This is the first version of the 2020-21 General Catalog. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

One of the enduring grand challenges is how we collectively, creatively, and democratically respond to key challenges facing our communities, nation, and the world. Among these challenges are environmental change, including an increased incidence and intensity of disasters such as flooding, sea level rise, and wildfires attributable to climate change; health care; an aging population; addiction; inadequate infrastructure; inequality; unaffordable housing; racism; transportation; immigration; economic development; and public safety.

In response, the Master of Public Affairs program will train future leaders to systematically and creatively address these and other challenges in the coming years. With its interdisciplinary public affairs infrastructure—representing colleges, departments, and centers across campus—the University of Iowa is a leader in public affairs locally and nationally. The program will educate public affairs leaders who will creatively and knowledgeably address society’s most critical issues and contribute to addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century.

The graduate Master of Public Affairs (M.P.Aff.) requires 42 s.h. of credit. Students must earn a grade of B-minus or higher in all core and concentration area courses and must maintain an overall graduate g.p.a. of at least 3.00.

The required curriculum includes seven core courses, an internship, five electives (including three taken within a concentration), and a one-semester capstone project. Courses are offered by the School of Planning and Public Affairs (Graduate College), the Department of Political Science and the M.A. in strategic communication program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), as well as from the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship (Tippie College of Business), the Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center (College of Law), the College of Public Health, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (College of Engineering).

The Master of Public Affairs requires the following work.

Core Courses

All of these:
PBAF:5111American Public Policy3
PBAF:5117Bureaucratic Politics and Public Administration3
PBAF:5200American State Politics3
PBAF:6200Analytic Methods I3
PBAF:6205Economics for Policy Analysis3
PBAF:6233Public Finance and Budgeting3
PBAF:6240Public Management3

Concentration Area

Students complete a total of 15 s.h. in consultation with their advisor, with at least 9 s.h. of these in coursework taken in the public and nonprofit management or public policy concentration area, and 6 s.h. in coursework taken from any of the two concentration areas or other courses as deemed appropriate. Students further develop in their concentration area by applying the concepts and skills gained in core coursework.

Public and Nonprofit Management Concentration

Nonprofit Management

LAW:8753Nonprofit Organizations: Structure, Governance, and Strategy3
LAW:8755Nonprofit Organizations: Advocacy, Collaboration, and Fundraising3
MGMT:3500Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness I3
MGMT:3600Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness II3
MGMT:4600Nonprofit Ethics and Governance3

Public Management

PBAF:6238Public Human Resource Management3
PBAF:6239Organizational Dynamics and Leadership3
PBAF:6241Strategic Management of Public and Nonprofit Organizations3
URP:6282Grant Writing2

Strategic Communication

JMC:5200Topics in Strategic Communication3
JMC:5240Digital Strategic Communication3
JMC:5270Leadership Communication3
JMC:5300Foundations of Strategic Communication3
POLI:3560Public Policy and Persuasion3

Public Policy Concentration

Criminal Justice

CRIM:3600Crime and Public Policy3
CRIM:4470Communities and Crime3

Economic Development Policy

URP:6295Economic Development Policy3
URP:6297Economic Development Finance3

Educational Policy

EPLS:6222Introduction to Educational Policy3
EPLS:6225Higher Education Policy3
EPLS:6228K-12 Education Finance and Policy3

Environmental Policy

URP:5800Environmental Economics and Policy3
URP:6256Environmental Policy3
URP:6257Environmental Management3
URP:6258Modeling Dynamic Systems3
CEE:3790Resilient Infrastructure and Emergency Response3
CEE:5410Politics and Economics of the Food, Energy, Water Nexus3
LAW:8433Environmental Law3
LAW:8622International Environmental Law3
POLI:3518Water Wars: Conflict and Cooperation3

Health Policy

HMP:5610Health Policy3
HMP:5650Health Policy Analysis3
HMP:6710Federalism and Health Policy3

