1 David S. David S. My name is Jaclyn Clevenger, and I am the Admissions Coordinator at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. I am joined by Leigh Botwinik, our Director of Graduate Programs, and a few of our current students. has entered the room Thank you all for joining us tonight for this Live Chat! Hello Just to start us off, here is some basic info about Fels. Fels offers a Master of Public Administration degree, which can be completed in a full- time or part- time format. The MPA offers a broad- based education that prepares students for leadership roles in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private firms engaging in public sector work. It is comprised of 8 core courses and 4 electives which can be taken across Penn s campus. We also offer four Certificate degree in Economic Development and Growth, Nonprofit Administration, Politics, and Public Finance, which can either be pursued independently or in conjunction with the MPA. More information on our academic program can be found at (http://www.fels.upenn.edu/programs) ivan.kahfi It's morning actually here in Indonesia Jaclyn :) Allie (Fels Students) Matt (Fels Student) Lauren (Fels Student) Scott (Fels student) Too start, I am going to ask our current students to introduce themselves. Hi all - I'm a first- year student at Fels. I graduated in 2009 and worked for 3 years in Boston and Philly before coming to Penn. I'm looking forward to answering your questions! Hey guys, I'm Matt, I'm a first- year MPA student here at Fels. I finished my undergrad in 2006 and worked in transportation and homeland security in the DC area before starting grad school. Hey everyone, I'm Lauren. I started the Fels program this Fall after working in Philly for the last four years. I'm originally from New Jersey but went to college in North Carolina, and moved to Philly after graduation to work at a nonprofit. Hey everyone. I'm Scott, I'm a 2nd year MPA student here at Fels. Prior to Fels, I ran a non- profit in Philadelphia for three years that focused on minority science education programs for middle school students. Thanks everyone! If you could, please discuss why you decided to attend Fels for graduate school. Penn is a great school, so to start, I knew that Fels would have a strong reputation behind it and a lot of resources available for its students. I loved the program s small size I went to a small liberal arts college and have always appreciated a more tight- knit academic community and that aspect is tied into everything about our school. The Fels mansion (where the program is headquartered) really feels like a second home, and everyone I met during my first visit was genuine and so accommodating. I then came to the accepted students day in April and was completely hooked after learning more about the program s practical focus, alumni network, and amazing staff. You can really tailor the program to your interests (and I want to take about 50 different electives next year they all sound fascinating).
2 Mariah S. I went back to grad school because I wanted a management degree, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to shift my career into a new field. I picked Fels for a few reasons. I liked that it was a small and personal program but nestled within an elite university. The location helped sell me, too; it's far enough from the DC Beltway that you get fresh perspectives but not too far to maintain or grow your network. And something about the Fels mansion- this picturesque little building that's the intersection of so many smart people who believe in the power of the public sector to do good- it just got me. I choose Fels for it's small class size and curriculum of highly practical classes. I decided to attend Fels so I could learn more management skills that would allow me to take on more responsibility and leadership in future jobs. I also love Philly and wanted to stay here! Thanks everyone! Allie: could you discuss what student life is like at Fels/Penn? Life at Penn is busy. But not in a competitive/super stressful environment. Most of the first- year students take 3 classes and have 2 weekdays off, so we ve had 4- day weekends every week this term. Most of my classmates (including myself) have jobs or internships, though, so that extra time fills up pretty quickly. There s a lot of reading to do and a lot of group work. My cohort gets along extremely well, so when we re not in class we sometimes meet up to work together or to go out in University City. It s definitely different from undergrad Fels students live all over the city, and meals are no longer a major social outing like they were before but I m really enjoying my time as a grad student thus far. So true, Allie. Fels is a small, tight- knit community so you get to know everyone in your cohort really well. You spend class time together but you also hang out outside of classes a lot. Yeah, it's a major shift from the world of the workforce, but Fels student life is a lot of fun. With a small cohort, a group of people with whom you take your core classes over the next two years, it's easy to make friends quickly. The class sizes- at least within Fels- sometimes start to feel like a big group of your friends getting together. Thank you for your responses! Please feel free to chime in at anytime with questions you have about the Fels Institute of Government. I have a few questions- Is it really important to have full- time work experience before applying? I have noticed that the student makeup of many of the MPA programs I am applying to is composed of mid career professionals who are choosing to go back to school. I have had several part time internships, have worked several part- time jobs and will be graduating in May, so I am not entirely inexperienced. And How important are GRE scores in the application package?
