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D I R E C T O R ' S C O l u m n I am delighted to report that we had another successful graduation ceremony in May for 21 outstanding students and their families. I always look forward to celebrating their academic and profes- sional achievements while in the program. I cannot help having a sense of pride when our students—who are now alumni—obtain a Carolina MPA degree in their quest to become public service leaders. This year was the first time students earned their degrees under our new competency-based curriculum. As you may have read previously in IMPACT, the curriculum change strengthened our ability to measure competencies for our accreditation body (NASPAA) and created a stronger alignment with our mission of preparing public service leaders. As a result, this year's graduates also celebrated the successful completion of their portfolio and oral exam— both new requirements of the revised system. The Portfolio Students are required to take the portfolio course during their final semester of the program. The class is specifically designed to give them time to reflect on their academic and professional experiences. They prepare a final written portfolio containing five sections, which are reviewed and evaluated by a committee of three faculty members. The sections address personal leadership vision, ethical issues in public administration, the public service profes- sional learning experience, decision-making skills, and student-specific competencies. Students are required to integrate our program's eight major competencies around the central theme of leadership. They are also required to reflect and build upon the literature and practice of public administration as they compile a portfolio that is unique to each of them. The Oral Exam After students successfully complete their portfolios, they schedule an oral exam with the same three-person com- mittee. Each oral exam begins with a brief presentation from the student on his or her understanding of leader- ship and on the materials contained in the portfolio. Faculty members first ask questions about the student's leadership vision and then broaden their inquiry. Topics range from public service values and research methodol- ogy to public sector decision making. Students must demonstrate their knowledge of the themes, issues, scholars, and central debates of public administration and articulate their career goals as they relate to the field. Without question, a major competency that runs through the curriculum, the portfolio, and the oral exam is the ability to communicate effectively—a skill required of effective public service leaders. I recently heard Harry Jones '74 reflect upon his career and how his leadership views have evolved over time from many personal and professional experiences. This is a theme that I often hear when I meet with alumni. I believe the new portfolio and oral exam experience will help our students think about this evolutionary process at the beginning of their careers. My door is always open. Please visit if you are in Chapel Hill, or contact me anytime with questions or suggestions about our MPA program at rivenbark@sog.unc.edu or 919.962.3707. 2 William C. Rivenbark Professor and Director William C. Rivenbark

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