POLS 331: Public Administration

Fall 2008

DU 252

Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-10:45 a.m.


Professor:  Kimberly Nelson, Ph.D.

Office:  211 IASBO Building                                                 Phone: 815-753-6146

Email:  klnelson@niu.edu                                                   Office hours: Tuesday 2:00-3:00

                                                                                                            and by appointment


Goals and objectives of the course:

This course is designed as a broad introduction to public administration.  Public administration differs from many other areas in academia in that it has a strong practical component.  POLS 331 will introduce students to both the theoretical and practical sides of public administration.  Among the topics we will cover this semester are major theories of management, the policy process, and the relationship between politics and administration.

Upon completion of the course, students will have a general understanding of the history and practice of public administration.  Students will also learn basic concepts from the fields of public budgeting, human resources, and strategic management.


Required Texts:

Shafritz, J. M. and E. W. Russell.  2008 Introducing Public Administration (6th Edition).  New York: Pearson Longman.

Frederickson, H. George, 1997.  The Spirit of Public Administration. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Other readings are available via Blackboard.


Course Requirements:

Examination 1                                                                                                                           20%

Examination 2                                                                                                                           20%

Examination 3                                                                                                                           20%

Book Review                                                                                                                             20%

Homework (4 @ 5% each)                                                                                                    20%




The examinations will be in-class (dates are listed on the schedule).  The exams are not comprehensive.  Exams will have a mixed format which may include, but not be limited to, multiple choice, definitions, short answer, and true/false questions.  Make-up exams will only be given in extreme emergencies and only with prior notice to Professor Nelson.  An unexcused absence on the date of an exam will result in a score of zero for that exam.

Exam grades will not be curved.  In lieu of a curve, students will have the opportunity to correct their exams and return them at the next class meeting.  Students submitting corrected exams will receive ½ of the points missed added to the exam grade.


Book Review

Students must write a review of the George Frederickson book, The Spirit of Public Administration.  An evaluation sheet and instructions for the book review are available on Blackboard.  We will discuss the assignment in greater detail during the first week of classes. The book review is due October 16 during class.  No late book reviews will be accepted unless there is a documented emergency. 



Homework assignments are found on Blackboard in a single document entitled “Exercises & Case Studies”.  Due dates are listed on the course schedule. Each student must complete at least four of the homework assignments.  If a student chooses to do so, he/she may submit one extra homework assignment; the lowest grade will then be dropped. 



I will take attendance for every class period.  It is important that you attend class as much as possible in order to effectively learn the material presented.  Those students with perfect attendance at the end of the semester will receive 5 points (1/2 a letter grade) added to their final course grade.


Submission of Assignments: All homework assignments and the book review are due on the date listed on the course schedule.  A hard copy of the assignment must be submitted at the beginning of class on the due date.  Additionally, students must upload an electronic version of their assignments through Blackboard using SafeAssign.  If you are using Word 2007, you will have to save the file in an earlier version of Word for successful upload.  You will not receive credit for the assignments unless you submit both in hard copy and SafeAssign form.  Please see the professor if you have questions.


A = 90-100; B = 80-89; C = 70-79; D = 60 – 69; below 60 = F

Late assignments will only be accepted with a valid, documented excuse and will receive a deduction of 5 points per day. 


Academic Integrity: Students are required to adhere to NIU’s code of student conduct for academic integrity.  Violations will result in a failed grade on the assignment and possibly the class.  You are expected to ensure that all assignments submitted for a grade reflect substantially your own work, that work submitted under your name is substantially original, and that you have understood and learned the competencies in each assignment and not relied primarily on the knowledge of others.  Students whose work is substantially plagiarized from others will receive a ‘0’ on that assignment or exam.  If you are unclear of what actions constitute plagiarism, please see me.


Students with Disabilities: If you are a student with a disability, please meet with me so that I can arrange accommodations.

Class Schedule:

This schedule is subject to change.  Some links may have changed since preparation of this syllabus.




Aug. 26



Aug. 28

Context of public administration

Chapter 1

Be prepared to discuss the think piece on end of chapter case study—see Blackboard for case and the USA Patriot Act

Sept. 2

Public Policymaking & Power

Chapter 2

Sept. 4

Lindblom, “The Science of Muddling Through” on Blackboard

Sept. 9

The Machinery of Government & Bureaucratic Reform

Chapter 3 pp. 83-104

Svara & Nelson, “Taking Stock of the Council Manager Form at 100” on Blackboard

Optional—Judd & Swanstrom—Reform Government—on Blackboard

Sept. 11

Chapter 3 pp. 104-130 

On Blackboard—Posner “Accountability Challenges of 3rd Party Government”

Homework Assignment—Analysis of Posner Chapter

Sept. 16

Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Chapter 4

Homework—State-Local Relations (due 9/16)

Sept. 18

Wright, “Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations”—available on Blackboard

Review for Exam #1

Sept. 23


Sept. 25

Class Canceled—SECOPA Conference 

Sept. 30

Ethics and Accountability

Chapter 5

ICMA Code of Ethics: http://www.njmma.org/ethics.pdf

Homework Assignment—To Tell the Truth (due 9/30)

Oct. 2

Oct. 7

Organization Theory

Chapter 6

Oct. 9

Simon, “The Proverbs of Administration”—on Blackboard

Homework Assignment: Too Many Theories of Management (10/9)

Oct. 14

Organization Behavior

Chapter 7

Oct. 16

Book Review is Due (10/16)

Oct. 21

Managerialism & Performance Management

Chapter 8

Oct. 23

Review for Exam #2

Oct. 28

Exam #2

Oct. 30

Strategic Management & Government Regulation

Chapter 9

Read the strategic planning case study for October 30.  Found on Blackboard in the Assignments folder.

Nov. 4


Chapter 10

Gurwitt, “How to Win Friends and Repair a City” on Blackboard

Nov. 6

Homework Assignment: Bases of Power

Nov. 11

Personnel/Human Resources Management

Chapter 11

Nov. 13

Nov. 18

Social Equity—Discrimination

Chapter 12

Homework Assignment—Sexual Harassment Case Study

Nov. 20

Financial Management

Chapter 13

Nov. 25

Growth & Taxes—Taxes in the States—On Blackboard

Illinois State Budget:  http://www.state.il.us/budget/

DeKalb City Budget: http://www.cityofdekalb.com/Downloads/DownloadPage.htm

Nov. 27

Thanksgiving Break

Dec. 2

Program Evaluation

Chapter 14

Read GAO reports (2) on Blackboard—FEMA & Government Performance

Dec. 4

Last Class—Review for Final

Dec. 11

Final Exam  10:00-11:50