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The Evans School Experience: MPA Plus MLIS

Compiled by Jamie Hancock


leadership pyramidOver the break, Silverfish talked to three MLIS students who are pursuing joint master’s degrees at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.  According to the Evans School webpage, the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program “emphasizes broad-based public policy analysis and management knowledge.”  It is designed to help graduate students pursuing careers in public service develop analytic and management skills, and prepare them for leadership roles in various fields.  Our fellow classmates offered opinions and observations on their experiences thus far.  Here are some quotes on what they’ve learned, why the additional year of schooling is worth it, and how it complements an MLIS degree.

Why did you decide to pursue a MPA?

“I am interested in the role that libraries play in democratic society.  The Evans School is allowing me to look at libraries through the lens of ‘public affairs’ rather than ‘information,’ which has allowed me to focus on a lot of issues that I wouldn't otherwise be able to. The Evans School focuses on helping public managers think about how their organizations create public value. Librarians [and information professionals]...ought to be thinking about how their organizations (libraries) create public value.”

“After two quarters at the iSchool, I felt that we were being told ‘the future of libraries and all things information are in your hands!’  Since I care about this stuff, it sounded like I’d have to assume some responsibility whether I wanted to or not...I think there’s tremendous public value in libraries of all types, which can only be realized with help from informed leaders and managers.  The informal concurrent MLIS/MPA combo is also economical; two master’s degree in three years seemed like a good move for both academic jobs and higher level library positions.”

“It integrates well with the MLIS, picking up where the iSchool leaves off regarding public service and policy issues.  The iSchool crams a lot of diverse classes into a short amount of time, and I wanted to focus in on my interests.  Since I'm more into policy/technology and society, the Evans School was a good match.  They have policy focuses, but I'm going to have to plan my own around information issues.”

“The Evans School is also giving me an opportunity to learn a lot of practical skills that I wouldn't be able to learn at the iSchool—things like budgeting, policy analysis, political leadership, and more in-depth management skills. Plus, it looks great on the old resume. Public affairs is taken much more seriously as a discipline (in my experience) than information science.”

What benefits and challenges have you observed through your first quarter of courses?

General Coursework:

“It provides a foundation for working with diverse populations, making good decisions, understanding why ALA takes the stances it does and why that can be controversial, how libraries can remain relevant through changes in policy and societal values... I could go on.”

“The most helpful I think will be the public management sequence, which is required of all MPA students. It will really help me learn to manage and lead effectively. As for specific challenges, I have found that writing a good memo is way harder than I ever thought it would be; it’s a totally different writing style than I’m used to.”

Microeconomics Class:

“Microeconomics was a struggle for almost everyone, and I'd never learned anything like that before.  But it finally grew on me, and now it seems to be an invaluable tool for understanding the world.”

“For me, it just seems like an incredibly bizarre sort of thing to study, and the concepts are difficult for me to wrap my head around. Additionally, the math is challenging, especially for someone like me with no background in economics and who hasn't studied math in a long time... I'm having to work really hard to keep up, but I'm learning a ton.”

Public Management Class:

“The PM class is focused around reading case studies and theoretical frameworks of management. Each week we read a handful of the frameworks (which talk about ways to analyze different kinds of situations and make decisions about what to do) and one case study... The main challenges are the amount of reading (it's not much more than the amount we got in, say, 510, but you have to read and think about it much more carefully, which takes a lot of time), and the fact that this is just a really difficult thing to learn how to do.”

How is your experience in the Evans School different from the Information School?

“The classes were considerably more difficult than any I've yet taken at the iSchool, both in intellectual challenge and the amount of work required.”

“One big difference is the ‘policy gateway’ option at the Evans School.  This is a chance to specialize within the MPA program, and many students also do a second master's in that gateway as well. While not required, I think most students choose a gateway. These include education and social policy, nonprofit management, environmental policy, and individualized topics.”

“I feel like I'm learning things that are relevant and useful for working in libraries. The coursework is interesting and does not feel like a waste of time. The professors are good at teaching. I enjoy my classes and feel like I learn things in them.”

 “They provide personalized assistance in career planning – something which could make a great deal of difference for iSchoolers who are all really worried about employment prospects.  Seeing professors (or at least TAs) in their office hours seems to be expected on a regular basis.  Things are less abstract - the curriculum focuses on uniting theory and practice so that students face real-world decisions frequently.”

“The diversity of interests seems higher than in the MLIS program, which can make for interesting discussions.  I also haven’t noticed many Dansko clogs or canvas tote bags around Parrington Hall.”

Thanks to the iSchoolers who volunteered their comments!  If you re interested in learning more about getting an MPA, visit the Evans School website:

January 11, 2008
Vol. XII Issue 2

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