POLS 331: Public Administration

Spring 2010

DU 246

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 & Thursday 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 Text:

Garvey, Gerald, 1997.  Public Administration: The Profession and Practice (A Case Study Approach). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Balanoff, Howard (ed.), 2007.  Annual Editions: Public Policy and Administration.   Dubuque, IA: McGraw Hill Contemporary Learning Series.


Other readings are available via Blackboard.


Course Requirements:

Reading reflections (10 collected randomly throughout the semester)         10%

Midterm examination                                                                                                           20%

Final examination                                                                                                                   20%

Research project                                                                                                                     25%

        Outline and list of references (20% of project grade; 5% of course grade)

        Final paper (80% of project grade; 20% of course grade))

Case study submissions (2 @ 10% each)                                                                       20%

In-class exercises                                                                                                                      5%


Format:  All assignments should be typed in 12-point Times New Roman font.  They should be double-spaced with 1-inch margins.  Assignments are due on the date listed on the syllabus, in hard copy format, at the beginning of the class meeting.  In addition, all assignments (except for exam corrections) must be uploaded to SafeAssign via Blackboard (you have until the next class meeting to upload the assignment without penalty).  If you have technical difficulties with uploading to SafeAssign, contact ITS.  Assignments not submitted on time in hard copy format and uploaded to Blackboard will not be credited toward your grade.  All late assignments will receive a one-letter grade deduction per day late.  Please see me as soon as possible if you have questions or concerns about an assignment.


Reading reflections:

In lieu of taking daily attendance, throughout the semester, I will randomly collect a short writing assignment (students are required to complete this assignment for every class that has a reading assigned, though I will not collect them every time). For this assignment, you will type (not handwrite) three questions or points of clarification about the reading assignment for the day. In other words, Students will identify three things from the reading that they either found interesting or did not understand.  They will then summarize these items in 2-5 sentences. These will not be accepted late.



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 is 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 for the first exam will not be curved.  In lieu of a curve, students will have the opportunity to correct their exam and return the original exam and corrections at the next class meeting.  Corrections should be typed on a separate piece of paper.  For the multiple-choice questions, an explanation as to why the answer is correct is needed.  Students submitting corrected exams will receive up to ˝ of the points missed added to the exam grade. No late resubmissions will be accepted.  If you do not attend class the day the exams are handed out (and you do not have an excused absence) you will not have the opportunity to make the corrections.


Research Project

Each student must complete a research project (6-8 pages) that is due at the end of the semester.  The project consists of a preliminary outline and bibliography to be submitted in February and a completed paper that is due in April.  A grading rubric is available on Blackboard that explains how the assignment will be evaluated.  In addition, on Blackboard, there is a sample paper by a student who received an A on a similar assignment to give you an example of what constitutes A work.


        In this assignment, you will essentially be creating your own case study.  


Identify the case.  Using the newspaper, online legitimate news sources, or news magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc.), select a current event related to public administration.  Avoid issues that are solely political or that are primarily the concern of the private sector.  This will serve as your case or example to which you will apply findings from academic literature.


Apply to public administration.  Determine which unit we are covering this semester most closely fits the issue you have selected   (fitting your issue into a broader topic will help you identify the necessary journal sources).  Find 3-5 academic sources related to this topic (academic sources are peer-reviewed journal articles that we discussed at the beginning of the semester, see list available through the hyperlink; if you find articles in other journals, you should consult with me before using them).  These sources should be directly related to a public administration concept or theory.  The sources should also be related to each other.


Outline and list of sources.  Write a detailed outline of your paper and compose your bibliography.  Submit both on February 4.  Before starting the outline, write your thesis statement at the top of the page.  Then, using the rough outline below, complete a detailed outline of your paper.  On a separate page, draft a bibliography using either the APA Style or Chicago Style.


For the completed paper, using the articles and your knowledge of the current event from news accounts, write up a written report with the following sections:

1)      Introduction

a.       Brief description of the event/issue

b.      Explain why it the issue is important from a public administration perspective

c.       Thesis statement—how are you relating the case to public administration?

2)      Describe the findings from the academic literature and relate those findings back to the current event.

a.       What lessons from the academic literature can be applied to the current event case?

3)      Conclusion

a.       Sum up your main points


Example:  If you selected the topic of the debate about healthcare reform, you might choose to look at it from the perspective of ethics (one of the units from the class). Ideally, you would try to find academic sources that address ethical issues in healthcare reform, or something close to that.  For example, there are many sources that address accountability issues with privatizing Medicaid and Medicare.  The incorrect approach to this assignment is to explain the issue of health care reform in general without directly applying it to public administration.


Case Study Analyses

Each student is required to complete two (2) case study analysis projects and submit them for a grade.  Case studies and their due dates are listed on the syllabus.  Cases can be found in the Garvey text.  The questions at the end of each case are often helpful to complete the assignment.  In paragraph form (3-5 pages), the case analysis should include the following sections:

1)      Clearly and succinctly, describe the problem or issue that is the subject of the case.  Use names to identify key actors in the case (not all actors).

2)      Identify those problems or issues that should be the priority for resolution.   Do not list all of the issues, only select those that you believe are most significant.  Be sure to use those that are most relevant to the public administration concept we are covering in class that week.  Relate the issues to the chapter reading.

3)      Identify and evaluate no more than three relevant potential courses of action.  Describe each and state their strengths and weaknesses, again, use the chapter reading as your guide.