3 ivan.kahfi Kelly C. Douglas D. ivan.kahfi Those are some great questions Mariah. The MPA program at Fels is a small, personal, and very unique program, and not for everyone. Whether or not an applicant would be a good fit is a very important component. We value work experience, and most of our students have had 2-3 years of work before beginning graduate school. We do have some older students with a little more work experience under their belts and some who come right out of undergraduate school. For applicants who don't have that much work experience or come from the private sector, we look for a commitment to the public sector that can be demonstrated through internships, volunteering, campaign work, etc. Also, Fels accepts test scores from either the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT exam. High test scores do not guarantee admission and lower numbers do not preclude it. International applicants must submit transcripts that have been translated into English and the American- grading system. If your institution is able to provide a translated transcript with an explanation of how your grades were determined, than there is no need to use an outside service at this time. However, if your institution cannot provide this service, you should have your transcripts translated by a translation service provider, such as World Education Services (WES). Most of you said the benefit of small- size class. How small is it exactly? And how many classes are there? Hey Ivan- our grad student cohort (the group with whom we take most of our classes) is about students. Most of us take three classes a semester and a large majority of the cohort is in each class. We also have some dual- degree students who are also pursuing degrees at Penn Law, the school of social work, etc., who take classes with us. Elective classes tend to be much smaller in class size than the core courses. My elective classes are usually students. I am interested to know if any of the students on the chat are in the executive MPA program. If so, could you please describe how do you find the balance between work and class? Thanks! Would any of the current students or Jaclyn be able to speak about the Executive option? Hi Kelly. Unfortunately none of our Executive MPA students could join us tonight, but I am happy to answer your question. Executive students take their core courses on Saturdays, and can take their elective exams on Saturdays or weeknights. Most students will take 2 courses per semester, and complete the degree in two full years. That's great. It's an effective size for a class actually. Thanks for the answers. Executive students come from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. Architects sit next to political consultants, editors next to budgeters, government employees next to corporate government relations managers. They learn from one another and form enduring professional relationships that they rely on throughout their careers. Current students: could you discuss what some of your classes have been like?
4 Marcia S. Douglas D. ivan.kahfi Kelly C. My favorite class so far has been Politics and Public Leadership. It s a pretty intense class and requires a lot of reading, but we ve discussed some great books and had a few wonderful guest speakers. It s about how to get things done in the real world everything from persuasion techniques to the dynamics of power to the importance of connecting with people through stories. To add to that, our classes meet once or twice during the week but require a lot of reading outside of class. We also have a lot of assignments that require group work, and we meet regularly with our classmates outside of the classroom. I really like Politics and Public Leadership (we just left it, actually). But I actually really like our Economic Analysis in the Public Sector class. I was terrified of taking another econ class (rough experience in college) but Professor Madden's course frames a concept that's tough for humanities majors like me, in the light of public policy, which makes it both easier to understand and a lot more valuable. I am also interested in the executive program and would like to know if/ how it would work completing a dual- degree. Hi Marcia - That depends on what the other degree is you are interested in pursuing. Other graduate programs at Penn have different options available for part- time students. I am happy to chat more specifically about your situation if you want. Feel free to at I would imagine that you develop close relationships with your professors since the classes are so intimate, have you current students found this to be true? Hey Doug- I've been able to develop great relationships with a number of my professors. The small class sizes allow you to get know the professors and they are always willing to make time to meet with you about classes/internships/career help. One of the best things about Fels is the Network of Alumni you get connected to through classmates and professors My interest is like you, Matt. Maybe I can discuss with you later in Penn, if i was accepted though :D I am sure many of you have questions about financial aid. We are proud that over 90% of students who wish to be considered for funding are given a Fels scholarship. The majority of full- time MPA students fund their graduate education through a combination of merit- based tuition scholarships, living stipends, income from internships and part- time jobs, and federal and private loans. Some students do work as Graduate Associates, where they live in an undergraduate dormitory and receive a stipend. Accepted students should apply for this position in the spring. Fels will occasionally hire students to work as TA, and apply for those positions once they are on campus. Can any of the students discuss opportunities outside of the classroom such as site visits or trips abroad that build on these connections?
