Local Government Administration
Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program
Battle Creek Campus
Fall Semester, 2003
Class Meeting Dates
This class will meet for twelve weekly sessions, of which six will be live (on-site, face-to-face) classroom sessions meeting on Monday nights from 6:00-9:00 p.m., and six will be Internet-mediated sessions using the World Wide Web and E-mail. The session dates are indicated in the course calendar.
Attendance at all class sessions is expected!
Instructor: James A. Visser
Telephone: (616) 387-8937
Fax: (616) 387-8935
Course Web Page:
Office Mailing Address:
Office Hours: By appointment only. I can be reached most easily via e-mail.
Submission of Written Reports and Documents: All written materials must be typewritten, and submitted to the instructor via e-mail attachment or facsimile.
Questions of the Instructor: In
class or via e-mail.
This course is intended for supervisory and mid-level local managers with limited practical experience or training as general managers in public organizations. Therefore, the course is designed to provide students with a sound base of knowledge base for functioning as higher-level local government managers, particularly given the setting of rapid and substantial change in the operation of today’s public organizations. This course is an elective course for the MPA program’s concentration in local government administration.
This course addresses the management challenges faced by local public administrators in managing local government under the conditions of physical, economic, social, and political change. Students will review current societal trends affecting local communities and examine how these trends, and the roles and relationships of major stakeholders in local government, impact local policy decision-making and governmental administration. Students will then develop skills in applying public administration principles and methods to managing policy and public organizational change.
Through targeted lectures, readings, special assignments, and discussions of case studies, this course will help the student to develop an understanding of the dynamics of managing America’s cities in an increasingly urban world that is increasingly adopting new ways of governing and managing public organizations for the twenty-first century. Students will also develop an appreciation for how local resources, personnel, programs, and services are administered in an era of collaborative citizen participation in administration and a simultaneous push to improve operations by reinventing local government.
The following is a general topical outline of the learning modules included in this course.
This module is a brief overview of the dynamics of today’s changing urban environment, and how regional and global change is altering the underlying assumptions of managing local government.
This module discusses how to manage physical, economic, and political change in America’s cities brought about by the economic, demographic, and spatial trends that are altering the nature of urban life and government.
This module focuses on promoting collaboration and managing conflict (1) among local governments within the same urban area, and (2) between local government and its citizens.
Managing relationships with key actors and personnel who impact the administration's effectiveness within the local government organization is the focal point of this module. Topics to be covered include relations between elected officials and appointed government professionals, relations with the press, and managing both people and financial resources in local government.
The course will conclude with a module on managing those aspects of organizational resiliency that impact its transition into the future: its operational performance, and its ability to anticipate change and formulate sound plans and visions.
Students will be required to complete reading assignments from class texts and the course pack in advance of their assigned class sessions. Success in this class is directly related to keeping up with assigned readings.
The course will include two take-home essay exams. Each exam will be given in the form of an “action memo” (approximately 10 pages, double-spaced) which allow students to integrate what they have learned in the class room to date into a simulated real-world case “problem” using a memo format similar to that found in the working world.
Students are to read each of the course's ten cases prior to its assigned class session, complete an assignment pertaining to the case as described under Session Assignments below, and come to the next scheduled live (face-to-face) classroom session prepared to discuss the case in detail.
Each week, students will be responsible for completing three assignment tasks as follows:
2. Conduct a special assignment related to the content material of that week's session and/or the session's case study.
3. Prepare a "case response" to the case study assigned for the session. The "response" is a written paper (two pages maximum) that responds to one or two key questions about the case posted by the instructor to the course web site. These questions may require an integrated response from the students, to be drawn from the week's readings, online work, and case study. Responses are to be then e-mailed to the instructor by the dates specified in the class calendar.
Attendance and Class Participation
Regular attendance at the live class sessions and active participation in the session assignments are necessary for achieving a good grade in this course. Students are asked to notify the instructor in advance, whenever possible, if they are not able to attend a class session.
Assignment due dates are specified in the class schedule
attached to the complete syllabus to be bound in the front of the course
pack for this course and at the course home
page on the World Wide Web. The instructor expects all assignments
to be turned in on time. Late assignments not previously cleared with the
instructor will be penalized with a lower grade. Assignments turned
in later than one week beyond the due date will normally receive a grade
of zero unless previously approved by the instructor.
The criteria for grading in this course is as follows:
2. Quality of writing in exams and submitted case response papers.
3. Quality of logic and thought presented in exams and case response papers.
Class Participation: 40 percent 80 points
F2F Attendance 20 percent 40 points
Session Assignments: 20 percent 40 points
Take-Home Exams 40 percent 80 points
Maximum Possible Points: 100 percent 200 points
A=188-200 points (94%)
All work required for this course is to be completed by the end of the
semester. Failure to finish and submit assignments by the end of the semester
will automatically result in a grade of zero for each missing assignment.
In those rare and exceptional circumstances when severe illness or personal
crises prevent timely course completion, the instructor may at his
discretion grant an Incomplete. The instructor reserves the right under
university policy to not only refuse the granting of a grade of I-Incomplete,
but also to set the conditions under which an Incomplete is to be removed
from the student’s record and converted to a letter grade.
Policy on Plagiarism
Any instance of plagiarism or falsification of authorship will result in a failing grade in the course.
Additionally, students are responsbile for being
aware of and understanding the policies and procedures on pages 22-26 of
the Graduate Catalog that pertain to Academic Integrity. These policies
include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission,
plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is a reason to believe
a student has been involved in academic dishonesty, he or she will be referred
to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. The student will be given the
opportunity to review the charge(s). If the student believes he or she
is not responsible, he or she will have the opportunity for a hearing.
The student should consult with the Dean of Students by telephone (616/387-2150)
if he or she is uncertain about an issue of academic dishonesty prior to
the submission of an official class assignment or test.
Copyright: James A. Visser
School of Public Affairs
Western Michigan University
Revised: July 2003