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© University of Oregon

Spotlight: University of Oregon

May 28, 2014 01:00 PM

The University of Oregon MPA is based in beautiful Eugene, Oregon. Eugene is a lush, green town at the nexus of the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers. MPA students actually start the program by getting to know each other and the faculty at a two day welcome retreat located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. (It’s also home to some of the best craft breweries in the U.S.) The intentionally small program embodies Eugene’s sense of community and closeness with the environment.

Oregon’s program started as a MA/MS in Public Affairs in the School of Community Service and Public Affairs in 1964—50 years!—and over time became the MPA in the Department of Planning, Public Policy & Management. The school’s public service DNA still shapes what the program is: deliberately limited to a small, gutsy cohort of entering students who are both practical and idealist, with strong public service ideals. All of the faculty members have a chance to teach all of the MPA students in their first year of the MPA program. Oregon students are smart, capable, kind, and hungry to learn skills to lead both government and nonprofit agencies. PPPM Department students are famous around Oregon for the quantity and quality of their work in the community such as on Capstone and major sustainability projects.

The Mission

The purpose of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at the University of Oregon is to promote evidence based decision making and the efficient and ethical stewardship of societal and environmental resources by professionals in the public and nonprofit sectors. The school supports this purpose by training a diverse cohort of students from the U.S. and abroad to be effective administrators, analysts and advocates in their communities. The MPA provides a curriculum that values students who are committed to public service, offering a close connection between multi-disciplinary policy-oriented research and opportunities for real world applications.

The school also has two more immediate goals. Due to its location in beautiful-yet-faraway Oregon, and the (deliberately!) small size of program, UO’s excellent curriculum, students, and outcomes often fly below the national radar. Raising Oregon’s national and international profile is a key goal.

Secondly, most faculty and students agree that new carpet in Hendricks Hall should be a priority to replace the older, more funky design currently trod on by the school’s population.

The Faculty

The school’s faculty include experts in social policy, energy and environmental policy, health policy, nonprofit management and economics, and workforce development.

Renee Irvin

irvinRenee Irvin, Ph.D., has published research on nonprofit regulation, citizen participation, philanthropy, nonprofit competition, and policies affecting wealth distribution. She served as chair of the nonprofit section of the National Association for Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and on NASPAA’s Executive Council in 2009-11. Her current research focuses on wealth distribution and philanthropy. Irvin teaches Public and Nonprofit Financial Management, Fundraising, and Grant Making. She was recently honored as one of the Public Administration Review’s “most influential” authors.

Colleen Chrisinger

chrisingerColleen Chrisinger, Ph.D., conducts research on economic mobility, poverty, job creation, and workforce development. This research assists public agencies at the federal, state, and local level to operate labor, workforce, and economic development programs that improve economic opportunities for disadvantaged citizens. Chrisinger teaches Research Methods, Program Evaluation, Public Management, and the MPA Capstone.

Grant Jacobsen

jacobsenGrant Jacobsen, Ph.D., specializes in environmental economics and policy, with a particular emphasis on the pollution associated with household energy consumption. His research has focused on topics related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change awareness, carbon offsets, building codes, and domestic energy development. Jacobsen teaches Environmental Policy and Quantitative Methods.


Laura Leete

leeteLaura Leete, Ph.D., specializes in policy analysis and conducts research on topics relating to labor market outcomes and the wellbeing of low-income families. She has studied occupational mobility, housing, labor market access, access to food, gender and race discrimination, and welfare reform, among other topics. Leete teaches Public Policy Analysis and supervises the 48-Hour Project. She also teaches electives relating to Social Policy and Cost-Benefit Analysis.

The Program

Oregon’s MPA program stands out because it:

  • combines a rigorous academic approach in the development of analytical and managerial skills with highly experiential opportunities.Real world projects are woven into the entire curriculum to provide students with extensive experience in working with local agencies, such as through the 48-hour policy project and a client centered capstone project.
  • focuses on evidence-based decision making– a firm emphasis on both analytical and managerial excellence.
  • has an extremely successful job attainment rate among graduates, with over 94% of recent graduates employed in the field.
  • supportive learning environment, where class sizes are small and faculty members are on a first name basis with students.
  • is an exciting place to study public policy. Oregon is known for its policy innovation, from the Bottle Bill, to vote-by-mail, to current efforts to reform the health care system. Policymakers and public managers in Oregon are remarkably accessible.
  • has a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, which can be earned concurrently with a student’s  MPA. The Certificate program offers innovative classes including one in philanthropy, in which students award a $15,000 grant to a local agency.
  • has recognition as a leading public research university. MPA students have the flexibility to customize their concentration course work to take advantage of offerings throughout the university, including the highly ranked School of Law.

The Expertise

In particular, Oregon’s MPA Program is known for the following areas of expertise:

Environmental Planning & Policy

UO students focus the intersection of the built and natural environments, issues of environmental quality, open space preservation, and the implementation tools and policies to achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Social & Health Policy

Students work on a broad range of issues relating to human welfare, including poverty, health, housing, food security, equality, education, and job training. Recent alumni are working as analysts and program staff in government and nonprofits tackling issues of health care reform, higher education quality, and public employment relations, among other topics.

Community Development

MPA students focus on advancing the ecological, economic, and social health of human settlements – from rural regions and small towns to cities and their neighborhoods to suburbs. Alumni work in public, private, and nonprofit organizations in positions such as: management analysts and technical planners, community organizers and program managers, and policy makers and grants managers.

Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy

Oregon students also learn valuable nonprofit management skills through taking electives from the  Master of Nonprofit Management Program. Strong growth in assets and activities of the nonprofit sector in recent decades has resulted in sharply expanding career opportunities in the many areas of nonprofit and philanthropic enterprise. Nonprofit management courses prepare students with skills such as grant writing, nonprofit financial management, fundraising and project management.


Because of the practical, skills-based focus of the MPA Program, Oregon graduates are equipped with career-ready experience and established networks of professional peers upon graduation. Recent UO graduates work as advisors, policy analysts and strategic planners in all levels of government in Oregon, throughout the U.S. and around the globe. Alumni also work in a broad range of nonprofit organizations, for instance, as executive staff in social service, arts, and environmental organizations, and in for-profit companies serving the public sector.

Notable Oregon MPA alumni include:

  • Steven Wright - Former CEO/Administrator of Bonneville Power Administration
  • David Donaldson– Human Resources Director, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA
  • Talal Al-Rahbi -- Deputy Secretary General, Supreme Council for Planning, Oman
  • Nguyen Thien Nhan -- Deputy Minister of Viet Nam and Minister of Education and Training
  • Gregg Kantor - President and CEO, Northwest Natural Gas Company
  • Karmen Fore - Transportation Policy Advisor for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber
  • Colin Crocker – State Trauma Director, Texas Department of State Health Services

And some of the school’s recent graduates have gone on to important policy positions:

  • Alexia Kelly – Climate Change Mitigation Expert, US Department of State
  • Martin Kraal - Workforce Analyst, State of Oregon Employment Division, Salem, OR
  • Stephanie Scafa - Zero Waste Analyst, City of Eugene, OR
  • Elena Fracchia – Director of Income and Engagement, United Way of Lane County (OR)
  • Kate March - East Link Community Outreach & Community Relations Lead, City of Bellevue, WA
  • Kala Haley – Communications Associate, Center for Connected Health Policy, Sacramento CA
  • Sarah Collins – Director of State Policy & Innovation, Educational Policy Improvement Center, Eugene OR


Find the University of Oregon MPA program on Facebook.

Article information provided by Alex Macfarlan, University of Oregon.



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