By Tom Benedetto School of Public Service
Let’s be honest: We don’t give accreditation much thought. We know that it’s considered important, often essential, in getting jobs.
But what else do we know about it?
Choosing an accredited college program is like ordering a cheeseburger made from 100 percent USDA Choice beef. We have no idea what goes into that label, but we’re pretty sure it’s a good thing. We like the assurance that we’ve spent our money wisely
and won’t regret it later.
So, what is NASPAA and why does accreditation matter?
First things first: If you’re in a public service program, NASPAA hails as the king of accreditation. It’s The Whopper. The acronym stands for the
. It boasts almost 300 members, including 15 outside the U.S.
The organization’s mission aims “to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service.” In other words, it makes
sure the meat of your program is Grade A, regardless of whether we students are grading A.
It all comes down to jobs, particularly in government and nonprofit institutions —
though some students in public service, public policy and public administration disciplines land good jobs in the private sector. Employers want assurance that a
college program’s staff, faculty, leadership, programs, curriculum and more — you might say its menu — remain stocked with nutrition.
Hear it from our chef. "Since we house professional degrees, our learning goals must
of the obligations we have to students, including matching our curriculum to competencies and skills that are valued in the job market.”
The School of Public Service carries a tasty national and even global distinction. It is the only school to boast four NASPAA accredited degrees:
• Master of Science in Public Service Management degree (first accredited in 2002)
• Master of Public Administration (2012)
• Master of Science in International Public Service (2012)
• Master of Public Policy (2017) NASPAA accreditation comes in addition to the broader Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits all of DePaul’s degree programs.
Every five years, SPS’s accredited programs must be reaccredited through NASPAA.
The International Public Service and Master of Public Administration degrees are up for reaccreditation this academic year, in what NASPAA calls the “Self Study Year.”
The reaccreditation process begins in the fall and continues through the academic year. It’s a year-long diagnostic check that each program is setting high academic standards, assessing student learning effectively, and growing wherever possible.
“The process also helps us stay in regular contact with stakeholders,” Stokes said. “It
requires SPS to have a broader outreach strategy to stay in touch with alumni and employers, and also strengthens our relationship with university leaders.”
Stokes also trumpeted the benefits to SPS faculty members. He says the process gives
professors and instructors direct involvement in improvement of the programs, provides structure for faculty meetings and fosters greater collegial engagement.
NASPAA organizes its criteria for reaccreditation into seven standards: mission, governance, faculty, students, competencies, resources and communications.
SPS faculty members spend a year assessing their most recent contributions in upholding these standards in the field of public service. Current students and alumni are involved in the process as well.
Just last year, SPS had its fourth NASPAA degree accredited: the Master’s in Public Policy.
The chair of the MPP program, Professor Joe Schwieterman, emphasized the immensity of the accreditation process. He also stressed the collaboration and the benefits.
“We had unanimous support from start to finish,” he said. “We all knew it would be a
lengthy process, but going through the steps to gain accreditation was enormously helpful.”
He added: “All the faculty consider the MPP as a degree that can help us attract talented students from both our region and around the country while also providing new elective options for students in our other four degrees, so everyone benefits. We're excited at how it has all come together — it was a true team effort.”
The team effort continues for the IPS and MPA programs. This academic year, SPS
faculty is working toward submittal of a lengthy “Self Study Report,” which the NASPAA uses for its decision to approve or deny accreditation.
If NASPAA likes and approves what SPS is cooking, that means your program and its
faculty are setting the standard in public service education. You knew they were good, but NASPAA accreditation confirms they’re among the best.
And aren’t we here because we want to be among the best?
Watch for communications regarding student involvement in the NASPAA process.
Hopefully, you can become invested in the process now that you know why it’s important. In the meantime, enjoy your academic cheeseburger, um, well done.
Tom Benedetto is a graduate assistant in the School of Public Service. He’s a pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree.
Mission: ‘To educate the next generation of public service leaders’
School of Public Service
Director Robert Stokes
says: “Our school is a leader in research, service and education in the areas of public and non‐profit leadership, administration and policy analysis. We are a true Chicago institution; thus, we
count a rich set of connections to public, non‐profit and policy actors throughout the city and region. Our alumni network is made up of over 2,600 professionals working in
various public service fields throughout the region. Our twelve full time faculty have both practical and scholarly expertise in management, policy formulation and analysis. Our five graduate programs allow students to choose a path that best
fits their career aspirations.
“As a teaching institution, DePaul always puts its students first. As scholars, our full‐time faculty are experts in the areas of transportation, housing, crime, community health, cultural public finance, economic development, sustainable international
development, inequality, and the science of philanthropic giving, a truly broad department of experts.
“Our mission at SPS is an important one: to educate the next generation of public service leaders. Through this, we also seek to build a community of like‐minded individuals who seek to improve the people, places and organizations that make up the public service network in Chicago and beyond.