Navigating the Multiple Roles of the MPA Director: Perspectives and Lessons

This article explores how the changing landscape of higher education affects the roles that a director of a Master of Public Administration (MPA) program plays in leading and managing academic programs. I offer a new perspective on the dominant business model of higher education and its impacts on the multiple roles of the MPA director. I argue that institutions of higher education must adopt a new model that responds to changing societal landscape and needs. As institutions seek to adapt to these changes, the MPA director is asked to play a variety of roles vis-à-vis many stakeholders. I present a typology of these roles: (1) the manager, (2) the advocate, (3) the liaison, and (4) the entrepreneur. I review characteristics of these roles and provide illustrative examples by drawing on the experiential education model pioneered at Northeastern University.