June 2023 Faculty Spotlight
In this month’s spotlight, we speak to the Faculty Director of the Executive MPA (EMPA), Nicole Gordon, about the EMPA experience, what makes its students remarkable, a new book she’s co-authored, and more.
You’ve been known to call Executive MPA students ‘remarkable’. What makes them stand out to you?
Our students come from diverse backgrounds and a wide range of government, not-for-profit, and private sector positions of significance. Many of them have overcome difficult circumstances, but they are all accomplished doers and thinkers.
It is a pleasure teaching in the Executive program because the students are highly motivated and well prepared. If an instructor poses a question, they raise their hands! They bring their extensive experience into the classroom and learn from each other just as they are learning from instructors and texts.
What is the EMPA program like for students?
It’s serious work, but the rewards are immediate.
Students bring what they’ve learned in class right into the workplace, and vice-versa. This is their universal experience. I’ve heard it over and over—the students quickly stand out in the workplace, and it is a boost, when a student reports that no one else at the last meeting in the office understood the budget, or statistics, or what-have-you, that was the subject of discussion. It makes an impression!
And the “concierge service” we offer—breakfast and lunch, books provided, registration taken care of, make it convenient. I like to say to prospective students, “Your coffee will be waiting”! And the cohort system and the trip abroad (we spend a week studying at a university in a foreign country) are bonding and fun, besides being immensely eye-opening.
The Saturday-only classes are very helpful to our students, who typically work more than full time, and have families and friends and the obligations we all have.
The small classes and first-class instruction by faculty and practitioners (accomplished leaders in their respective organizations) ensure that the students get exposure to the theory, for sure, but just as important, to the practical application of what they are studying.
And the guest speakers we’ve heard about?
And the guest speakers! We’ve had our classes meet with a Supreme Court Justice; a well-known District Attorney; a retired U.S. Army Colonel whose book on his leadership experience in combat is required reading at West Point; heads of prominent not-for-profit and government institutions; a New York Times general counsel and reporter; owners of NYC’s top nonprofit communication firms; a former communication officer for the UK prime minister; an award-winning filmmaker; the digital communication director for a presidential candidate; and environmental, social, and criminal justice advocates, among others.
But the point of this is not that these distinguished guests speak at our students. Our classes are small. Our students all get to have a back-and-forth conversation with our guests. It is pretty heady.
Are students enthusiastic about the program?
I’ll let the students tell you themselves!
Any other thoughts?
We’re interested in hearing from prospective students who have 3-5 years of managerial experience (or equivalent). If you fit that bill and are interested in an intensive, two-year, just-on-Saturdays program to get an Executive Master in Public Administration, take a look at the Marxe School’s Executive MPA. It is every bit as extraordinary as our students and alumni say it is!
What have you been working on lately?
Aside from running the Executive program and teaching Ethics and Public Decision-Making, Leadership and Strategy, and the Capstone, I contributed to a book that has just been published together with Marxe School Professors, Don Waisanen in the lead and Sonia Jarvis, called “States of Confusion: How our Voter I.D. Laws Fail Democracy and What to Do About It”. We are at a lot of frightening crossroads in the U.S. right now, and with any luck the book will spur some reforms for the better in the world of election administration.