by Tom Parisi
The public administration program at NIU, which has produced about one -third of all Illinois city managers, continues to shine in national rankings.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) program third nationally in the specialty field of city management and urban policy.
That’s one notch better than NIU’s previous position in the magazine ranking of graduate schools. It’s also ahead of programs at all public and private institutions in Illinois and at such prestigious schools as USC, Syracuse and the University of North Carolina.
“Public Administration continues to be one of our premier programs at NIU,” said Provost Raymond Alden. “It’s also a program that has had a tremendous positive effect on the quality of life for people in the northern Illinois region and beyond.”
A division of the NIU Department of Political Science, the MPA program is one of the oldest in the state and is recognized internationally for its excellence. NIU faculty and alumni have played a major role in efforts to professionalize municipal staffs statewide and advance the national good government movement.
The university has a long tradition of working closely with Illinois communities, including the nearby Chicago suburbs, which are natural consumers of the MPA program’s graduates. NIU alums are at the administrative helms of such cities as Bartlett, Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Deerfield, Hoffman Estates, Lake in the Hills, Oak Brook, Oak Brook Terrace, Rock Island, Rockford, Schaumburg, St. Charles, Streator, Warrenville, Western Springs and Willowbrook.
“Our program has flourished, thanks to strong efforts by our faculty, quality students, support from the university administration and support from our alumni, who have been very successful,” said Distinguished Teaching Professor Gerald Gabris, director of the NIU Division of Public Administration.
The U.S. News rankings, which came out this past spring, also ranked NIU’s MPA program 13th nationally in the specialty of public finance and budgeting.
“Our program is considered to be a well-rounded, with major strengths in urban management and financial management,” Gabris said. “Most of our students want to be city administrators. That’s our calling card.
“We also hope to further develop the non-profit management component of our program, for students who want to work for non-governmental organizations,” he added. “The demand is there.”
The Division of Public Administration boasts one of the top internship programs in the country, placing future city managers in suburban internship experiences. Throughout its history, the MPA program has had nearly a 100 percent placement rate. That means that within six months of graduation, nearly all of the graduates have landed jobs.
While job placements can’t be accomplished through accolades alone, the U.S. News rankings serve as important indicators to employers. They are also extremely competitive.
“We compete quite well against universities that spend a lot of money on their programs. Most have developed entire schools of public administration,” Gabris said. “We hope to eventually move in that direction as well, creating a school of public and international affairs at NIU.”