The mission of the MPA Program at Binghamton University is to enhance the commitment and capacity of our students as well as local government and nonprofit partners to be effective public service leaders, who are equipped to:
- make evidence‐based decisions;
- recognize and rectify inequities;
- promote inclusive institutions;
- embrace democratic processes;
- adapt to changing circumstances; and
- model high ethical standards.
The program accomplishes this through an engaged, inclusive and interdisciplinary approach to teaching, research and service in local and global settings.
The MPA Program defines the bulleted elements of the mission in the following ways:
To make evidence‐based decisions:
The MPA program models and helps equip others to apply evidence to public service decisions, both by conducting research and by being an informed consumer of research conducted by others. In conducting research, this involves skills in: collecting data from reliable sources; selecting measures, data sources and analytical tools with particular attention to social equity implications; selecting and applying a research design appropriate to the problem; being transparent about the data being used for decisions; and using logic in framing an argument. To be an informed consumer of research, the MPA program prioritizes assessing the quality of evidence and arguments made by others; and evaluating whether the conclusions drawn are supported by the data.
To recognize and rectify inequities:
We believe in the essential dignity of all people. Yet, public policies and public service institutions around the world do not consistently reflect this belief. In nearly every country, discrimination, exclusion and violence directed at particular groups is part of their past and present. For those studying or practicing public administration in the United States, it is essential to understand the historical and current manifestation of racism and colonialism affecting a cross-section of groups historically defined as non-white. It is also critical to appreciate the role public administrators have played in creating and maintaining structural racism. The MPA program seeks to prepare individuals to engage in explicitly anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice to address the most pressing elements of structural inequity of any given time and place. We recognize that barriers to full participation in civic life are not limited to race. Embracing the essential dignity of all people means making it possible for all community members to participate fully in civic life, particularly the many individuals and groups who have experienced exclusion.
The MPA program is dedicated to helping individuals use critical self‐reflection and high quality evidence to recognize the occurrence and implications of disproportionate access, to identify which groups are advantaged and disadvantaged by deeply embedded institutions and policies, and to understand the legacy effects of historical practices. The MPA program recognizes equity to include race and social equity, gender equity, environmental equity, economic equity, as well intergenerational equity. Beyond merely recognizing inequities, we strive to prepare individuals and institutions to work to rectify inequities within their own personal and professional realms. We do not have grandiose expectations that our students, community partners, or the program as a whole can redress all societal inequity, but rather we believe that every public service professional has a responsibility to do their part to make the world more equitable. To that end, we help prepare students and we collaborate with government and civil society partners to apply the skills of evidence‐based decision making to address inequities, and to regularly engage in personal and professional self‐reflection about one’s contributions to systems of inequity and one’s efforts to address them.
To promote inclusive institutions:
There is considerable evidence of declining trust in public, particularly government, officials and institutions. The MPA program recognizes this as a symptom of an underlying problem rather than the problem itself. Public service professionals have a responsibility to help make public institutions more trustworthy, transparent, and genuinely welcoming, and to encourage and embrace rather than merely tolerating diversity. Like social equity, inclusion requires more than eliminating formal barriers or accepting those willing to assimilate to majority group norms or an existing organizational culture. Inclusion requires positive actions to ensure that classroom, organizational, and community environments are welcoming and supportive of individuals from historically marginalized groups. This requires the ability to reflect on how the cultures, norms, policies and procedures of organizations, social structures and networks exclude individuals from some groups from full participation and corresponding benefits. Among the essential skills for promoting inclusive institutions are the ability to: recognize and take steps to address implicit and unconscious bias; actively and respectfully listen to those who have been excluded; demonstrate emotional intelligence in managing change; and advocate for anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice.
To embrace democratic processes:
The on‐going work of building strong communities is maintained through democratic processes that encourage diversity of perspective and welcome every individual to contribute in a constructive way. To achieve this, the MPA program builds skills that allow faculty, students and alumni to facilitate public engagement; incorporate feedback from communities; make decisions in a transparent manner; educate community members about the importance of democratic processes; and strengthen democratic foundations. We recognize that participation takes a wide variety of forms, and that discourse can and, at times should, make people feel uncomfortable. We assert that even difficult conversations need to be conducted in good faith and with respect, to ensure peaceful resolution of differences.
To adapt to changing circumstances:
Despite the popular perceptions of bureaucracy as rule-bound and highly inflexible, modern public service requires individuals who are able to operate effectively under ambiguous and changing circumstances. This demands an ability to be receptive to new information and new understandings, to reimagine alternatives to the established ways of doing business, and to exercise sufficient self-confidence so as to act. The MPA program encourages creativity in problem solving and helps encourage risk taking in the service of broader public service goals. The MPA program helps students to develop these skills and models the same skills within our internal practices.
To model high ethical standards:
The MPA Program equips students to model high ethical standards in how they carry out all of their duties. We do this by instilling an understanding of ethics that transcends the absence of illegal behavior, and calls for the recognition of accountability to both a local and global community. We embody ethical behavior as including, but not limited to: promoting civil discourse; internalizing an appreciation for trade‐offs involved in decision making; regarding public service over personal interest; engaging in personal and professional self reflection; and making continuous efforts to remain informed, active participants in their organizations and communities.
Our Core Values
The MPA Program at Binghamton University is grounded in respect for and commitment to six core public service values:
- Community Engagement;
- Democratic Processes and Institutions;
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
- Ethical Behavior;
- Facts and Evidence; and
- Personal and Professional Self‐ Reflection.
Community Engagement. The MPA program utilizes the Carnegie Foundation definition of community engagement as involving “collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial creation and exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” Specifically, the MPA program embraces the idea that public service happens with communities, and public service leaders need to be able to facilitate and build consensus across differences. The program models this ideal in its teaching, research, service and the integration of the three by partnering with key stakeholders in the community (students, residents, clients, etc.) and educating others (students and partners in government and civil society) about how to engage their communities in meaningful ways.
Democratic Processes and Institutions. We believe that public service depends on the participation of all members of a community and the primacy of democratic decision making in government and nonprofit organizations. We affirm the legitimacy of the processes that elect our representatives in government. We recognize that institutions include unelected public service professionals, and we acknowledge their expertise, and the essential role they play in governance. MPA faculty, staff, students and alumni will understand and help educate others about the foundational importance of these processes and institutions, working to protect the fundamental rights of individuals and groups––particularly those who have historically been marginalized or are not in the majority.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The MPA program believes that public service requires an opportunity for all individuals to be full participants. Because structural barriers continue to exist, promoting DEI demands that public service professionals be equipped to change public and internal policies that are grounded – explicitly or implicitly – in racism and other identity-based inequities. The MPA program places a dedicated focus on each individual aspect of DEI. We understand diversity to include and extend beyond protected classes, and to be particularly attentive to marginalized identity groups. Equity refers not only to equal access but also to equitable outcomes. Inclusion is the extent to which members of all of these groups feel welcomed and valued in our institutions. MPA faculty and students will demonstrate an understanding that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to effective public service and require proactive efforts at the individual, organizational and community levels within domestic and global contexts. Attaining and maintaining DEI requires self‐reflection and deliberate efforts that may cause discomfort in those who have benefited by their absence.
Ethical Behavior. Public service is an honor and a responsibility that demands much more of leaders than simply complying with laws and regulations or avoiding wrongdoing. Faculty and students are expected to model the highest standards of personal and professional ethics, honesty and integrity. This includes, but is not limited to, being transparent about decisions and decision criteria, being accountable to the public, broadly defined, and accepting responsibility for the impact, not merely the intentions, of one's actions. Accountability and ethics in public service encompass a responsibility to support and maintain sustainable communities. We encourage a recognition that the rule of law generally establishes a minimum threshold for behavior, but that when laws and policies themselves violate public service values, ethical behavior requires that public servants take steps to modify the policies. We aim to have faculty, students, and alumni lead by example and to set a high ethical standard in the community for others to follow.
Facts and Evidence. Reliance on facts, and evidenced based decision‐making, is particularly important within public service as a means to earn public trust and promote public interest. In environments where facts are contested, professional public servants need to be able to respectfully help individuals and groups to recognize when opinions are being presented as facts, and guide them to identify reliable information and to utilize evidence. A respect for facts also demands that individuals and organizations be transparent about the evidence they are using in decision making. Within the MPA program, the respect for facts is reflected in a commitment to making decisions based on evidence, and helping students and community partners to differentiate between reliable (evidence‐based) and unreliable (ideologically‐based) sources of information.
Personal and Professional Self‐Reflection. In support of the other core values, the MPA program espouses and practices a process of continuous and lifelong learning that begins with self‐ reflection at the individual level and extends to organizational and system levels. Public service is about serving others rather than self-aggrandizement or self‐interest. It requires a level of humility and introspection that can be supported by valuing and practicing self‐reflection to learn from one’s mistakes and to strive to do better. The purpose of this reflection is to position individuals and organizations to be better able to engage their communities, protect democratic processes and institutions, promote diversity, equity and inclusion, model ethical behavior, and advance reliance on facts.
Our vision is to become a nationally recognized leader on community-based public affairs through integrated research, education and practice.
NASPAA Public Service Values
A number of public service values guided the development of the mission above, are implicitly reflected in this mission statement, and explicitly inform how program applies the mission to make decisions. The most crucial public service values in the context of our mission are:
- democratic processes/community engagement;
- transparency; and
This is not to say that other values (such as efficiency or effectiveness) are unimportant or not taught, but rather that the five values identified are what we emphasize in the context of our unique mission.
The value of democratic processes/community engagement is reflected in the idea that our students, graduates and faculty are expected to work with individuals and institutions in the community, not to study them from the outside or impose decisions on them. Accountability is reflected in the idea that individuals and institutions will be responsive to and accountable to the public for the decisions. Equity is reflected in the idea that all members of the community have capacities that can be developed and perspectives and needs that must be considered. Transparency is reflected in that we work with community partners in an open manner, rather than behind the scenes. Finally, sustainability is important as it relates to capacity (if the capacities are not sustainable, they are not truly capacities) and to the broad definition of the public (which includes future generations of community residents).