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Public Administration Program

Political Science Department

 

POLS 5000: Survey of Public Administration (Core)

This is a graduate seminar designed to introduce you to the multidimensional, interdisciplinary field of public administration. The title of the course, "Survey of Public Administration," indicates that the course focuses on becoming aware of and understanding the different ways that public administration is viewed. In trying to provide you with these perspectives, I make the assumption that the students in this course are either oriented toward becoming professional public administrators, are currently in the public administration field and want to enhance their understandings and skills, or at the very least have an academic interest in the subject. It is my goal to help you gain perspectives that will help you to better understand the "field" of public administration and your professional obligations. I take the term "professional" seriously. It means that you must come to understand yourself as representing a profession and having responsibilities to that profession. Ultimately, it means for me that you must possess some degree of what we call "reflexivity" with respect to yourself, your environment, and your administrative activities. For many public administrators it is enough to know the "nuts and bolts" of public administration - how to survive in a political environment, how to budget, how to develop managerial and personnel skills, etc. As important as those nuts and bolts skills are, a professional administrator's perspective should be much more than that. Professional administrators should be concerned with their role as administrators in a democratic society, with how their biases influence their views and actions, with the legitimacy of the institutions that have come to represent modern public administration, and with other similar issues.

 

POLS 5051: Environmental Politics (Option-Core)

The intent of this seminar is to approach environmentalism as a political phenomenon. While our discussions will cover aspects of environmental laws, regulations, etc., these will not be the primary focus of the course. Instead, we will explore the background factors that simultaneously make the policies possible and fuel the debates over them. A curious aspect of environmentalism is that it creates an arena in which virtually all facets of society meet and interact: sometimes as competing forces; other times as complimentary forces.

 

POLS 5400: Public Personnel Management (Core)

Assuming that public personnel requires a legal foundation this course is split between a more detailed look at the case precedent and legislation, and whether managers can actually influence the decisions of street-level bureaucrats. It begins with the history of the civil servant and some of the values held by public administrations and addresses the role of politics in helping to shape personnel laws. The other portion of the class takes a bottom up approach to studying personnel through the lens of the street-level bureaucrats. It asks, do personnel laws exist because of discretion, or does discretion exist because of personnel laws?

 

POLS 5410: Administrative Behavior and Theory of Organizations (Core)

This class is based on the idea that a major part of successfully managing an organization or working within one is based on the ability to better understand how a wide range of people think within it. It assumes that if you can understand problems an organization faces from a series of different perspectives you will also have a more comprehensive toolkit to solve administrative issues. It asks you to think critically about concepts like individual freedom and consciousness in an organization and some of the tension between organizational pursuits and individual ones.

 

POLS 5440: Principles and Processes of Government Budgeting (Core)

This course is designed to introduce you to basic concepts and processes of public budgeting. In addition, various topics in public financial management will be treated as they relate to budgeting. The context and characteristics of the budget process, and the norms, roles, and behaviors of participants will be examined and their impact on policy will be explored as well. Importantly, the politics of the budgetary process will be a major concern for this class. What we will recognize is that in large part it is the "politics" involved in public budgeting that sets it apart from its private sector counterpart.

 

POLS 5460: Public Administration and Law (Option-Core)

This course covers various facets of the relationship between American public administration and law. The course centers on the huge and rapidly emerging body of administrative law, but does not seek technical proficiency (you won't be able to pass any law exams and your professor is not a trained attorney). Instead, the course will focus on

  • The constitutional and political context of administrative law
  • its evolving structure, and
  • its history and development

Students will be introduced to legal reasoning and its role in public administration. Students will gain a rudimentary understanding of how attorneys, judges, and legislators apply law through statues, cases, rules, orders, and so forth. In the process, students will learn that public administrators must also use legal reasoning, and they will see how it also shapes many administrative processes and outcomes.

 

POLS 5480: Ethics in Government (Option-Core)

This course is based on the idea that we as public administrators do not face old problems. With technological developments and a changing social environment we instead face new problems, which lack a prescribed code or "ethic" to follow. This changes how we think about what ethical behavior for public administrators consists of, as well as how to train administrators in ethics. Along these lines, the course examines the philosopher Immanuel Kant's concepts of thinking, reasoning and judgment in an effort to improve how we make ethical decisions while on the job.

 

POLS 5510: Public Policy and Program Management (Core)

This course is designed to provide both a theoretical and practical approach to the field of public policy. In general, we will be considering the process by which policies are made, implemented, and evaluated. Although we will be discussing policy analysis techniques, the actual application of those techniques is covered in POLS 5864. A central premise of the seminar is that despite the recurring notion policy is about "facts" and "science," it is a thoroughly political process.

 

POLS 5710: Topics - Public Administration in Literature and Film (Option-Core)

This course reflects on the ways in which novelists and directors have viewed public administration, how that view has changed, how novelists and directors have simultaneously helped to create and disparage the rise of the administrative state, and which type of administrative arrangements they favor. We will explore the idea that a novel or film need not describe public administration per se in order to transmit an important message about it. For example, appearing in 1884, just three years before Woodrow Wilson's landmark essay "The Study of Administration," Huckleberry Finn lays down a message about public administration without ever saying anything explicitly on the subject (any ideas what that message might be?).

 

POLS 5710: Topics - Technology in Public Administration

This course examines the different approaches toward new technologies, and the different mindsets toward technology (Barbour, 1993). It calls for students to learn about the major philosophic traditions within public administration and their influence, analyze specific technologies (for example, the smartphone or driverless automobile), and look more closely at their role in society. It then asks, how citizens, business people, and policy makers might approach technological advance going forward. Instead of accepting technology as something that simply happens to us, it suggests that we might attempt to better understand the impact of technology and act on the basis of our values.


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