program core faculty connected to students and we get to know you over the course of the two years.

So we just had, we just had commencement here at Ohio University. Now course not all of our online MPA graduates can come to commencement. You’re welcome to come. Some people who were close enough to drive in certainly did come and we felt like we knew them even though we’ve never met them. We knew their kids names and their pets names and we knew all about them because we have so much interaction with our online students in some ways. Ani and I both teach in the on-campus program, in the executive program, in the online program and in many ways we actually have way more interaction with online students. So if you’re in an on-campus program, you might say oh I’m not going to reach out to Dr. Ruhil, I’ll see him on Tuesday. I’ll ask him this on Tuesday. Well and when you’re in the online program you can ask him that anytime and he and then you can strike up a conversation with him about whatever topic that is. And so we think there’s so much engagement with our faculty and the fact that these are core faculty. These are associate professors and professors that have reached the highest sort of academic credentials that are teaching in the program. We’re also nationally ranked. We’re twelve and one category. One particular ranking of public affairs online programs. We’re twelve in SR Research Group’s 2019 rankings. Our MPA program in general is ranked very highly in US News and World Report. You’re getting a quality program and many most of us almost every faculty member that you will engage with in the program is also working in the field. We are working with agencies. We’re working with local governments. I just met with two mayors yesterday afternoon. So when you’re working with us you’re working with people who know what’s going on in the field currently, not what was going on in the field 20 years ago. And so I think those are all sort of key components of why Ohio University’s MPA program is one that you want to to be a part of.

AILI: Thank you so much for that Dr. Lewis. It’s it’s very very valuable that you hit on a couple of points that we get questions on all the time from prospective students. You are prospective students are engaging with professors. It is not being farmed out. Thank you so much for reinforcing that point and it is practical coursework. That you’re going to be using from today moving forward not something that is strictly pure theory and certainly not something that is from 20 years ago. The world changes and today it feels like it’s changing much more quickly than ever before and we are keeping up with the changes here at Ohio University and specifically Voinovich with our MPA. So thank you so much for that Dr. Lewis. Dr. Ruhil. if you don’t mind sharing a little bit with our attendees on why a student should choose the state and local government specialization that’s starting this Fall.

RUHIL: Certainly so I forget how long back but I know it’s at least gosh three or four decades if not more that in a case Justice Louis Brandeis had made this comment about in his in his opinion he basically said something along the lines of you know the states are these laboratories of democracy and what he was getting at is the fact that look states can experiment with innovative solutions in the social, cultural, economic and other domains without endangering the fiscal health or the general health of the nation, right. Because you experiment, something works.

For example let’s say oh we have a lottery that gets that comes back in New Hampshire in 1962, let’s see if it makes sense in terms of a general revenue generation scheme. Other states might implement it as well. Excellent, but when you add on to the fact that we have 50 states a few territories but then some 19,000 local governments, which includes cities, towns, townships, villages, it includes counties, includes special-purpose governments now you’re talking about this massive landscape right, which is the closest possible to any citizen in terms of where government has an impact on their lives and so from our perspective. And looking at as you mentioned Aili, just a minute ago looking at the drastic and rapid changes in in health in economics, economic development in particular but then also in other spheres in the nation and around the world, it seems to be almost imminent that you know localities are going to have to start to deal with some of these challenges before anybody else can because they are nimble, they are small. And so we see apart from of course estimates that you know, the demand for city managers for example will grow by about ten percent between now and until 2022 and beyond or the fact that there are 19,000 plus local governments. I think just the the need for folks who are interested in making a difference, who come out with applicable skills, not textbook knowledge, but actual skills that they’ve learned from some excellent instructors, who do this work for a living and then putting those skills to use in either improving the lives of their fellow citizens or then setting benchmarks and other states and localities can actually emulate, right? I think that’s a tremendous opportunity right there for someone to step up to the plate and say look I don’t want to be a generalist, which by the way is what a lot of MPA graduates from programs around the country have tended to be when they finish. They are not experts in something. This particular tract is going to set you up well to go into local government with some concrete knowledge and some concrete skills in your toolkit that you can put to work from day one.

