Fels Institute of Government
The Fels Institute of Government is the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate program in public policy and public management. Its practical approach to public management education, its Ivy League pedigree and its relatively small size make it one of the nation's leading boutique programs in public affairs. The Institute was founded in 1937 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Samuel Simeon Fels of the Fels Naptha Soap Company in response to a wave of corruption and mismanagement in Pennsylvania government. Originally established for the purpose of training local government officials, over time Fels broadened its mission; it now prepares its students for public leadership positions in city, state, and Federal agencies, elective politics, nonprofit organizations, and private firms with close connections to the public sector. Its 2,000 living alumni work in leadership roles across the US and around the world. As of August, 2008 the Executive Director of the Fels Institute is David Thornburgh, a long-time civic and business leader in the Philadelphia region and son of Attorney General and former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh. Fels is housed in the charming former Samuel Fels residence on the west end of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, located in the University City area of Philadelphia. The University City neighborhood is compact and walkable. It features world-renowned centers for education, health, and technology. As one of the most diverse areas in Philadelphia, University City has a wide range of multicultural restaurants, cafes, and shopping choices.

The Fels Institute's program combines the rigor of an Ivy League education with a practical approach necessary to achieve results. According to Peterson's, Fels is one of the most selective public affairs programs in the United States. However, despite the program's selectivity, pedigree, and longstanding reputation in the Philadelphia region, Fels has only recently begun to attract attention and students from outside of the Northeast. Fels offers a Master’s degree in Public Administration in both a full-time and executive (part-time) formats. Fels also offers 5-course certificates in Economic Development and Growth, Nonprofit Administration, Politics, and Public Finance. Students can also take advantage of dual degree options--popular choices include the JD/MGA degree in conjunction with the Penn Law School, and MBA/MPA with the Wharton School, and MEd/MPA through the School of Education. Fels' proximity to Washington and New York, 4 state capitals (PA, NJ, DE, and MD) and five big cities makes it a natural crossroad for a diverse range of public leaders. Past speakers have included Senator Arlen Specter; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Aqua America CEO Nick DeBenedictis , Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery Charter Schools ; , Martin Luther King III, CEO of MLK Center in Atlanta, Arlene Ackerman, CEO, School District of Philadelphia. ; and E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post Columnist E.J. Dionne, Kimmel Center CEO Anne Ewers, and long-time PA State Representative Dwight Evans.

The MPA Degree
The MPA is a 12-course program designed to provide a broad-based education that prepares students to move within and between government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private firms engaging in public sector work. The curriculum develops core competencies in analysis, management, finance, and politics that are applicable to different contexts. Eight core courses cover the fundamentals of effective public administration, developing competencies in analysis, management, finance and politics. Four elective courses give students the opportunity to apply the skills and theories introduced in the core courses to a particular policy topic or sector.

Courses at Fels are divided into four categories: politics, economic growth and development, nonprofit administration, and public finance. A Fels certificate can be earned in any of these areas; or students who wish for broader training can take classes from multiple areas. Courses include: Policy Development, Performance Management, Fundraising for Nonprofit Organizations, Ancient and Modern Constitutionmaking, Leadership and Politics, Dealing With the Media, Public Finance Investment Banking, The Politics of Housing and Community Development, Lobbying, State Elective Politics, and Foundations and Grant Management.

The Fels curriculum is anchored by outstanding faculty who bring to the classroom their experience as leaders and change agents within the public sphere. The MGA program’s small class size enables instructors to get to know students personally and to provide advice regarding course selection or career opportunities for students seeking such support during their time at Fels. Faculty members include:

  • Hon. Edward G. Rendell: Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky: CEO, Women’s Campaign International; Former Member of Congress
  • Lee Nunery: Deputy Superintendent, Philadelphia School District
  • James F. Kenney: Councilman at Large, City of Philadelphia
  • Stephen Mullin: Senior Vice President, Econsult Corporation; Former Philadelphia City Finance Director
  • Eric Costello Neiderman: Manager, Cargo Security Research & Development, Transportation Security Administration, Dept. of Homeland Security
  • Wayne A. Smith: President and CEO, Delaware Healthcare Association; former House Majority Leader, Delaware General Assembly

