May 29, 2024  
2023-2024 General Catalog [Current] 
2023-2024 General Catalog [Current]

Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice

Person IconDepartment Chair
Kevan Jacobson – GC 406N
Faculty IconFaculty & Staff
Person IconMPA Program Director
Donna Handley
Advisor IconStudent Success Advisors
Admin Assistant IconAdministrative Assistant
Amanda Healey – GC 406E
Website IconWebsite

Overview of Programs


The disciplines within this department have faculty which have both academic and practitioner experience. This allows our programs to provide a theory-based curriculum with a strong emphasis on practical application and interpretation by providing special, unique learning opportunities. After successfully completing a degree through this department, a student will be well prepared to enter the job force and/or to continue into graduate school. 


The 36-semester-hour M.P.A. program is a professional degree suitable to all students interested in pursuing a career in management within the public or non-profit sectors. The M.P.A. program provides an intellectual, collaborative, and engaged learning environment where practical and theoretical concepts of public administration are applied within historical, political, social, cultural, and economic contexts. Students learn to act as facilitators in defining and pursuing the public interest.

Classes focus on developing the ability to reason critically, to analyze important dimensions of public service, and to take coherent positions on key public administration and policy issues. Upon graduation, students in the program should be able to think critically, communicate effectively through written and oral means, advocate public sector values, apply analytic tools to policies and decision-making, and demonstrate leadership skills, while serving a diverse workforce and citizenry.

Versatile in its design, students may customize the program to suit their personal interests and career objectives. A variety of electives are available within the M.P.A. program and through other graduate programs at Southern Utah University.


Political Science

Political Science is devoted to the study of the theory and practice of government and politics. The Political Science program complements a student’s liberal arts education with an emphasis on understanding the theoretical and practical aspects of political philosophy, public administration, law, international relations, comparative politics, American government and politics, and public policy.

Criminal Justice

The Criminal Justice program provides students with extensive knowledge of the U.S. Criminal Justice System, comprised of law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Students will develop the capacity to apply law, social sciences, and sound practices as criminal justice professionals in the public and private sectors. The program also provides students a foundation upon which to pursue advanced education in the criminal justice field.

Legal Studies

The mission of the Undergraduate Legal Studies Program is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to work effectively, competently, ethically, and successfully as paralegals in a law office/firm, corporation/business entity, government agency, or the public sector, as well as to support students in seeking their goals of attending law school and becoming attorneys.

Public Administration

The Master of Public Administration degree program builds upon Southern Utah University’s individualized, experiential learning through our mission and goals.

Our mission is to:

  1. Prepare pre-service and in-service students to meet the challenges of public and nonprofit service.
  2. Develop student knowledge and competencies through scholarly activity, experiential learning, and applied research.
  3. Offer coursework that presents a framework of understanding based on academic literature and skill development through activities, projects, and assignments.
  4. Promote public service values, a culture of democratic administration, leadership and managements skills, and ethical decision-making in all aspects of public and nonprofit sector organizations.
  5. Provide on-campus and online students with comparable academic experiences that develop knowledge and skills for public service.

Our Core Values

  1. Lead through change.
  2. Engage the community.
  3. Base decisions on data, reliable information, and analysis.
  4. Protect public resources and ensure they are used in the most efficient and effective manner.
  5. Model ethical behaviors.
  6. Partner with students for lifelong learning.

Our Goals

  1. Educate and train students to be innovative leaders in public and nonprofit organizations.
  2. Enhance the field of public administration regionally, nationally, and internationally through the academic and service contributions of our faculty and students.
  3. Create a learning environment where our students develop public service values and thoughtful and ethical decision-making skills.
  4. Assess student learning and use assessment research to continuously enhance the program offerings.
  5. Embrace and partner with a diverse student body, faculty, workforce, and public to enhance public policy and administration.