AILI: That’s excellent, thank you so much for that. I feel like in today’s world citizen engagement has really increased dramatically, especially with the advent of things like social media for example cities, townships as you mentioned counties they’re all on social media. It’s very easy for a citizen to engage with the mayor’s office for example in protests of something or to see something on one of the social media platforms and immediately communicate directly with the police or the Public Works Department of that city agency. Do you feel like focusing on that state and local governments specialization is helping the students take that skill set and move it forward into what remains of the 21st century and beyond, correct?
RUHIL: Yes, absolutely.

LEWIS: There’s so much innovation to be done at the state and local level and so having the skill set to understand what those structures and processes are to innovate and to really add value for citizens is really what this concentration is about.

RUHIL: It does and I think if I could quickly add Aili that you know what you just said also brings to light this example which are very recent of let’s say this the rise of facial recognition technology right? That for example if you’re leaving the country now even as a US citizen you, depending upon what airport you’re exiting from have a chance to have your metrics scan biometrics scanned and put into a database so instead of having to show a passport, you basically then just look into the camera and off you go. Immigrants are already having their biometrics scanned and read. So it brings up all these questions about privacy, data security in these in this day of data hacking. Saying so what my my should my data be used for and you’re seeing cities of the forefront really trying to wrestle with this question before the country, saying if I’m San Francisco okay, I think we’ve considered the issue and we think the initial approach would be to ban facial recognition technology. Other areas in Arizona for example there are cities that are saying no I think this is going to be very useful for curbing illegal immigration if we need to. Or even in other cases you keep letting elementary school kids out in California right? Have access to their parents faster because now if your parents biometrics are on file, we don’t need to worry about security, right? So I think so there are there even with the rapid rise in technology right and all the innovations there. There’s there’s tremendous opportunity for taking what this program will teach you and putting it to some excellent use.

AILI: Very well put. Thank you so much for that. So ladies and gentlemen, we’ll talk a little bit about the core curriculum. Here as you can see, our MPA works is that of the 12 total classes nine are in the core curriculum. These are the topics that you will be learning and obviously put them here just for informational purposes and then three of those twelve classes are going to be in your specialization. So it is in fact a true specialization. You’re not just taking one additional sort of random extracurricular class that you might not really need to be able to say that you’re learning something in addition to the main core courses. Here we take that very seriously about being a specialization and ensure that you are getting really valuable info. So let’s talk a little bit about what those concentration classes are going to be. So you’ll see here absolute necessity regardless of what you’re doing financial management and government is an absolute necessity in the real world in the real professional environment. But let’s talk a little bit about a little bit more in depth about the Civic Innovation and citizen engagement class and Dr. Ruhil if you can share a little bit about that with our attendees that would be really great, so they get an idea of what their going to be learning in this course.

RUHIL: Yes certainly Aili. So in the Civic Innovation and Citizen Engagement class you as the title suggests. You’re basically going to learn about the alternative ways in which citizens engage with the local system. And by local I’m also including states. In terms of policies and programs right? But then at the same time as a public administrator how how does this sort of civic engagement aspects to local governance, how does that come into play when shaping policies and programs right and trying to be of course innovative in terms of the solutions that are being generated. And so you learn about both the innovative strategies that a citizen might have available to them and we generally used used to refer to these as exit, voice, and loyalty. In other words saying that because local, you can move if you don’t like your school tax rate right? So now if the question is, I need a new school building I have to raise money for it. Well as in administrators to the administrator you might be doing the math along with financial management that you learned in the previous class trying to figure out, is this going to be a good policy decision or not, right? Or can we raise money in other ways because we’re going to see citizens protest. Now from a citizen perspective in the same class with the same issue, you might actually walk away understanding better you know what are the ways in which you can influence policy making. That you can shape it. Whether not just using the exit option of leaving for the next city, but instead by using your voice and then other mechanisms available to you. So we use a lot of case studies in these classes that teach this aspects to being a local citizen. We also talked a little bit about inclusion. And by inclusion as Dr. Lewis mentioned earlier, we pick up on what has always been an important issue, but has become increasingly important in this last decade. Where marginalized communities. How do you bring them to the table? How do you give them a voice? How do you give them representation? Not just by electing a minority mayor or a council person, right? Or somebody to the State House. But in terms of again the policies that we formulate that then translate into concrete programs that impact everybody’s lives and so we think that this is going to be a very interesting course in particular in the mix, along with the public sector innovation class that Dr. Lewis will talk about briefly.