5 Hey Kelly. Fels has a lot of programs in place to help you build your network while you're in school. Recently, they held a "DC Day" for us, in which Fels bussed a group of us to DC and we had informational interviews with DC- area professionals who had Penn and/or Fels connections. As a guy who lived in DC for six years, I made some new connections and got to learn about opportunities I hadn't considered. So I think that's a strong suit here. Hi Kelly - some other programs offer courses that travel internationally. You could take these courses as one of your electives. There are great networking opportunities through Fels, but the program staff will also help you network more informally throughout Philadelphia. Fels alumni and staff have great contacts and are happy to help connect current students. Thank you Scott. Are there Fels events in which you are able to meet with alumni or Douglas D. have you found the network helpful in the Philadelphia area? Hey Doug- Ive had a great experiences with alumni for getting internships both years here at Fels and this past summer. All of the alumni I've ever communicated with have been very responsive and helpful and connected me with high level people in their own network. I'm working as a Graduate Associate (GA) this year, and it's definitely been a good experience. I'd recommend considering it if you come to Fels! Hi Jaclyn I have a question about financial aid for americorps volunteers. on the gracechung website it says that americorps/peacecorps/tfa volunteers get $8,000 which is renewable for the second year. what are the conditions for renewal? Many of our classes are taught by local practitioners, so there is ample opportunities for students to explore Philadelphia through their classes and through trips run by Fels/Penn. Hi Grace. This scholarship is renewable as long as you remain in good academic standing at the University. gracechung that's awesome! Thanks :) Could anyone offer some specific stats on accepantance rates and GRE score range for applicants? It is hard to say what exact qualifications we are looking for in a prospective applicant since we have no numbers an applicant has to reach and no particular background that fits into a formula. This past September's full- time admitted students had an average GRE math score of 680, an average GRE verbal score of 600, and an average GRE Writing score of 4.6. (all on the old scale) Also, last year our acceptance rate was about 35%. Mariah S. Can you talk about job placement rates after graduation please? Hi Mariah. 90% of our graduates from the Class of 2011 secured full- time positions or entered advanced degree programs within 6 months of graduation. The rate for last year's graduating class will be published on our website soon. You can learn more at
6 ivan.kahfi Sachi T. Sachi T. Sachi T. Rui X. Rui X. Rui X. Dan B. Anyway, I want to ask about the recommendation letters. It's required to submit three letters, with one from a person who have taught you. Well, it's been 7 years since I graduated and I think it's a little bit difficult for me to get a letter from my teacher since most of them are not teaching there anymore. Do you have any suggestion for me? Hey Ivan- I was in the same boat as you when I applied. If you can't get a professor from undergrad, it's helpful if you can find one recommender, like a supervisor or mentor, who can provide some insight into how you'll perform in an academic environment. I'd be interested in pursuing a joint MPA/MSEd in education policy from Fels and Penn Graduate School of Education. Do you know anyone who has completed/ is working toward this joint degree and how long it took them? Hi Sachi - there is one second year student pursuing a dual degree with Fels and GSE, and I almost did the same. It takes 2 years and you take 4 classes each term (while most Fels students take 3). You take almost all Fels classes the first year and almost all GSE classes the second year. Thanks Allie, would you mind telling me why you chose not to pursue the joint degree? Sachi, it was a tough decision as it's a great option and I'm pretty interested in working in the education field. I was very impressed with both Fels and GSE, and ultimately I decided that I'd like to use my Fels electives to take some non- education classes, too. You don't have room to take electives in the dual program, so it totally depends on personal preference and how committed you are to focusing on education (or whatever other subject area in which you may be considering a dual degree). That makes alot of sense. Thanks for the insight. I'm really interested in education, but I wasn't sure how much overlap and potential repetition there might be between the two degrees. How about international students? Are they usually go back to their country or find job in US? Hi Rui. Typically 20% of our incoming classes is comprised of international students. It is very difficult for international students to find jobs in the US after graduation, but not impossible. This is not a unique situation for Fels graduates, as all international students face additional challenges. Yes, I understand the situation. Are Allie, Matt, Lauren, or Scott pursuing a certificate concurrently with the MPA? If so, what are some of the exciting opportunities that have come from doing so? Hey Dan- I'm considering a public finance certificate but only if it fits into my schedule. Most full- time students do not pursue a certificate because the core courses cover such a good spectrum of skill sets. That being said if you are looking to enter a specific sector the certificate program gives you more access to potential contacts in that field. Lauren, could you discuss what it's like to live in Philadelphia?
