The 10 G-MPA Courses

Global Master of Public Administration student

The Penn G-MPA is a program designed to fit the schedule of busy professionals. All 10 courses are offered each semester. Students may choose to take as few as two or as many as five at a time, but students must take the economics and data analysis courses (G-MPA 6040 and G-MPA 6050, respectively) before their final semester in the program. During their final semester in the program, in addition to completing their coursework, students work closely with academic advisers to select a capstone research paper topic on one of 10 program-related topics formulated by the faculty. 

What types of leadership and problem-solving have contributed to notable successes in addressing and ameliorating challenges to human well-being ranging from public health in Africa to economic development in Latin America, eldercare services in Asia to carbon emissions in Europe, homelessness in the US to HIV/AIDS in Australia? In these cases, and countless others, the answer relates in part to cross-sector collaboration in the form of two or more organizations working together intentionally across sectors to strategically manage, innovatively leverage their respective human and financial resources, and achieve mutually beneficial, pro-social, and pro-civic outcomes. Drawing on the best interdisciplinary studies, this course is dedicated to helping students identify, delineate, and promote the conditions under which “boundary-spanning” and “bridge-building” organizational leaders arise, persist, and operate within and across each sector. In addition to classic and contemporary work by social and behavioral scientists who have made notable contributions to the field of public administration or public management, we focus particular attention on the work of scholars and practitioners from across the globe and in many different disciplines (social work, public health, urban design, and others) who are contributing to our basic and applied knowledge about “the built environment”—the concepts and skills needed to build healthy communities and meet such challenges as sudden pandemics, structural inequities, and slow but steady climate change.

Together with government and the nonprofit sector, the business, corporate, or for-profit sector has a profound bearing on human well-being. For socially responsible business leaders, the challenge is to formulate successful organizational strategies that sustain and grow the organization’s profits and market shares, and satisfy its employees, shareholders, and customers, while also benefitting, or at least not adversely affecting, wider communities, whether local, regional, national, or transnational. Especially when facing less scrupulous business competitors, aggressive government regulators, or adversarial nonprofit advocates, civic-minded business leaders grapple with this challenge every day. How can such leaders nonetheless formulate strategies to gain and sustain a competitive advantage at home or abroad? In this course, we explore the complexity and ambiguity of strategic management by examining real-world cases in which firms either failed or succeeded. Specific topics to be covered include performance measures, industry analysis, resources and capability analysis, business-level strategy, corporate-level strategy, and strategies for expanding into foreign markets.

Students must take this course prior to G-MPA 6070.

Over the last quarter-century, the nonprofit, independent, or social sector—also often dubbed the “third sector” in juxtaposition to government and business—has become an ever-greater presence in nations all across the globe. In tandem, nonprofit management, and the role of local, regional, national, and transnational social entrepreneurs, has become internationally recognized as a critically vital field of study and practice. Coinciding with the rise of the “third sector,” it has become increasingly clear that leaders in all three sectors must work across three different types of boundaries: interpersonal boundaries, which involve relations with persons who differ from oneself demographically and in other ways; institutional boundaries, which involve working across government, nonprofit, and business organizations; and international boundaries, which involve both individual and institutional engagements that are carried on across national borders. This course focuses mainly on nonprofit management and the latest and best empirical research pertaining to the second stratum of boundary-spanning leadership: the theory, policy, and practice of cross-sector collaboration, what purposes collaboration may serve, and the steps involved in initiating, sustaining, and evolving collaborative enterprises and governance.

This course introduces students to key economic concepts such as scarcity, efficiency, monopolies, and other markets to investigate the notions of economic efficiency in a competitive marketplace. In addition, it examines how such efficiency is affected by distortions relevant to public policy, especially regulations, externalities, and incomplete information. From the macroeconomics side, we cover a variety of timely and timeless topics including the short-run and long-run effects of government debt. Students practice applying these principles to the range of decisions that public sector executives have to make in order to understand the trade-offs inherent in any public policy or program.

Students must take this course prior to their final semester in the program.

