The Mid-Career MPA Program

I just recently began the mid-career Master of Public Administration degree program at the Harvard Kennedy School.  While I fully intended to blog throughout the program, I’m learning such an enormous amount of material at such a rapid pace that I don’t have time to process that knowledge. I need to be confident that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m working it out on my own.

The program contains roughly 200 students from around the world who are in the middle of their careers and want to either make a significant career change or a significant career upgrade. As one of the professors told us early on, “Half of you are in the middle of a mid-life crisis, and the other half will have one by the end of the year. In any case, you will all go through one.” I’ve found that my colleagues come from a variety of backgrounds and all three sectors.

We started with a month-long summer program of intense work on microeconomics and quantitative skills.  Half-way through the program, I have a new appreciation for both math and econ. Perhaps during my undergraduate years at Boston University I wasn’t able to see the relevance of either, but now I instantly see the real-life applications of understanding the effect taxes have on the price of goods we consume, and how knowing to distinguish the effective interest rate from the nominal interest rate can be pretty important when you’re either saving or borrowing money.

Because of the breadth of experience and skill-level among the 200 students, we are split into 7 different levels for both math and econ. The course instructors also come from around the world and all have successful careers in their field. In fact, there is such low turn-over among these instructors that most of them take a month-long vacation from wherever they work in order to come to Harvard to teach – the average instructor has been doing this for 10 years!

The students are incredibly social. It’s enough to make eye contact and you are instantly involved in a conversation about inflation, climate change, or international business, to name a few.  My small economics class of 19 people contains students from: Israel, Kosovo, Senegal, Spain, Austria, Nigeria, Canada, the UK, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Australia, and the Philippines.

Many people would like to use this year to improve their public speaking skills, and I’ve directed them to our Toastmasters club and to the variety of courses and workshops offered at the Kennedy School.  No matter where they are from, everyone wants to become a better communicator.  Good communication skills are truly universal.

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2 Comments on “The Mid-Career MPA Program”

  1. Kirsten says:

    Thanks for the posting an overview of your experiences with mpa program. Having the opportunity to interact with such a diverse and accomplished group must be an incredible experience.
    Good luck with the econ; I agree, taking economics after having lived in the real world for while makes a huge difference in making the concepts tangible.
    I hope you are having the time of your life!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kirsten! You’re welcome to sit in on a lecture in the fall if you’d like.

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