University life this academic year is different, to say the least, for NIU graduate students…
DeKalb, Ill. — Already ranked among the top five in the nation for its specialty field of local government management, NIU’s Master of Public Administration program now has even more bragging rights.
Released this week, U.S. News & World Report’s graduate school rankings once again slot NIU’s premier local government management program at No. 4. Not only does that specialty remain top among public and private university programs in Illinois, the M.P.A. program’s nonprofit management specialty ranked among the top 25 in the nation for the first time.
The ranking comes as no surprise to the many who credit the program’s insight and practical skills with helping them obtain jobs.
“It’s been a huge selling point for me going into interviews,” said Lynnea Erickson Laskowski, who graduated with a nonprofit management specialization in her M.P.A. from NIU in 2013. She now works as communication and prevention services director for Safe Passage, a DeKalb-based provider of services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
“NIU is the program to be a part of,” she said. “Everyone who is involved in government at some level knows about the program or knows someone who graduated from the program. It’s a fantastically well-connected program. It really prepares its graduates for careers.”
Additionally, NIU’s M.P.A. program ranked at No. 17 for public finance and budgeting and at No. 32 for public management. Overall, the M.P.A. program landed in the top 50 in the nation at No. 47.
As enrollments in NIU’s M.P.A. program have grown to record levels, few of the more than 300 M.P.A. programs evaluated throughout the nation ranked in four specialties. That puts NIU in an elite group of public affairs programs, said Presidential Engagement Professor Kurt Thurmaier, public administration chair.
The rankings reflect the prestige of a program known for its career-launching local government and nonprofit internships, outstanding alumni, practical curriculum and high-quality faculty, he said.
The M.P.A. program has a 95 percent job placement record within six months of graduation. And the local government management program has produced more than one-third of city managers in Illinois, with alumni now managing in Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Elk Grove, Elgin, Winnetka, Skokie, McHenry County, Highland Park and elsewhere.
“We have the best local government internship program in the world,” Thurmaier said. “That’s just fact.”
This fall, the department launched its online M.P.A. program focused exclusively on local government management and designed for midcareer professionals working in all types of local governments across the country. Thurmaier expects that program to increase enrollment by 50 to 75 students over the next two to three years.
“I attribute a lot of the excellence in our program to our alumni,” Thurmaier said. “They provide countless internships over the years. They’re the single most important source for new students for the M.P.A.”
Now village administrator and director of economic development in Mukwonago, Wis., as well as chair of the Department of Public Administration’s board of advisors, John Weidl has hired several interns from NIU since graduating with his M.P.A. in 2011.
“It’s a really fantastic program, a testament to the leadership of the department,” he said of the local government management specialty.
“It’s nice to see some of the other subprograms within the M.P.A. starting to receive recognition. I would certainly encourage anybody in the Midwest thinking about getting into public service to consider the program. There’s really something for anyone who wants to become part of public service.”
The rankings not only reflect NIU’s stellar reputation, but a growing interest in M.P.A. fields, especially nonprofit management. Many of today’s students are interested in social causes and passionate about making a difference, said Alicia Schatteman, an associate professor of nonprofit management.
A new undergraduate-level nonprofit and NGO studies program has made the M.P.A. nonprofit management specialty more attractive, Schatteman said. The graduate-level specialty came in at No. 21, ranking among the most respected and well-known programs in the field.
“We’re thrilled to be ranked,” Schatteman said. “We appreciate our peers recognizing the hard work we’re doing here. We see a lot of potential for the nonprofit segment to grow at NIU.”
Media Contact: Jami Kunzer
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body.