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Public Administration

Making a difference in society

How are public policies created and implemented? What are the responsibilities and limitations of governments, service agencies and other organizations dedicated to pursuing the public good? How are non-profit organizations impacting public policy?

As a public administration major at Elon, you will explore these questions and others that have a profound bearing on the shape of modern society. Public administration is the study of the ideas, individuals and institutions engaged in drafting and implementing public policies and administering public organizations. You will examine how governments are organized, what roles public officials play, how groups and governmental agencies formulate and administer policies, and how various influences and political forces affect those policies.

Elon offers a dynamic approach to the study of public administration. You will explore the issues, skills and theories that shape political and public service through a combination of coursework, research projects, role-playing simulations, service learning projects, community-based research, seminars and internships.

"I enjoyed the opportunity to take classes on a variety of topics and found that my professors were able to push me to academic levels I didn't know were possible. On top of this, they also prepared me for the practical aspects of the job search that allowed me to secure a job immediately after graduation."

Danielle Gaquin '08

Flexible curriculum 

Elon’s curriculum provides public administration majors with a well-balanced foundation that allows you to explore your interests within the broad reach of the field, and also offers flexibility to pursue a second major or a minor. 

In the public administration major, students learn the basic principles of public and non-profit organizations, decision making, the relationships between the branches of government, public policy and policy analysis, program evaluation, and state and local government. Then you will build upon that foundation through a range of elective courses from a variety of disciplines, including economics, business, political science and others. The senior capstone course is a seminar that directs your skills and knowledge toward an original research project in which you work with public sector practitioners to evaluate public policies and programs.

Active, diverse faculty

At Elon, you will learn from and with dynamic professors who have a wealth of professional experience, academic expertise and a range of interests and research specialties. Among the faculty are Elon’s 2009 Distinguished Scholar Award winner, two state legislative staffers, an election campaign manager, an administrator of the Carter Center, a Fulbright Scholar and many others. They are leaders of campus programs, including the leadership program, Latin American Studies program, Institute of Politics and Public Affairs, Center for Public Affairs and Center for Public Opinion Polling. They routinely lead study abroad programs focusing on London, the European Union, World War II and Costa Rica.

Research, experiential learning and internships

Public administration majors enhance their classroom education by pursuing original research projects, both individually and with other students and faculty. Students conduct and publish research on the effectiveness of public policies and programs, citizen satisfaction surveys with local government services and how public agencies handle natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. In the capstone senior seminar, students prepare and present a work of original scholarship.

Public administration students apply the latest technological resources in gathering and analyzing research data, including SPSS software to generate advanced statistical correlations, geographical information systems (GIS) software to analyze public policy and planning issues, and sophisticated public opinion polling software as part of the Elon University Poll. Majors regularly present their research findings at Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), and they gain valuable experience and make important contacts presenting papers at professional conferences.

Public administration students also participate in a variety of applied learning settings on and off campus. On-campus simulations allow to study how local governments function and then apply that understanding during role-playing activities in which students assume the roles of city council members, planning commissioners, business leaders, citizens groups and the media. Every January, The Washington Center Seminar gives students the opportunity to participate in an intensive study of the American presidency and the national media in Washington, D.C. Also, during presidential election years, students attend seminars sponsored by The Washington Center at either the Republican or Democratic National Convention.

Most public administration majors balance their coursework with real-world experience through service learning opportunities and internships, where they work with professionals in the field. Elon students complete internships with a variety of nonprofit, business, governmental and legal organizations, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House and Amnesty International.

“Because of my internship in Washington, D.C., and my work in Alamance County during senior seminar, I don’t feel as though I just read a book — I have experience I can use in a real-world job setting.”

Kara Fultz ’04    

Study abroad and special opportunities

Many public administration majors participate in Elon’s extensive network of study abroad programs. Departmental faculty have taught winter term courses in Costa Rica and London, and students have also completed semester study abroad experiences in Ireland, Australia, Ecuador, Spain, France, Lithuania, Russia, England and Ghana.

Majors also can join several student organizations related to their field. Elon’s representatives to the North Carolina Student Legislature are advised through the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and earned the organization’s Best Small University Delegation award for 2009. Other groups include the Model United Nations; Pi Sigma Alpha, the departmental honor society; and the National Campaign for Student Political and Civic Engagement, which explores ways to stimulate civic engagement among college and high school students. 

After graduation

Elon’s public administration curriculum and experiential learning opportunities prepare students to continue their studies in graduate school or to move on to successful careers in a range of fields. Many students move directly into government, law, education, policy advocacy, business and non-profit organizations. Recent public administration alumni have secured jobs with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Census Bureau and Carolinas Healthcare Systems. 

Other students frequently enter graduate programs in public administration and others pursue graduate study in law, health administration, emergency management and GIS, and other disciplines. Recent public administration graduates have been accepted to the Elon, Stetson and North Carolina Central University law schools; and the University of South Carolina and American University Master’s of Public Administration programs.


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