Department/Program Learning Outcomes

Political Science

Students who complete the Political Science program will demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. Students will develop an understanding of the scholarship, analytical methods, and theories of politics in one or more of the discipline’s four sub-fields: American Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics, and/or Political Theory.
  2. Students will develop a mastery of critical thinking skills by evaluating political developments both in individual and research and in course discussions.
  3. Students will develop and hone a mastery of writing skills by communicating their perspectives, empirical findings, interpretations, and the conclusions of their research on political issues, policies, institutions, and behavior.
  4. Students will be exposed to and understand alternative perspectives on political affairs by engaging in internships, study abroad, community service, and other experiential learning opportunities.

Criminal Justice

Students who complete the Criminal Justice program will demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. Students will identify the functions, operations, and challenges of the U.S. Criminal Justice System, including law enforcement, courts, and corrections.
  2. Students will recognize the basic legal, constitutional, ethical, and moral challenges confronting criminal justice personnel.
  3. Students will employ critical and creative thinking individually as well as a member of a team.
  4. Students will demonstrate effectiveness in written and oral communication.

Legal Studies

Students who complete the Legal Studies program will demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. Skills necessary to work effectively as a paralegal within a legal work environment.
  2. An understanding of ethical rules for the conduct of legal professionals and their implications.
  3. A knowledge of basic legal terminology.
  4. The ability to understand the application of procedural and substantive law within the American Legal System.
  5. The ability to perform legal analysis and to apply that analysis.

Public Administration

The program competencies are:

  1. To lead, manage and apply effective public governance.
  2. To participate and contribute to the public, fiscal, and economic policy process.
  3. Solve problems using analytics, critical thinking, and conceptualize and apply best practices.
  4. To articulate and apply public service perspectives norms and legal standards.
  5. To communicate orally and in writing and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.

Graduate Admissions and Graduation Information

Application and Degree Requirements for Master of Public Administration

Prospective M.P.A. students must follow all of the graduate application procedures outlined below. The M.P.A. does not require prospective applicants to submit any entrance exams as part of their application or conditions of admission (with the exception of international applicants; please see Minimum Admission Requirements below). The M.P.A. program does not accept electronic reference forms. If applicants have an undergraduate GPA of less than 3.0, then they must submit three (3) letters of recommendation through SUU’s Graduate Admissions Office.

In addition to SUU’s graduate application requirements, prospective students must submit a Letter of Intent and a professional resume to the admissions committee. The Letter of Intent is an opportunity for the prospective student to introduce themselves to the M.P.A. faculty and is closely reviewed during the admissions process. The Letter of Intent should include information such as prior volunteer activities, work or academic experiences, career interests, and why the applicant would like to pursue an MPA at SUU.

The applicant must also research and respond to the following question: The field of public administration is often associated with serving the public good and public service. Exploring current academic research in the field of public administration, define public service and identify ways that public administrative leaders might reinvigorate interest in public service work. The response needs to be in APA format and no longer than two (2) pages. The response should also include at least three (3) citations. The response must be attached to the applicant’s Letter of Intent.

Minimum Admissions Requirements

Applicants should meet the following criteria:

  1. Achieved and awarded a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college.
  2. Achieve an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  3. International applicants from non-English-speaking countries must demonstrate competency in the English language. A minimum score of (550: Paper based test, 213: Computer based test, or 79: Internet based test) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) taken within the past two years satisfies this requirement.
  4. Online Out-of-State only applicants must have at least one (1) year of professional work experience. Experience will be evaluated by the admission committee in consideration with the full application.

After all of the above are received, the materials will be reviewed by the M.P.A. admissions committee. Applicants meeting the minimum requirements may be interviewed by the Program Director. The admissions committee views each application in its entirety to ensure all applicants receive an appropriate opportunity for consideration.

All admitted graduate students are expected to understand and follow APA writing standards prior to their first day of class.

