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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU MPA program one of first to receive reaccreditation with new, higher standards

New Mexico State University's Master's of Public Administration program has received a six-year reaccreditation from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). The College of Arts and Sciences program is one of the first in the U.S. to be reaccredited with the agency's new, higher standards involving student learning outcomes.

"With the implementation of NASPAA's new accreditation standards, the role of assessment, and especially competencies, in the quality assurance and self-study process was magnified," said Christina Medina, the program's director and associate professor of government. "Programs now have a greater responsibility to demonstrate how well students are learning the information the program provides."

The certifying organization, formally known as National Association of School of Public Affairs and Administration, consists of 282 member institutions, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in public affairs and administration. Accreditation through NASPAA indicates that a program has undergone a rigorous peer review process and deemed a quality program.

Of the total number of MPA programs eligible to participate in the peer review process, 172 programs at 162 schools (only 57 percent of member schools) were accredited in 2012-2013, according to Medina. NMSU's program has continuously received accreditation since 1989.

"While the previous standards required that programs be mission driven, engage in assessment, and use assessment results to guide performance, the new standards require an additional focus on student learning outcomes," Medina said.

The reaccreditation process began with a yearlong self-study, reviewed by a commission of 11 peer institutions and a public practitioner. A three-member team then conducted a site visit, meeting with faculty, staff, students, alumni and key administrators. The team sent the final report to the commission who made the recommendation.

Neil Harvey, government department head, said the process led to the implementation of an advisory council made up of program alumni, donors and other stakeholders. He said it also provided an opportunity to takes things in a different direction in response to cultural diversity, the U.S.-Mexico border region and the university's mission as a land-grant institution.

"We plan to really craft the identity of the program, as well as the department's," Harvey said. "To fit those needs and those possibilities that we have, just because of who we are and where we are."

The program is intended for students seeking employment in the public and government sectors, as wells as with nonprofit organizations.