The Fels Approach: “Leadership for Results”
The entire Fels experience is centered around its aim of educating leaders to produce results that matter to citizens. Fels students benefit from being in a small graduate program within a much larger Ivy League university. The Institute has approximately 140 students in its full-time and executive programs. Students work in small cohorts of about 35 students, making for a vibrant, close-knit community of scholars to work with and learn from. Students also receive a high level of personal attention from staff and faculty, who get to know their interests and strengths well. At Fels, students experience and practice the institute’s public service mission by conducting research and providing consulting services for government and nonprofit entities. Fels projects enable to put into practice the skills and theories they learn in the classroom while gaining real-word experience; and by partnering with external organizations, Fels projects bring the intellectual capacity of the University to bear on the challenges facing public and nonprofit organizations. Recent Projects (2008) The Fels Institute's active research and consulting program distinguishes it as a top-notch "think and do" tank. Fels projects bring Fels staff, alumni, and students together to tackle tough public problems. Recent Fels projects include: The Fels Performance Action Team, a group of students, staff, and faculty, worked with the City of Philadelphia to transform data-driven leadership into tangible results through its PhillyStat and Budgeting for Outcomes initiatives. The Pennsylvania Leadership Academy supported Pennsylvania state government officials in identifying and implementing performance-based management strategies. The Neighborhood Change Project revisited and assessd the current condition of 533 formerly vacant properties in Southwest Center City Philadelphia, providing insight into the process of neighborhood change.

Fels Alumni

  • Ted Gaebler: Co-author of national bestseller “Reinventing Government”
  • Wilson Goode: First African-American Mayor of Philadelphia (1984-1992)
  • Matthew Gallagher '97: Chief of Staff, Governor of Maryland Martin J. O’Malley
  • George M. Leader: Former Governor of Pennsylvania
  • Jennifer Beck: New Jersey State Senator, Represents the 12th legislative district
  • Chaka Fattah '86: US Congressman
  • Richard Steffens '88: US Diplomat and author & lyricist for the Carnegie Hall production "Mother Russia."
  • Rob Wonderling '91: Former Pennsylvania State Senator and current President and CEO of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
  • Stephen Dilts '96: New Jersey Transportation Commissioner
  • Peter Brown '99: Professor at the University of Minnesota and author of "America's Waterfront Revival Port Authorities and Urban Redevelopment."
  • Richard Keevey: Former Director of the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School's Research Institute on the Region
  • Michael Masch: Chief Business Officer of the School District of Philadelphia
  • Anna Shapoval '04: Country Director, Doctors of the World - Kiev, Ukraine
  • Greg Walker '05: Policy and Planning Officer, Sound Transit
  • Ed DeSeve '71: Senior Adviser for Recovery Act Implementation to President Obama
  • Robert Bittenbender '98: Former Budget Secretary under Governors Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker and Dick Thornburgh, and former executive director of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Rob Powelson '03: Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
  • Donna Cooper '87: Senior Fellow,Center for American Progress,and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Policy and Planning
  • David Byerman '95: Secretary of the Nevada Senate
  • Richard Smith '91: Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education
  • Jeffrey Krilla '96: Former Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
  • Joseph A. Esposito '06: Former Deputy Under Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education

Fels Publications
Vacant Property Reclamation and Neighborhood Change in Southwest Center City Philadelphia (July 2008): Details the current status of vacant properties surveyed in 1998 to better understand the changing neighborhood. MyVote1 National Election Report (Christopher Patusky, Allison Brummel, & Timothy Schmidt, August 2007): Summarizes the results of the 2006 MyVote1 National Election Hotline project. The Philadelphia SchoolStat Model (Leigh Botwinik, Christopher Patusky, Mary Shelley, 2007): Describes how the Compstat and CitiStat models were adapted for the Philadelphia School District, what performance improvements occurred after implementation, and which features of the approach seemed to be the biggest contributors to improvement. "Making the Most of Social Media" (Chris Kingsley, Allison Brummel, Catharine Lamb, & Jack Higgins, 2009): Discusses the growth of Social Media over the past several years, including the challenges associated with adopting them for public use - legal, practical and political, and distills the experience of cities who have done this both more and less effectively into seven suggestions that cover the full cycle of adoption, from pre-planning to self-evaluation.


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