Graduate students from the UGA Master of Public Administration program are learning the hands-on realities of managing local governments this semester in a unique course. Leaders from Georgia’s cities and counties are sharing their on-the-job experiences with the students to prepare them for their careers beyond the Arch.
Public Administration and Policy 7500 is the name of the course, but a more accurate title may be “Local Government Management in Today’s Georgia.” It introduces students working to be future public service leaders to the real world careers of local government professionals.
Students heard perspectives from the first presenters on January 20-three local government managers-Scott Wood from the City of Canton, Alan Reddish from Athens-Clarke County, and Peggy Merriss from the City of Decatur. They were invited by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which assists in organizing the course.
The managers advised the graduate students about what to expect in their future positions as leaders in city and county government. They gave the students pointers on how to improve their competitiveness as job candidates and what professional skills were important to develop. The managers also described what they consider the high points of working in public service.
Reddish, a repeat participant in the course over the years, also expressed what are for him the high points of presenting to the class. “I always come away from the experience convinced that our democracy is in good hands because these students will be the future leaders in local, state, and federal government,” he commented following his presentation. “They are acquiring the tools necessary to deal with the complex issues governments will face in the future.”
Vinson Institute faculty member Harry Hayes works with class instructor Dr. Delmer Dunn to arrange a curriculum that features a wide array of guest speakers who are now or were recently engaged in local government management.
Over the course of the semester, the students will hear presentations from other managers and from local government planners on topics such as manager-governing board relations, finance, planning, public safety, human services, legal issues, citizen relations, infrastructure, and human resource management.
“The Vinson Institute is in a natural position to support the practical component of this course through its extensive work with local governments throughout the state and its mission to promote excellence in government,” says Hayes.
The class has been part of the MPA curriculum since the winter of 1989. UGA’s MPA program is cosponsored by the UGA School of Public and International Affairs and the Vinson Institute.