New UM Department of Public Administration Programs Address Workforce Needs

MISSOULA – Next fall, four new programs will launch at the Baucus Institute’s Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Montana.

New programs include a dual Master of Public Administration and Master of Social Work degree program, an undergraduate certificate in public policy, a graduate certificate in poverty policy, and a graduate certificate in law, public administration and policy.

“The top employer in Montana is government,” said Dr. Sara Rinfret, acting dean of UM’s Blewett School of Law and director of the MPA program. “We’re fulfilling our mission to train the best and brightest for careers in public and nonprofit-sector service.”

The dual MPA-MSW degree program combines existing curriculum from both programs, so students can complete a curriculum focused on public administration and social work. While giving students an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration, the joint program also prepares them to respond to the unique needs of a rural state like Montana.

“This program benefits students because it bridges social work’s direct practice skills with an emphasis on leadership and management that the MPA brings,” said Jen Molloy, director of the MSW program in the School of Social Work.

MPA-MSW dual degree graduates will be attractive to employers because their education allows them to efficiently allocate resources by hiring one person with a dual skillset, she said. Graduates of the dual degree will be advanced practitioners in both social work and public administration and policy – people prepared to contribute to statewide efforts responding to the complex problems where these fields intersect.

“There is a need for strong leadership, especially around social issues impacting our rural and indigenous communities,” Molloy said. “Students graduating from this program will enter the workforce with an intimate understanding of the needs, concerns and strengths of our communities and will be able to take on leadership roles in agencies that serve and advocate for our most vulnerable populations.”

In addition to the dual degree program, DPAP also will enroll students this fall in three new certificate programs that will provide a competitive advantage for students on the job market.

A new undergraduate certificate in public policy prepares students with the fundamental skills and knowledge necessary for social impact careers in the public sector. The 12-credit undergraduate certificate teaches leadership skills, policy process and implementation, and data visualization – all focused on solving public-sector problems through data-informed decision-making.

 “It’s a field of study that involves analyzing the problems we face as a society and then creating, evaluating and implementing solutions,” Rinfret said.

One of two graduate-level certificates will focus on poverty policy. The poverty policy certificate program provides students with a focus of serving marginalized populations and provides the skills necessary to tackle large-scale societal issues.

“Today’s public servants are tasked with addressing society’s wicked problems, including the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality,” said Christina Barsky, a DPAP assistant professor. “We created this certificate to serve our students and community in developing the practical skills and knowledge required to compassionately confront the incessant public challenge of inequity in American society.”

Drawing on curriculum and expertise from the Alexander Blewett III School of Law and DPAP, the second new graduate certificate in law, policy and public administration teaches students the fundamental skills important for the profession of public administration, policy and law. These classes provide basic knowledge and skills that enhance the level of professionalism in public administration and law.

“This certificate is built to leverage our strengths in both law and public administration,” said Anthony Johnstone, a UM law professor. “From nonprofit administration to government service and law, many professionals will encounter public policy issues throughout their work. And many of the most important issues confronting our society occur at the intersection of law, policy and public administration.”

From legislation to implementation to policy assessment, this certificate provides a comprehensive view of the public policy process and highlights several of the subject matter areas that are most important to lawyers, public servants and citizens in Montana.

The School of Law’s JD-MPA is one of the largest and fastest-growing joint degrees in the Montana University System, but for students not seeking degree-level credentials, the certificate offers an accessible pathway for law and other graduate students to obtain competencies in law and policy process that complement a broad range of career paths.

“Our goal for the Department of Public Administration and Policy is to train every public sector employee in the state of Montana,” Rinfret said. “These offerings lead to reaching that goal and better serving our state.”

For more information about DPAP and its offerings, visit


Contact: Sara Rinfret, acting dean, UM Alexander Blewett III School of Law, 406-243-4702,