AILI: Thank you Dr. Ruhil. So that’s a perfect segue. Dr. Lewis tell us a little bit about that public sector innovation in state and local government class.

LEWIS: Sure. This is this class we’re really excited about as well. This is really the the gist of state and local government in terms of the responsibility and the expanding scope and breadth of governance. And governance we’ll talk a lot about what the term governance means in the in sort of new governance perspective. And so this will talk about the structures that introduce people to the structures and processes, but also then how to manage those structures and processes and measure performance. And so there’ll be that specifically with the state and local government focus. I think that the innovation piece of this is really just wide open at this point. We’ve been doing a lot of work and we have expertise about smart government, smart cities, smart counties. What that means in terms of transportation systems, in terms of social systems, in terms of some of the things that Ani was talking about with technology. You know, what is what does it mean and how can we both in rural and urban settings make better lives and existences for people using what we know of technology and smart governance and so that’s a big piece of the innovation part of this and we’ll be talking about that. We’ll also talk a lot about the the sort of the new issues that state and local governments are dealing with. Some things that state and local governments really didn’t think much about before and some of those things are topics such as climate resiliency, where cities and counties and states are dealing with more floods and more issues related to environmental factors and and those kinds of things. And so that’ll be a piece of the innovation part of this course. We have expertise in that as well of course and as Ani said about the other course, this course will also be largely case based. We do a lot of case-based instruction here because cases are real. They are not the 12 steps of how to do X. They are this is exactly what happened to this county, who was trying to do this merger and we think that cases are rich learning environments and we have been trained in the case based model at Harvard. We’ve used that model very successfully. We’re constantly refreshing our cases. I just reviewed a case that we will use in this course about the merger of a city county health department. That doesn’t sound too interesting on face. But believe me it’s a very interesting case and it talks about change management, innovation, public-private partnerships, all the things that we have to know about when we’re work when we’re experts in state and local government. And so that’s just a taste of what that course will include. It’s going to be a rich course and it’s going to have sort of the foundational pieces, as well as, the innovation pieces in it.

AILI: That’s excellent. Thank you so much Dr. Lewis. I think it’s really important that we all recognize and we all understand there are differences, as you had mentioned with within even a state, on the differences between what could happen with the environmental situations. One part of a state may be more susceptible and therefore the city must plan for long term, I don’t know, rising of the ocean as a sea levels for example. How this course is really going to help both of these courses is really going to help train someone that is going to be employed by a city or county entity to really address even future potential concerns is so valuable in the long run for our students.

LEWIS: Yes, agreed. Emergency management and crisis management and those things are really at the forefront of people who are working in public sector organizations and and local and state government at this time and that was just one example of some of the sort of the innovations that we’ll be talked about in that course.

AILI: Very good and that gives me the opportunity to tell the students that are participating in the state and local government specialization webinar that we will be adding a new webinar. Thank you for that Dr. Lewis. We will be adding a new webinar here in the future for our upcoming concentration that we are adding to the MPA, which is going to be a crisis and emergency management. So these are, as you all can see we are taking into account forward-looking. Ensuring that our students are going to be getting the best possible outcomes for their professional careers. So let’s talk a little bit about the admissions process. we’ll be short and sweet on this. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, fairly obvious. Transcripts from all universities attended. A letter of intent or statement of purpose. A copy of your resume as updated as possible and then three letters of recommendation. I always get the question and either Dr. Lewis or Dr. Ruhil, if either one of you wants to answer this maybe Dr. Lewis answer, what do you generally speaking look for in a potential student?

