May 8, 2008

RSU to Offer Bachelor's Degree in Public Administration This Fall

A new bachelor's degree in public administration at Rogers State University will prepare students for careers in public service, state and local governments and non-profit organizations.

The degree was approved Thursday by the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, the governing board for RSU. Upon approval by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the program will be offered this fall through the School of Liberal Arts on the RSU campus in Claremore.

"This new degree is part of the university's expansion of degree programs responding to the educational needs of area residents and employers," said Dr. Larry Rice, RSU President Designate.

Recipients of the degree can pursue positions in local and state government agencies, jobs in the non-profit industry or graduate study in public administration and related areas, according to Dr. Kenneth Hicks, RSU associate political science professor, who led the development of the degree.

Market research conducted by a joint curriculum committee at RSU, comprised of members of the university's Department of Psychology, Sociology and Criminal Justice and its Department of History and Political Science, revealed a high-level of demand for the program by area employers, including municipal governments.

"The demand for government workers will increase dramatically with the imminent retirement of the Baby Boom generation who are currently part of the government workforce," said Matt Mueller, assistant city manager for the City of Claremore.

Surveys of RSU students indicated a higher level of interest in politics and public service among young people than witnessed in previous generations, Hicks said.

"National surveys have shown that the so-called ‘Generation Next' – the current generation of high school and college students – are more interested in keeping up with politics, although many feel disconnected from the political process," Hicks said. "And although a majority of Americans tend to believe that government is inefficient and wasteful, many members of ‘Generation Next' seem to embrace government to a greater degree."

Hicks added that more than three-quarters of RSU students surveyed stated they would be interested in a degree that would prepare them for service in the public sector.

"It also should be noted that the federal government is the nation's largest employer," he added.

The new degree will provide students with a thorough understanding of government, administration of public programs, personnel management and budgeting. Students in the program will take classes in public policy, organizational behavior, ethics in public service, administrative law and regulation, grant writing and non-profit administration, after completing a solid foundation in the arts and sciences.

The degree would be somewhat interdisciplinary in nature, with students taking business courses, including accounting and management, in the recognition that many aspects of governments and non-profit organizations are operated similarly to private businesses and corporations, Hicks said. Students also will complete senior projects and participate in internships in government or non-profit agencies.

Graduates could pursue careers in a variety of areas, Hicks said, not only in government, but also in the myriad non-profit organizations that exist locally and across the nation, and in growing fields such as health services and emerging areas like quality assurance and public information management.

"Such a program gives a decided advantage to those who are seeking entry-level work in the public and non-profit sectors, especially in smaller agencies and units of government," said LeAnn Jenkins, executive director of the Oklahoma Federal Executive Board. "These settings need generalists, people with a broad understanding of the many facets of how government operates."

RSU officials discussed the new degree with city managers and their staffs in Claremore, Bartlesville, Pryor and Owasso and all indicated enthusiasm for the program, Hicks said.

The university also will offer a minor area of study in public administration for students in the social sciences, liberal arts or business.

For more information on the degree, contact the RSU School of Liberal Arts at (918) 343-7683.