PPA 240 Assignments
Public Management
California State University, Sacramento


Professor Nancy Shulock

E-mail Questions           


Short Papers

Group Project

Final Paper

Web-site Resources


E-mail Questions - Weekly e-mail questions on readings
and occasional class discussion questions

Due Date: 12:00 noon on the day of class. E-mail to nshulock@csus.edu DO NOT USE LISTSERV FOR WEEKLY E-MAIL QUESTIONS.

Description of the assignment: After reading all material for the week, send me an e-mail, by noon Wednesday, with a question on something the material made you think about. About 4-5 times during the semester, each student will be assigned in advance to raise their issue to the class and lead a short discussion. I do not expect you to have answers or to have done any additional research on those weeks. I do expect you to have thought about why the issue is important and how one might go about getting answers. Examples: how does the concept of "customer" apply to regulatory agencies? is satisfying customers the same as achieving the public interest?

Goals and objectives: To ensure that you read and think about the material and to help me direct the class discussion to topics that you have found interesting.


Short Papers -- Four papers on weekly readings (2-4 pages, double-spaced)

Due Date: Any four class sessions--at the start of class

Description of the assignment: You may pick the four weeks according to your interest in the topic or your schedule, but don't leave them all for the end! I have included sample questions under the reading assignment for each week. You may address any of these questions or another topic that the readings raise in your mind. The paper is NOT to be a summary of the readings. It is to be an analysis, or a personal reaction to the readings, e.g. do you agree? do the authors over-simplify? does this concept apply to a variety of situations? have you observed these concepts in your organization? The paper does not have to include formal citations from readings. It does need to be well-organized, well-written, proof-read.

Goals and objectives: The purpose of the papers is to get you to apply the concepts in the readings to the organization that will be your focus over the course of the semester. The papers should help you be well along toward thinking about and writing the final paper by the latter part of the semester. I also want to make sure that a sub-group of students (those who have chosen to write a paper in a given week) is really prepared to contribute to class discussion. So, on the week that you turn in a paper, please be prepared to talk about the readings, even more than you usually may!


Group Project

Due Date: Week 12 (November 18)

Description of the assignment: In groups of three, students will examine a set of public agency strategic plans that are posted on the web, and strategic plans for their own organizations, if available. Using Conferencing on the Web (COW), students will collectively decide on four strategic plans to review. With respect to those four, the group will develop a critique of the plans, indicating (1) what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of the plans, (2) how well the plans incorporate performance measures for outcomes, (3) whether and how the plans position the organization to change, and (4) any other comments the group wishes to add. All students are to read all four strategic plans. The group will turn in a short paper (3-5 pages) containing their collective response to the questions posed. The paper can be hard copy or electronic.

Groups may choose from the following strategic plans, and may include any other plans on the web of which they are aware:

1. United States Geologic Survey
US Environmental Protection Agency
US Department of Education
Bureau of Indian Affairs
California Air Resources Board
California Energy Commission
California Department of Finance
California State Personnel Board, Personnel, Resources, and Innovations Division
State of Hawaii Strategic Tourism Plan
State of Maryland Human Services Department

Goals and objectives: I want students to gain the benefits of working in groups, which is known to enhance student learning. I also want all of us to experience the new technologies that promote collaboration in ways other than face-to-face. Think of this as an alternative to finding a time during which all four of your group members could drive to campus and meet. The specific assignment is an opportunity to work with some of the concepts on organizational change, accountability, and performance measurement.


Final Paper--12-15 pages, double-spaced

Due Date: Finals Week, on day of class, at 6pm

Description of the assignment: You may choose either of two topics for your final paper.

With reference to your organization, or another organization, write a case study that describes how the organization and its leaders are dealing with contemporary issues of public management. This paper should build upon the four papers you wrote earlier in the class and should address issues such as leadership, accountability, reframing the citizen-government relationship, performance measurement, organizational culture, organizational change, reengineering, political management, ethics, defining and creating public value, etc. The number of issues addressed and the specific topics are your choice. The paper must, however, describe the organization's condition and performance in select areas with respect to the norms and expectations presented by authors we have read. It should be a fairly comprehensive (rather than narrowly focused on one issue) assessment of how the organization is doing in meeting today's challenges.

The reform of government has received considerable attention in the 1990s. With reference to a broad spectrum of the course readings, please write a 12-15 page, double spaced paper that addresses the following topics:

· why interest in reform is high at this time
· how contemporary reform movements compare to one another and to traditional approaches to public management
· what you see as some of the most important developments in contemporary public management theory
· identify what you think are two or three of the most important challenges facing contemporary public managers (e.g. accountability, developing performance measures, transforming organizational culture, restructuring organizations, managing within the political environment, promoting organizational learning, improving customer service, recruiting and rewarding effective staff and/or leaders, dealing with ethical issues, obtaining resources, or others you identify) and support your choices
· for the specific items you identified, describe what you think are the prospects for reform in these key areas, the major obstacles to success, and the tools that public managers have to successfully meet these challenges

Attributes of successful papers (for either topic):

1. Clear statement of your paper topic--good introductory paragraph

2. Substantive discussion of the challenges of public management that demonstrates a solid understanding of a broad spectrum of course readings

3. Evidence of integrative thinking, e.g. that you have considered readings in light of one another

4. Willingness to analyze various authors' viewpoints, take a position, and support it, rather than summarizing various viewpoints

5. Well-organized presentation, with logical progression of ideas, clear headings, and conclusion that relates back to the introduction

6. Clear, concise, grammatically correct writing style, without typographical errors

7. Conform to the requirements of 12-15 double-spaced pages, font no larger than 12-point, normal margins (about 1 inch).

8. Formal citations and bibliography are not required unless you are using material from outside of course readings (not necessary).

Goals and objectives: To engage in integrative thinking about a broad range of topics covered in class and in the readings and to come to some personal understanding of how they might apply either to a real-world situation or simply in theory. Further, to demonstrate your ability to write a thoughtful and coherent paper. If you write on your own organization, the paper should give you greater insight into your work environment.


Web-site Resources -- Written review of five sites

Due Date: With Final Paper

Description of the assignment: Over the course of the semester, review some of the web sites listed in the Resources section of the course overview. Write up a review of five of the sites, indicating whether and how they could be useful to you in school, work, or just for general interest. The written product should be about 2-3 pages and can be e-mailed or electronic submitted.

Goals and objectives: To introduce students to the variety of web resources available in the field of public administration and public management, and to get students thinking about how to use information to help with their own interests.



Page updated: October 12, 1998