LEWIS: Well for for the for this online program we look for some relevant work experience, even if it’s not been in a managerial position, but work experience that so people understand what public and nonprofit sector work is. So we’re not looking for people just coming out of an undergraduate program, unless they were non-traditional students in that undergraduate program where they had some work experience throughout their undergraduate program or before they finish their undergraduate program. So we’re looking for some students with some experience and with really a passion for the work of the public and nonprofit sectors. And we look we understand that from people’s letters of intent, personal statement, etc.

AILI: Very good. Thank you so much and Dr. Ruhil for you, the other question that I am always asked is, what is it that makes someone successful in this program? Do you think it’s, you know, someone who is very focused and sort of calendar reminder oriented? What is it that you see that makes people successful?

RUHIL: So I think, I think our advising team and then of course all of our instructors, Dr. Lewis and I included. Hopefully Dr. Lewis and I definitely included me, hopefully. We do a great job you know trying to put design the course and and the the course sort of environment that a student is embedded in in such a way that you know full well when something do, right? When are we having an online tutorial? But at the same time I think we also allow the student because this is after all an online program to take full control of their education. So in our eyes what ends up making a student successful is naturally someone who’s their grades when they came in or what their undergraduate major was or what kind of work experience they had. Provided that they had some work experience and they have a clear passion for public affairs and getting this MPA degree. What makes a student successful early is someone who says, you know, I have a busy life, but at the same time I’m going to keep my eyes on deadlines. I’m and I am going to take every opportunity that the instructors give me to reach out and ask questions. So all of our courses have this online sort of a platform that allows you to ask questions any time of the day. We have students sitting. I believe one of our students was on an army base out in Okinawa, Japan right. We had students on the west coast in Hawaii and so you can imagine the time differences. We do not let that get in the way. We encourage students to dash off a question because they happen to be reading a section that they have to read or trying their hands at an assignment that is due in a few days. Don’t wait until the weekend tutorial or a designated hour. Even if it is midnight you happen to be working on it dash it off. So that the program is really designed to let the student take control of their education and be an active learner. To us that really is the hallmark of a successful MPA graduate from us.

AILI: Very good thank you so much. I’m going to have you join all of my advising calls because that is really terrific advice. I have people asked about how they are going to manage their professional life, their personal life, and their student life and so I always tell them the best possible outcome is that your classes be first and foremost deadline-driven and secondly, available 24/7 and you addressed one of those points. Even if it’s midnight, do the homework and turn it in. The key to being deadline-driven is that it is important to have those assignments turned in before the deadline. A minute before the deadline or the day before the deadline is not quite as relevant as before. Would you agree with that statement Dr. Ruhil?

RUHIL: Absolutely, absolutely!

AILI: Very good. Thank you so much. So then ladies and gentlemen, we are keeping to my 30 minute commitment to give you a little bit of time back in your lunch hour. We may not get to all of the questions. Please go ahead and note them I will or one of us will respond to you after the fact, after the webinar. Please note the following important information, we do have three semester starts each year. January is for the spring semester. May is for the summer semester and Fall is in late August. Generally speaking deadlines fall about six weeks prior to those start dates. If you have any more information or questions that you want a little bit more specific answers to reach out to one of us. You’ll see here our contact information. The main admissions email address and phone number. You will be put in touch with one of our advisors. So again, thank you so much for attending. You get a little bit time back in your lunch hour. If you have input any of your questions, we promise you, we will get to them even after the fact. We will make sure an advisor reaches out to answer any of those questions. So thank you all for your attendance. Enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you!