Admission to the MPA Program

Semester Start Date Application Deadline
Fall Semester July 15
Spring Semester November 15
Summer Semester April 15

The following are required when seeking admission to the M.P.A. Program:

  1. SUU Graduate Admissions application.
  2. Payment of the non-refundable application fee.
  3. A Letter of Intent written by the applicant, including the specific attachment.
  4. A complete resume.
  5. Receipt of three (3) letters of recommendation (when required).
  6. Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions.
  7. Writing sample: The applicant must research and respond to the following question: The field of public administration is often associated with serving the public good and public service. Exploring current academic research in the field of public administration, define public service and identify ways that public administrative leaders might reinvigorate interest in public service work.

Academic Standards

Students will not receive academic credit if they earn a “C+” or below in any course. If the course is a core or required course, students must repeat it and earn a passing grade. If the course is an elective, students have the option of repeating the course.

All students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) to be eligible for graduation. Please recognize that students who consistently earn a “B-” in their courses will not meet this standard. Students who fall below the 3.0 standard will be asked to develop a plan to improve their GPA. Students who do not meet the 3.0 requirement within two (2) semesters of coursework will be dismissed from the program.

Students who complete at least one-half of a course’s requirements are eligible to receive an Incomplete grade if circumstances prevent the completion of the course assignments. The instructor has the authority and responsibility to decide whether to issue an Incomplete.

Graduate Graduation Requirements

  • Candidates have six (6) years to complete the degree.
  • All courses must be completed with a “B-” grade or better.

Other Information

Honor Societies

The Department sponsors three honor societies: Pi Alpha Alpha (public administration), Alpha Phi Sigma (criminal justice) and Pi Sigma Alpha (political science). Admission rewards high academic achievement and fosters campus and community involvement.


Students are encouraged to take advantage of the many internship opportunities that arise in political science, criminal justice, and legal studies. In the past, internships have included an opportunity to work in the White House, U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, Utah Supreme Court, and numerous national, state and local agencies, courts, and law offices. Internships are student-driven opportunities in which the student takes an active role in development of the opportunity to meet career and educational goals. For more information about student internships, contact the department chair or program director.

MPA Experiential Learning

As a terminal degree, the M.P.A. develops practical skills in an applied setting, as well as in the classroom. The experiential learning courses offer students the opportunity to further develop their competencies in a professional setting. The content of these courses is unique to each student and specially designed around the student’s needs and interests.

PADM 6890 - MPA Internship is a required elective for all students who have less than one year of full-time time experience in a public or nonprofit organization (pre-service). Responsibility for seeking an internship falls upon the student. However, the Director and M.P.A. faculty regularly facilitate internship opportunities and internship announcements are often sent to all current M.P.A. students. Students with more than one (1) year experience can request a waiver of the internship and substitute the three (3) credit hours with another elective. Students must submit a written request for a waiver of the internship requirement.

All students must complete PADM 6950 - Professional Project to earn the M.P.A. degree. The professional project offers students a unique opportunity to create a specialized learning environment in which to develop and apply competencies in a realistic setting. Under the supervision of an M.P.A. faculty member, students partner with a host organization to develop and complete a project. Projects help students develop specific competencies in a safe, practical setting.

MPA National Standards and Academic Endeavor

SUU’s Master of Public Administration program is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), which is the global standard for public service education. Additionally, SUU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Transfer Credits Accepted Toward Degree

The Department will accept no more than one third of the total credits required for the major as transfer credits from other institutions. The maximum transfer credits which may be applied to a Criminal Justice major is 21; to a Political Science major, 12. The Legal Studies Program follows the university policy regarding transfer work. Transfer credits not covered by articulation, or those which we do not currently teach, must be approved by the Department.

W. Edwards Deming Incubator for Public Affairs at Southern Utah University

The W. Edwards Deming Incubator for Public Affairs (WEDIPA) at Southern Utah University works collaboratively with The W. Edwards Deming Institute (WEDI) to promote new avenues in academic research and project-based teaching and learning initiatives emphasizing the SoPK (System of Profound Knowledge) in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.


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