7 Sihong Y. ivan.kahfi Douglas D. Before starting at Fels, I worked at a local nonprofit in Philly in their fundraising and communications office. I love Philly and wanted to stay here, so Fels was an easy choice. Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the U.S. but it often has a small- city feel. It has a great restaurant scene, art, and cultural opportunities. It's a very walkable city, and Penn is only a few minutes from the downtown area. Hi Jaclyn, I would like to know if international students have found job in the US, what kind of job would they usually get? Reverse of Sihong's question: What types of jobs do U.S. national students obtain abroad after graduation? Would Fels be a good fit for someone interested in an international career in management, although there is not a specific international development, relations or affairs focus? Hi Angela. Many of our alumni who have worked internationally have done so through the State Department or international non- profit organizations. These alumni tend to work in international development as supposed to international relations. Also, international students who have an interest in consulting or public finance are more likely to find an organization to sponsor them after graduation. Keep in mind that this is a difficult process, and unfortunately not all international students can find sponsors after graduating. I'm very excited about the electives. It'll give me freedom to choose classes that i need! Current students: have you found most of the core classes to be more quantitative or qualitative? ivan.kahfi Yea Douglas, it's an important question :) I think our classes teach a good mix of qualitative and quantitative skills - we have Economics and Statistics but we also have classes in leadership development and speech writing. Hey Douglas; I think one of the things that's surprised me has been how mixed the core classes have been. For our first semester, economics and statistics are obviously more quantitative, but they're presented through the lens of public policy, which is interesting. Once you get through those, you can focus on quantitative or qualitative electives to the degree you prefer, but speaking as a humanities major who was terrified of math, I think Fels strikes a good balance in the core classes. In anticipation of some questions you might have about the application, the deadline for the full- time MPA program is January 15th. Fels is THE school for. (fill in the blank) What really differentiates it from other programs? Angela - practical skills! Angela: I'd say "personal relationships" Angela- Practical Skills definitely is the best way to describe what differentiates from other programs.
8 Also, the Fels Research & Consulting practice brings together proven leaders in the public sector with our top students to develop innovative solutions to our community s most challenging issues. Channeling the resources of Penn, we offer expertise in a variety of areas to improve the service and performance of the public sector. This is a great opportunity for our students to gain real world experience while they are in school. Sachi T. Do all Fels students get to work with Fels Research & Consulting? Obtaining a position with our Research and Consulting Practice is competitive, but keep in mind that as we take on more projects we are able to hire more students to work with R&C Jaclyn, what are the kinds of skills and background fels research & consulting looks for gracechung in students? So students who are interested in Penn Research & Consulting apply, and it's a part- Sachi T. time job? gracechung and when do students typically apply for these positions? Yes Sachi, it is a part- time position. Students can apply when positions become available throughout the year, which is advertised in our bi- weekly for internships positions available both in Research and Consulting and in other organizations in Philadelphia. The skills needed to work with R&C depends on the project. Some are more data- oriented, while others are more writing focused, etc. I am interested in Fels, but my question is will this program help someone prepare to Desmond J. write and implement legislation/statues for a city, state or federal government or would you recommend a JD? What is the process like for obtaining an advisor? Can students touch on their availability, relationships with advisors? Hey Angela- you're assigned an advisor when you arrived, based on your interests and background. You can always change advisors but the one Fels assigns you is usually a good fit. My advisor and I both worked for the same state agency, and he's helped to set me up with informational interviews through his professional network. I am hearing several different opinions ob both, many say get an MPA, JD is not Desmond J. necessary and expensive, then others say JD and it gives flexibility! Desmond - I considered law school before deciding to attend Fels, and that's a tough question! I think that yes, an MPA will help you prepare legislation, especially at Fels, which has a strong local focus. At the same time, it depends on what type of policy work you want to do. Having a law degree will allow you to write legislation, but having an MPA will put you in a position to work with attorneys and city government to get legislation passed. You may also want to look at Penn's JD/MPA option. Hi Desmond - the dual MPA/JD program at Penn allows you to complete both degrees in just 3 years. Basic question guys, what's the minimum score of TOEFL or IELTS for the international ivan.kahfi applicants?