Housing and Community Development Policy

URP:6271Housing Policy3
URP:6273Community Development in the Upper Midwest3


PBAF:6340Public Policy Analysis3
URP:6201Analytic Methods II3

Politics of Public Policy Making

JMC:5248Strategic Political Communication3
POLI:3102The U.S. Congress3
POLI:3104Immigration Politics3
POLI:3118Interest Groups3
POLI:3123State Politics in Iowa3
POLI:3203Campaigns, Elections, and Voting Behavior3
POLI:3204Public Opinion3
POLI:3519Politics of Aging3
POLI:3560Public Policy and Persuasion3

Sustainable Development

URP:5800Environmental Economics and Policy3
CEE:4107Sustainable Systems3
CEE:5410Politics and Economics of the Food, Energy, Water Nexus3
GEOG:3420Sustainable and Green Building Concepts3
GEOG:4750Environmental Impact Analysis3
GEOG:4770Environmental Justice3

Transportation Policy

URP:6260Transportation Policy and Planning3
URP:6265Planning Sustainable Transportation3
URP:6266Transportation and Land Use Planning3

Capstone Course

Students take the public affairs capstone course, typically in their final semester. They work on a community, state, federal, or nonprofit project in which they focus their efforts on an analysis of a contemporary public policy problem, research, development of policy proposals, and recommended action steps. This is done in tandem with the University’s Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC), that for ten years has been providing public consultation to communities in Iowa.

This course:
PBAF:6210Public Affairs Capstone3

Internship Course

Students are required to complete an approved internship with a public agency or a nonprofit organization. They engage in 240 hours of internship work under the supervision of a public affairs professional.

This course:

Final Examination

An oral and written exam constitutes the final exam.

Admission requires an undergraduate degree and fulfillment of the minimum requirements of the Graduate College.

For fall 2020 admission, prospective students should submit completed materials to Graduate Admissions by March 1 if funding is requested. For fall 2021 and subsequent years, the deadline for funding consideration is January 15 of that year. Funding for those who submit materials after these dates is considered only as funding permits. Applications for admission are accepted until July 15; April 15 for international students.

To apply, follow the directions on the Graduate Admissions website. Applicants can apply online and upload all supporting materials. International students without a U.S. degree or whose first language is not English must submit official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores before admission and then funding decisions can be made. All students requesting funding also must complete and upload the Funding Application/Award Form.

Students receive financial support from the program primarily from teaching or research assistantships and from contract or grant-funded assistantships. Assistantships typically require 13-20 hours of work per week under the direction of a faculty member and are accompanied by a tuition scholarship.

Students initiate applications for financial support, and awards are made on the basis of merit, experience, and interests. Assistantships may be renewed for a total of up to four semesters.

Students applying for financial support are encouraged to submit application materials and requests for support by March 1. Students who apply after that date are considered as remaining funds permit. Financial support usually is not available for students who begin the program in the spring semester.

Graduates land positions in professional policy analytical and/or managerial service in the public and nonprofit sectors. The degree builds knowledge and skills in a mix of topics that includes policy, economics, statistics, research, and management and prepares students for professions that influence public policy through analysis, application, or management. They have a number of career choices available, many of which lead to executive positions in federal, state, and local governments, or in nonprofit agencies.

Example positions in the local, state, federal, nonprofit, and private sectors include:

  • Local: government specialist leading to a city manager, community health director, or public housing manager
  • State: program manager for a state housing authority or a policy analyst/program manager for a variety of state agencies
  • Federal: presidential management fellow, or starting as a GS-9 position in the federal government in a variety of federal agencies
  • Nonprofit: program director leading to a nonprofit organization director
  • Public, private, and nonprofit: public and government relations specialist, lobbyist, or elected official

The School of Planning and Public Affairs provides career assistance efforts for both internship and post-graduation job seekers. It offers job information access and one-on-one advising support from the school's career services coordinator.