Practicum and Portfolio
MPA@UNC's Professional Work Experience Practicum and Portfolio components provide you the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to the workplace, reflect upon your experiences, and demonstrate your development as a public service leader.
Professional Work Experience Practicum (1.5 credit hours)
After completing five of your eight core classes, you will have the opportunity to hone your public service leadership skills and gain valuable know-how through the Professional Work Experience (PWE) Practicum. Some students may be eligible for a PWE waiver.
Elements of the PWE Practicum:
- Identify a public service experience that promotes the public good and provides you opportunities to:
- Work with a public service mentor and supervisor
- Hone core public service competencies
- Make group presentations
- Participate in fieldwork or conferences
- Define your learning goals and PWE employment conditions, respectively, in a learning agreement between you and the MPA program as well as an employment agreement between you, your employer, and the online MPA program.
- Perform either 400 hours of public service work over 10 weeks (full-time PWE) or 300 hours of service over 15 weeks (part-time PWE).
- At the conclusion of your work term, you will enroll in a 1-credit hour course that will guide you through an exploration of your PWE through the MPA program core competencies. As part of the course, you will produce an analysis paper on your PWE for inclusion in your final portfolio.
Identifying an Appropriate PWE Placement
If you're already working in a public service position, you may be able to apply a current project toward your PWE Practicum requirement. If you need assistance finding a placement, our career services director can help. All placements must be approved in advance by the career services director.
As you begin comparing professional work experience opportunities, you will want to consider how they align with your goals as a public service leader. The chart below will give you an idea of how your goals can be leveraged in different PWE settings.
|SAMPLE PWE POSITION||PWE OBJECTIVE|
|Budget analyst||Observe and analyze successful strategies for publically communicating both the content and implications of the annual budget report during a time of polarized politics.|
|Fundraising consultant, supporting an advisory board that makes nonprofit funding decisions||Observe and analyze the leadership and communication practices of nonprofits that are successful at obtaining funding.|
|Local government public information officer||Observe and analyze how the government designs and implements a new strategy for citizen engagement for a bond referendum.|
|Project assistant||Observe and analyze how leaders navigate and transform resistance to change by employees or citizens.|
|Human resources staffer||Observe and analyze how the organization develops employees' leadership capacities in a new program.|
PWE Practicum Waiver
Students with prior significant experience in a professional or managerial level position in a government or nonprofit organization may seek to apply for a waiver from the Professional Work Experience Practicum requirement. Explore the requirements below to find out if you may qualify for a PWE practicum waiver.
Students may be eligible for a PWE practicum waiver if they meet the following requirements:
- Student must have 5+ years of public service work experience
- Student must be currently working, and have worked for the past 2 or more years in a position at a government or nonprofit organization
- Student must be in a position providing a benefit to the public, working for the greater good of their communities, managing complex work, and/or assuming primary responsibility for project management
After confirming potential eligibility, students will meet with the Associate Director of Career Services and submit a waiver form. The MPA Program Director will then approve or deny the waiver.
Upon admission into the MPA@UNC program, students can have a conversation with the Associate Director of Career Services regarding the PWE practicum waiver – though you will be officially approved or denied at a later time.
Note: All students who receive a PWE practicum waiver will still be required to complete the PUBA 745 Professional Work Experience course.
Portfolio (1.5 credit hours)
Throughout MPA@UNC, you will assemble a collection of academic and professional work that demonstrates your development as a public service leader. During your final semester, you will be required to write a comprehensive paper that integrates these assignments and synthesizes them within the broader framework of public administration. The resulting portfolio will be reviewed and approved by a three-person committee, which will also conduct your oral exam. The portfolio measures student achievement against the competency-focused standards.
Your portfolio and oral exam will demonstrate the following traits:
- Mastery of the core public leadership competencies
- Ability to synthesize information across courses
- Strategic leadership decision-making and communication skills
If you have questions or need help completing your application in time for your preferred start date, please contact an admissions counselor at 855-862-4672 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.