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As public administration is faced with the challenge of making governance work, the university is being called upon to become more involved in the civic engagement movement. Increasing civic engagement requires addressing one of the core problems contributing to its decline: deteriorating community caused by a lack of social capital. Although there is debate about whether there has been a decline in civic engagement or simply a change in the ways citizens participate, there is agreement about the need to increase engagement and to include universities in this process. One of the proposed solutions, advocated by Barber and Battistoni (1993) and Putnam (2000), is service learning.

Empirical data support a positive association between service learning and social capital (D’Agostino, 2006). This paper moves beyond theory to describe actual collaboration between universities and public administration to foster a civically engaged society. I will first show that the university is a key actor in community. I will then describe service learning as the means for universities to fulfill their role in community. This is followed by articulating how, through master of public administration (MPA) programs, the university can move this conversation forward. This effort by universities is then assessed through a survey of 133 MPA chairs.


This work was originally published in Journal of Public Affairs Education.



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