4)      Choose the alternative that you believe is most appropriate and justify your choice.


A case analysis is not a description of the case.  It is a critical analysis of the major issues of concern in the case.  A summary of the case is not sufficient for this assignment.  A grading rubric is available on Blackboard.


If you choose not to turn in a written case analysis in a given week, you must still read the case and be prepared to discuss the questions at the end of the case.  Case studies cannot be turned in late without a documented emergency. 


Attendance and Participation:  In lieu of taking daily attendance, I will randomly collect the reading reflection assignments and collect papers from in-class assignments.  These assignments, collectively, represent more than a full letter grade for the class.  You will only receive credit if you are in class on the day they are collected.


It is important that you attend class as much as possible.  The case study method depends on adequate student participation and attendance in order to learn the material presented.  It is difficult to do well on the exams without attending class.  In addition, you will need to participate in the in-class exercises, providing evidence that you read the case study for the week, to receive credit for the class exercises portion of the grade.


Routine lateness is also unacceptable.  I will collect the reading reflections at the beginning of class, if you are not there when they are collected, you will not receive credit.



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


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.  In addition, the professor may choose to submit your offense to the office of judicial affairs.


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 an F on that assignment or exam.  If you are unclear of what actions constitute plagiarism, please see me.


For further reference, refer to the web resource from the Department of Political Science on plagiarism:



The English Department also has an informative webpage on plagiarism; it can be found here: http://www.engl.niu.edu/composition/guidelines/plag.shtml.


Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have an impact on their course work must register with the NIU Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building (753-1303). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate instructional and/or examination accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.  If you are a student with a disability, please meet with me so that I can arrange accommodations.




Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis.  This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, research career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu


Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony, where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by the end of March.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Classroom Decorum

Students are to arrive at class on time.  Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the professor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency.  For instance, it is not acceptable to students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters.   Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be turned off during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.).  No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group.  What may seem like a whisper or a harmless remark to one person can be a distraction to someone else, particularly in a small room.  Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.
Class Schedule:

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




Jan. 12


Understanding case studies

Chapter 1, Garvey

Jan. 14

Writing and researching in public administration

Chapter 1, Writing for the Government (on Blackboard)

Curriculum and Case Notes, Boehrer (on Blackboard)

Hurricane Katrina Case (on Blackboard)

Handout on Blackboard—Researching Academic Sources

Jan. 19

Context of public administration—historical development & basic concepts; public vs. private

Johnson, Chapter 1, “Public Administration, The People’s Business” pp. 1-10 only (on Blackboard)

Jan. 21

Chapter 6, Garvey: What’s Public? What’s Private? pp. 219-229 only

Guest Speakers: Current MPA Students

Jan. 26

Government institutions, federalism, and intergovernmental relations

Johnson, Chapter 2, “The Mosaic of American Governments” pp. 25-41 only (on Blackboard)

Guest Speaker: Lombard Village Manager, David Hulseberg

Jan. 28

Chapter 7, Garvey, Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Case 6—due January 28

Feb. 2

Public policymaking & power

Johnson, Chapter 6, “From Public Purposes to Public Policies” (on Blackboard)

Research paper outlines and bibliographies due February 4

Feb. 4

Feb. 9

Organization Theory

Chapter 3, Garvey, Introduction to Organizational Theory

Case 2—due February 11

Feb. 11

Feb. 16

Organization Behavior--Motivation

Chapter 10, Garvey, Making the Human Connection

Guest Speaker: Employee Motivation

Review for Midterm

Feb. 18

Feb. 23

Midterm Exam

Feb. 25

Film: Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Annual Editions, Reading #9 Abu Ghraib: A Case of Moral and Administrative Failure

Mar. 2

Ethics (exams will be handed back)

Chapter 8, Garvey, Introduction to Ethics

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

Mar. 4

Ethics (continued)

Corrected  exams due

Mar. 9-11

Spring Break

Mar. 16

Accountability vs. Discretion

Chapter 4, Garvey, Democratic Accountability vs. Administrative Discretion

Dubnick—Accountability & Ethics (on Blackboard)

Case 3—due March 4

Mar. 18

Mar. 23

Decision theory/policy implementation

Chapter 11, Garvey, Modern Decision Theory

Case 10—Due March 25

Mar. 25

Mar. 30


Cropf, Chapter 10, “Leadership and Public Administration” (on Blackboard)

April 1

April 6

Personnel/Human Resources Management (Guest speaker on HR)

Chapter 2, Garvey, Public Personnel Administration

Case 1—due April 6

Annual Editions, Reading #13 Organizational Culture




April 13

Civil Society & Current Public Administration Policy Issues

Cropf, Chapter 6, “Civil Society and Public Administration (on Blackboard)

Annual Editions, Reading #2 The State of Social Equity in American Public Administration

Guest speaker:  Citizen engagement

April 15

Public Finance & Budgeting

Johnson, Chapter 9, “Public Money” (on Blackboard)

Annual Editions, Reading #18 Enron/Andersen

April 20

April 22

New Governance

Johnson, Chapter 4 “Private Partners in Public Administration”

Annual Editions, Reading #16 Governance and Risk Management

Guest speaker: Jessica French. Little City Foundation

April 27

Program Evaluation

Chapter 9, Garvey, Formal Policy Analysis

Annual Editions, Reading #6 Evidence-Based Management

April 29

Last Class—Review for Final/Catch-Up Day—Research Papers Due

May 6

Final Exam—10:00-11:50