9 liuxi liuxi John P. Desmond J. Hi Ivan. It is hard to say what exact qualifications we are looking for in a prospective applicant since we have no numbers an applicant has to reach and no particular background that fits into a formula. We typically look for a TOEFL score around 100 and an ILETS score around 7.0. Is anyone interested in "Public Policy Challenge"? I learnt that it is a competition, but how do Penn students compete in the program? Hey Liuxi, I'm competing in the Public Policy Challenge this year. Each fall the application opens up for all Penn Graduate Students. If you get selected, the staff will place you with a team of like minded teammates. I would definitely recommend it Liuxi, I'm also working on the Public Policy Challenge and my team has two Fels students paired with two PhD candidates from Penn's Annenberg School of Communication. It's been a great experience so far. Hi Lauren. How do decide on the issue you are interested in? Is it assigned to you? Or you are free to choose a topic? Liuxi - When you apply to the Public Policy Challenge, you describe a policy issue you care about as part of the application. Then, after you are accepted, you are matched with other people who have similar interests. Can someone offer a general breakdown on diversity of students, and also of faculty? Hi Angela, The Fels student body is very diverse in all sense of the word. We have students from all over the United States and many international students. All of our students come from a variety of academic backgrounds and have varying career interests. Is Fels a good fit for candidates who would like to work in non- profit consulting? I'm weighing my options between the MPA and an MBA in nonprofit management/social entrepreneurship. I'm specifically interested in program evaluation, organizational leadership and finance but unsure which way to take my career Hey John- there are a lot of folks who come to Fels with prior experience in nonprofit consulting, and a lot of people also want to go into that field. It's pretty popular. There are a lot of opportunities, both through the Penn alumni network and some of our faculty, to get involved in the Philadelphia area. An MPA isn't just for those who want to go into government service- the non- profit world is also well- represented. I am excited to see that there is a special chat for RPCVs (and other groups). Is there are large community at Fels? Hi Angela- every year we have a few RCPV's in our class of 35 students. They are a great contribution to the program! As a student coming from California, are economy is in shabbles. California is known to be the 8th largest economy in the world, but now ranks 47th out of the 50 states in America. The skills & tools I want is to be able to pass a budget effective and efficient budget on time as a Public Administrator to get California out of this fiscal crisis. What concentration or certificate would you recommend? Hi Desmond. A few of our classes focus on public finance, which includes coursework on budgeting. However, you might consider our Certificate in Public Finance to further those skills.
10 Douglas D. liuxi Jaclyn, is the application deadline for the Executive option July 1 as it was last year? Thank you. Hi Douglas, that is correct - July 1st for a Fall 2012 start date. You can also apply to the Exec program for the Summer 2013 term, with a deadline of March 1st. The deadline for the full- time MPA program is January 15th. Following the current topic about nonprofit consulting, I wonder whether Fels gives instructions on how to ESTABLISH and operate non- government organizations? Hi Liuxi. You should look into our Certificate in Nonprofit Administration, which offers many valuable classes to someone looking to start their own non- profit. As we wrap things up, could the students offer some advice to future applicants? My advice to potential applicants is to show Fels that you have career goals and direction. Let Fels see how the program will help you reach your goals, and be as specific as possible. All of my classmates have clear, defined purposes in their reasons for attending Fels. Apply early and come visit campus/the Fels mansion if you can. I had such a strong feeling about Fels when I came to visit, and over the months that followed I began to feel more and more at home here until it was almost like my decision was made for me. Also, I totally agree with Lauren - in your personal statement, try to come across as really clear and focused regarding what you want to do in the future (or at least what specific skills you want to hone/employ). I think Fels appreciates that sense of commitment. (To clarify, applying early doesn't help you in your admission - I just found it helpful to have it done earlier in the winter and not wait until the last moment!) Thanks Allie. Just to clarify, no full- time applications will be reviewed until after the January 15th deadline. My advice is- if you possibly can- come and visit the Penn campus and meet the students, faculty and staff here at Fels. It gives you a great sense of the community and the environment here. My best advice is to reach out to people you want to do your letters of recommendation as early as possible so they have enough time to write it thoughtfully. Also, make sure to have as many people as possible review your essay prior to applying. Thank you to everyone for participating in tonight's live chat! Please feel free to contact me at anytime with questions you have about Fels: