Government official in Ohio applies online MPA program to deliver greater public value

Daniel Kington
October 17, 2017

Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara is married with two children, works full time with the Butler County Department of Development, and is a political campaign consultant. His many responsibilities challenged his goal of pursuing graduate education. However, the Voinovich School’s online Master of Public Administration program promised McNamara the needed flexibility to continue his education.

Designed for working professionals, the exclusively online MPA allows students nationwide to advance their careers with limited interruption to personal and professional responsibilities.

“Online programs did not interest me in the past because I was uncertain about the quality of an online program as compared to an on-campus program,” said McNamara, a 1998 graduate of Miami University. “However, when I saw that Ohio University offered an online degree, I pursued it. I respect Ohio University, and I had confidence that a program of the Voinovich School would provide value to its students, while providing the flexibility in scheduling that is characteristic of an online program – key for someone with a busy life.”

So far, the program has exceeded his expectations.

“I entered the program with some skepticism because I had been a practitioner in various public administration positions for nearly 20 years,” McNamara said. “Shortly after beginning the program, I realized that I did not know as much as I thought I did. There is a lot that public administrators learn while being practitioners. But the MPA program quickly helped me understand that there is much more to public administration than day-to-day operations. I have already been challenged to reevaluate my role, the role of public administration and the importance of benevolence.”

McNamara said he has also been impressed by the quality of his instructors: “The professors I have had so far are excellent. Every professor has made it abundantly clear that they are available. They respond quickly to my questions and provide feedback that is helpful in improving my performance on the next assignment. Some of the professors have also endeavored to keep our costs low by providing readings online whenever possible, which I appreciate as a working parent.” 

Like the Voinovich School’s traditional MPA program, the online version offers a curriculum that’s built for the real challenges of public administration. The Voinovich School helps its students learn to manage resources, develop policies effective in both practice and in cost, build adept communication skills and develop leadership skills to unite public agencies, private companies and nonprofits to achieve common goals.

Although McNamara has taken only three classes in the online program so far, he has already started to implement these lessons in his position with the Butler County Department of Development, where he is chief administrative officer of both the county port authority, which attracts businesses to Butler County, and the county land bank, which finances projects that eliminate residential blight and improve property values and help to reduce foreclosure rates.

“I have been able to apply what I learn at the Voinovich School in nearly real time as I am learning it,” McNamara said. “I am currently taking the course on public private partnerships. Meanwhile, I am implementing the skills learned in that class to structure a deal between a local business and the City of Trenton. The deal will benefit the city because it will allow for the expansion of utility infrastructure into Trenton’s industrial park and make property more valuable. It will also benefit the business, which will now be able to continue expanding for at least 10-20 years.”

McNamara has also been able to apply his education to his political consulting businesses.

“Having a better understanding of public administration has helped me guide candidates for office this year,” McNamara said. “Ultimately, I hope this guidance will lead to a better officeholder who has an appreciation for the role of public administration.”

Of course, McNamara’s participation in the online MPA program has not been without its challenges.

“I get a little less sleep now than I did before I began the program, and it is a challenge to balance my work, school, and personal life,” McNamara said. “However, everything we do that is worth doing should have a level of challenge, and I am thankful to have a supportive family and employer.”

McNamara said he expects the program to help him significantly in his career, both now and in the future: “First and foremost, my ambition is to elevate the organizations and local governments with which I work. Without doubt, I am already able to provide better quality service due to the Voinovich School’s online MPA program. I would also like to seek greater challenges in the future. Whether it is as administrator of a township or county, or another position, the MPA degree will allow me to find positions of greater responsibility, and allow me to provide greater value to those with whom I work.”

For more information about the curriculum and admission requirements for OHIO’s online MPA program, and to learn more about this flexible program, visit the online MPA website or contact a representative at 800.893.2640.