Many governments, businesses, and NPO/NGO leaders around the globe are drowning in numerical and statistical data. The challenge they face is not only how to organize, parse, and analyze the data, but also how to utilize it effectively and in real time. This course is uniquely designed to enhance your ability to use data effectively for real-time problem-identification, definition, decision-making, problem-solving, and, most particularly, program evaluation. In this course, students are introduced to key concepts, principles, protocols, and analytical tools and techniques relevant to the theory and practice of three separate but related problem-solving leadership skills: (1) forecasting general social, economic, and civic trends; (2) measuring government performance and results; and (3) evaluating particular social, economic, and civic programs. Students advance and apply these skills in relation to several cases.

Students must take this course prior to their final semester in the program.

In a world filled with multiple and competing human well-being needs, not all of which can be addressed or acted upon fully or at once, which human well-being goals or purposes ought to matter most, which problems ought to be considered most deserving of attention and action, and which goals, purposes, or problems should be treated as top priorities with respect to their claims on attention, resources, and action? In this course, students explore how, whether, and to what extent “effective leadership” is, ought to be, or can be made synonymous with “moral” or “ethical leadership,” and by which understanding(s) of “morality” and “ethics.” Through classic and contemporary readings and case studies, students explore several different philosophical and religious traditions that might usefully inform the moral reasoning of present or future leaders who seek to promote human well-being by solving local, regional, national, or global problems.

In today’s environment, it is increasingly apparent that success is driven by an organization’s ability to create and capture value through innovations, either technological or non-technological. Thus, the processes used by organizations to develop and foster innovations, the choices they make regarding how to commercialize their innovations, the changes they make to their business models to adapt to the dynamic environment, and the strategies they use to position and build a dominate competitive position all are important issues facing the organizations. Building directly on the learnings achieved in G-MPA 6020, this course identifies and analyzes various types of innovation by socially responsible business leaders and generates insights about how leaders can strategically manage innovation and implement their innovation strategies to maximize their likelihood of success.

Globally, more than half of all children under age five who die of pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria reside in Africa. More generally, by many public health indices, including rates of life-threatening infectious diseases, access to healthcare delivery, life expectancy, and rates of foodborne illnesses, Africa faces huge and still largely unmet public health challenges. Millions of people in Africa die each year from diseases that can be prevented by access to certain medicines and mitigated by participation in particular programs. Focusing mainly on malaria in Africa, and with a special case-based focus on Tanzania, students describe, analyze, and evaluate multiple and competing anti-malaria approaches and programmatic initiatives.

Despite decreases in rates of extreme poverty across the globe since 2000, billions of people still live on the equivalent of less than US $5 a day, and food insecurity, untreated infectious diseases, and myriad other poverty-related problems have persisted and, in some cases, worsened. In this course, we explore perhaps the most visible dimensions of deep poverty: homelessness and inadequate affordable housing. We begin by examining the multiple and competing definitions of these threats to human well-being and different ways in which international bodies, national governments, advocacy organizations, and independent academic and other analysts have measured them. We then review the evidence on solutions to homelessness, looking at the history of addressing homelessness and what the research tells us does and does not work. We next proceed to examine each problem as it has variously manifested itself in each of five places: Hong Kong, India, Tanzania, Venezuela, and the United States. Students conclude with an effort to identify and assess public-private or “collaborative governance” programs, whether international, national, or local, that address homelessness and/or the inadequate or unaffordable housing problems in any two of those nations.

Today, for the first time in human history, there are as many adults age 60 and older as there are children age five and younger; by 2050, the world will be home to about two billion persons age 60 and older and two billion persons age 15 and younger. Global aging poses a consequential array of economic, social, and civic challenges that are only just now being confronted by local, national, and transnational leaders in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. In this course, students describe, analyze, and evaluate multiple and competing governance approaches and programmatic initiatives in relation to this major but still emerging global human well-being challenge. After surveying the best research on global aging, this course explores eldercare in Asia, with a special focus on China, India, Japan, and South Korea.