Masters Matter: Dr. Mark Bradbury and Gretchen Vetter, Public Administration

Dr. Mark Bradbury, director of the Master in Public Administration (MPA) program, and graduate student Gretchen Vetter discuss the MPA program at Appalachian State University. This program is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Government and Justice Studies.


  • Professor Mark Bradbury: I am the director of the master of public and administration program. I’ve been at Appalachian now over 10 years, director of the program for six and serve as the advisor for all of the students in the program.

    Gretchen Vetter: My name is Gretchen Vetter, I am a graduate student in the master of public administration program. I finish up in August.

    MB: My office is in Anne Belk Hall which is right next to the student union. We are part of the department of government and justice studies and all the of faculty offices are  on the top floor of Anne Belk Hall. So please feel free to come visit us and stop by if you’re on campus.

    GV: Well, I started the program in fall of 2014. That following summer I did an internship with the North Carolina Department of Transportation that got me really interested in studying transportation funding which I then decided to do my capstone project on that.

    MB: The MPA program takes two years to complete. The capstone project comes at the end of those two years and really does serve as a way of sort of summing up the student’s experience in the program and is a high profile example of where students and faculty work together, but it is not the only example. All of the courses in our program are seminar format. Most of them require students to work on a project. So they will work collaboratively with the faculty member to come up with a topic and the research strategy. You know, so that students gain practical applied research experience throughout the program.

    GV: About 25% of city or county managers in NC have a masters from this program. You are required to have two internships in order to graduate. And I thought that that was a really wonderful opportunity to be able to do some first hand practical experience in the program as well as learn the important aspects of public administration, you know, in the classroom.

    After my first internship with NCDOT, I ended up getting hired. So for my second year in the program I worked full time and took classes at night and the faculty have been very supportive of that.

    MB: The emphasis of the Appalachian MPA program is on applied practical experience while the students are in the program and the goal is to get them a job. So Gretchen’s story, actually being hired directly from her internship, is a real point of pride for us, but is not terribly unusual either. In fact another student, the same summer Getchen’s internship turned into a job, also got hired by that organization. We think that that speaks to the applied practical emphasis that our program has. We are preparing students to be able to pursue public service government nonprofit jobs. We see the internship as a critical bridge between the program and that career. I’ll speak for you, but I mean hopefully one thing you’re really happy about, once you got hired,  the program more generally was really accommodating..

    GV: yeah

    MB: ...and flexible. So we then worked with you.

    GV: I mean y’all offered me work space in the building.

    MB: That’s right we have work space.

    GV: Yeah.

    MB: You know, if you had work/class conflicts we worked with so that you are going to graduate on time.

    GV: Yeah, I remember when you came and visited my internship program and I told you that they were interested in maybe offering me a job and I just remember the first thing you said was “Great!” You know, you didn’t have any questions or you didn’t put any doubt in me that I could do both of these things at the same time. I think if you didn’t give me that support, I--I don’t know if I would’ve, you know, gone that same route.  

    MB: My two favorite things about being director of this MPA program at Appalachian State: One, our program of study within the MPA program allows students to choose courses and electives that reflect their interests and ambitions. We are not a cookie cutter program of study. So that students, when they graduate, hopefully can look back and say I got exposed to the core concepts and, you know, core elements of the field of administration, but also able put their own stamp on their program of study. They see themselves in the program that they just completed. And number two, what I really like about directing a master’s program at Appalachian is that masters programs really matter here. We are not a doctoral granting institution, so masters students don’t get lost in the graduate school shuffle. Where at other institutions, doctoral students might really be sort of the cream of the crop, here its masters students. When our masters students graduate and start their career and get their great job, that is the great reward. For me, as the director of the program and on behalf of my colleagues the other faculty, the email from a former student saying that they got a job makes our day.