Brief History

The beautiful University Downtown Center which houses the Department of Public Administration and the College of Community and Public Affairs is located on a site of human activity dating back to 3500-2500 BC. A Native American village was located here over a thousand years ago, and prominent Binghamton residents built their homes on our building site during the 1800s. The Department of Public Administration is proud that our home recognizes those earlier contributions to the area as we contribute our own chapter to the history and culture of the region.

More than 30 years ago, in an effort to serve individuals seeking graduate training for service in the public sector, the Department of Political Science created the Master of Arts in Public Policy Analysis and Administration Program which is commonly referred to as the “MAPPAA” Program. The program   awarded the academic degree Master of Political Science, although the student could rightfully lay claim to having been trained for public administration, public policy and public service.

In 1991, Richard Rehberg, Director of the MAPPAA Program, worked closely with Andrew Milnor (Department Chair), Department colleagues and Susan Strehle (Vice Provost for Research and Teaching) to craft the proposal requesting authorization from the State University of New York (SUNY) to award the professional degree Master of Public Administration. Once approved by the Binghamton University Faculty Senate and the appropriate administrators of Binghamton University, the proposal was transmitted to “SUNY Central,” to the State Department of Education and to the SUNY Board of Regents. As one of his final acts in office, Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed the document authorizing Binghamton University to award the Master of Public Administration degree.

From 1999 to 2006, the MPA program was located in the Graduate School which gave the faculty substantial autonomy to develop the curriculum and academic procedures that were appropriate for an innovative, community-based professional program. On July 1, 2006 the Masters in Public Administration Program became the Department of Public Administration in the new College of Community and Public Affairs, joining Social Work and Human Development and then later Student Affairs Administration. The Founding Dean of the new college was Patricia Wallace Ingraham, one of the most widely respected   public administration scholars in the United States. Dean Ingraham retired in 2013 and now serves as   Dean Emeritus. She was succeeded by Laura Bronstein, a leading Social Work scholar and formerly chair of the Social Work Department in the College of Community and Public Affairs. In 2006 we received notice that the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) had accredited the Masters of Public Administration program for the next seven years, an action that affirms the quality of our program and shows confidence in our ability to deliver an outstanding curriculum for many years to come. These institutional changes were the culmination of years of effort by dedicated faculty, administrators, students, alumni and friends. Their combined passion provided a foundation for a new world of opportunities and growth for our students and communities.

In July 2014, the MPA program received reaccreditation from NASPAA’s Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (COPRA) for the maximum allowable term of seven years, with no conditions and no monitoring on any standards. COPRA has the authority to reaccredit for shorter periods of time and even when reaccrediting for the full period, and it almost always imposes stringent annual monitoring of one   or more individual standards. The strong statement of reaccreditation we received is a tribute to the quality of the education we provide, the commitment of our faculty and staff to conducting meaningful competency-based assessment and the support of the institution in our work.

The University Downtown Center opened in 2007. The facility is state-of-the art, completely wireless, and built in accordance with rigorous environmental and energy efficiency standards, thus earning a silver rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The classrooms and conference rooms are equipped with the latest classroom technology, including video conferencing and distance learning capacities, extensive natural lighting and comfortable tables and chairs.

Not only are our surroundings designed for the 21st century, so too is our curriculum. Beginning in fall 2010, the faculty adopted a new curriculum that reflects a multi-year process of assessment and improvement. Faculty, students, alumni and members of our practitioner advisory board have all contributed to making the curriculum more focused and relevant so that graduates will be better prepared to address the challenges facing local governments and nonprofit organizations. The emphasis in MPA courses and in the design of the broader MPA program experience is to ensure that students learn essential knowledge and skills, that they have an opportunity to practice those skills and that they are able to demonstrate competencies in applying those skills.

Our program is known throughout the University for our commitment to excellence. In 2004, MPA  student Melissa Killeleagh gave the student address at the Graduate Commencement ceremony. In 2005, MPA professor Allison Alden received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

Continuing that pattern, in 2010 MPA professor David Campbell was also honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2011 and 2014, respectively, professors Thomas Sinclair and Nadia Rubaii received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in University Service. Even more notable, in 2012 Professor Rubaii served as President of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), the primary professional association for public administration programs across the United States.

Over the years, the people in the MPA program and the Department of Public Administration have created a culture that seeks new challenges and continued growth. We will explore new opportunities in curriculum, program development and service learning. Today, with increasing numbers of both full- and part-time students and a growing faculty, the MPA Program is making significant contributions to the management of public and nonprofit organizations in Greater Binghamton and throughout the world.