Syllabus—Spring 2007

University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW)


PLS 308: Public Administration

Days and Times: Tuesdays/Thursdays 3:30pm-4:45pm

Location: MH 210


Professor:  Paige Johnson Tan

Phone:  (o) 910-962-3221 (h) 910-452-2997



Office Hours:  Tuesdays/Thursdays 12:30pm-1:45pm

Office Location: LH 272



Course Introduction:


This course is designed as a broad introduction to the field of Public Administration (PA).  The course is suitable for both Political Science majors and non-majors as well as Public Administration minors and non-minors.  No previous knowledge of the field is pre-supposed or required.


Public Administration is different from many fields one encounters while at university.  It is an applied field, as opposed to an exclusively academic one.  PA is also inherently interdisciplinary.  It draws heavily on Political Science, but it also makes use of developments in the fields of Economics, Sociology, Business Management, and other fields as well.  Specific applications of Public Administration, such as healthcare management, even require specialized knowledge of medicine and other hard sciences.


So, what is Public Administration?  PA is a management discipline that deals with the public and not-for-profit sectors.  It is, as our textbook tells us, “government in action.”  It is also non-profits in action.  The typical distinction is that elected government officials set policy, and public administrators implement that policy.  We will see over the course of the semester, though, that the distinction is rarely that neat.  Public administrators do implement, but they also contribute to the formation of policy through the ways they choose to implement policies. They also contribute to policy formulation through their mastery of specialist knowledge and the sheer complexity of government, which prevents elected officials from being involved in all policies at all times.


The tendency in the study of Public Administration has been to focus solely on the contemporary American experience or, at the widest, the experience of a select group of Western countries, those implementing novel administrative reforms, for example.  Public Administration is now a global field, however.  Governance challenges and the development of solutions are not merely the provenance of America alone or a few select Western countries.  This course will bust the America-only taboo by leading students to discover public administration challenges in a selection of nations across the world, particularly highlighting developing nations. By the back door, learning about governance challenges abroad will teach us more about governance challenges at home.


Course Goals:


Course content is designed to help students become more effective managers of public and non-profit organizations.  To achieve that goal, students will be exposed over the course of the semester to the field of Public Administration and its political and cultural context.  Students will discover the basics of organization theory, organizational behavior, and strategic management. They will also be exposed to public financial management, personnel management, performance management, leadership, oversight, and  ethics.  It is hoped that students will come to recognize the extreme complexity of Public Administration as the semester unfolds. Each topic we cover could be a course in and of itself.


In addition to conveying factual information about Public Administration, the course hopes to improve students’ skills in critical thinking and analysis.  There is rarely one right answer as to how to deal with a public management problem.  Through case discussion and other class activities, students should improve their ability to use PA theories and frameworks to arrive at solutions that help to manage a messy and ever-changing reality.  Study of foreign-country administrative challenges should highlight similarities and differences with the American experience and make students more thoughtful, resourceful, culturally aware managers.  The course also expects to improve students’ abilities to formulate arguments, read critically, speak publicly, and write well.


Required Readings:


Required: Jay M. Shafritz, E. W. Russell, and Christopher Borick.  Introducing Public Administration, New York: Longman, 2007.  Referred to as SRB in the course schedule.


**A note on the required textbook.  Public Administration textbooks are unfortunately very costly.  After researching available options, I did the best I could to ensure that our book was reasonably priced (on par with its competitors).  Students could explore sharing a book with a classmate, if necessary.  The library is unfortunately reluctant to purchase textbooks.


In addition to the required textbook, threecase studies from the Kennedy School of Government will be required over the course of the semester.  These can be purchased for download at:  The cost is $2.75 per case.  Please do this well in advance of the due dates for these cases.


Course Requirements:


Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, a series of short papers, a longer group research project, a midterm, and a final exam.  The distribution of the final course grade from the various assignments is:



This course operates on the principle of “continuous assessment.”  This means that students are not placed in the difficult position of having their entire course grade riding on the grade of any one particular assignment (like a “make-or-break” final exam). Instead, students’ grades are determined on a broader basis in terms of the students’ overall work throughout the semester.  A description of the various assignments on which students will be assessed follows.


Class participation.  In the old days, students were seen to be an empty vessel into which the professor poured his or her knowledge (more than likely, it was “his”—since it was the old days!).  However, this old-model of education has come under severe challenge in recent years.  Rote memorization is now seen to offer little to students.  How often have you “crammed” for a test and then forgotten everything you learned within a few weeks (or, gasp, days)?


The philosophy behind this course is that students learn better when that learning is active.  Students are expected to attend class (with a maximum of two absences for the semester).  They are also expected to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings for the day.  Active class participation by all students has the advantage of helping to foster tolerance for divergent viewpoints and developing students’ abilities to formulate arguments in a well-reasoned manner.  


As part of their class participation, students will also be asked to complete in-class exercises and group work on course-relevant topics.  Class participation counts for 10% of the final course grade.


Policy/Administration project.  In this project, student groups will serve as “specialist student task forces” in given subject areas.  Task forces will study an issue area and make recommendations to a relevant governmental body or non-governmental organization (NGO) as to how it might approach the problem.  Problems must be tightly focused, and recommendations must represent politically, administratively, and economically viable solutions. Reports should be focused on a (potential) real client's real problems. 


Potential Topics: Student groups are free, with the consent of the instructor, to explore a policy/administrative issue of their own choosing in the Policy/Administration project (with the caveats that two groups cannot pursue the same topic and country of study, and the issue under study must be a “live” issue awaiting a governmental or NGO response).  These projects can deal with policy/administrative challenges at the local, state, national, or international level and tackle topics either in the US or abroad (where topics in a foreign setting might be especially interesting, I have tried to indicate that in parentheses below).  Since students sometimes like a list of project ideas rather than coming up with their own subject area, here is a selection of topics students might pursue.  Be aware that these are general topic areas. Your topic must be narrowed to a specific, contemporary challenge in order to enable your group to write a strong, focused report.



The Policy/Administration group paper should be modeled on the sample memo format students work on all semester. The paper should be about 20 double-spaced pages in length.  It should be extensively sourced (with references drawn from both primary and secondary sources)  and begin with a table of contents and an executive summary (single-spaced and, as a rough guideline,  10% the length of the overall report).  Be sure to include plenty of concrete data to serve as evidence to support your points.  Use tables, graphs, and charts to convey relevant information to your reader in an easily digestible format.  Provide value added to your client and tell her something she has not heard before.  Make sure your report does not just reiterate what is already "out there," but that it comes up with something new.  Be practical and understand the costs of your proposed programs.  The paper should have additional appendices in which each group member discusses in one-to-two paragraphs his or her contribution to the final product. 


A note on group work.  Increasingly, groups have taken over the workplace.  It is important that you work professionally with classmates to produce a quality product.  In the conduct of this assignment, group members should imagine the instructor as their boss.  Group meltdowns reflect on the professionalism of ALL group members.  What would your boss think of your comportment and final product?  That is how the grade will be determined.   The Policy/Administration paper is worth 15% of the final course grade.


Policy/Administration group presentations.   Each group will present its topic and recommendations to the class in a twenty-minute presentation (to be scheduled later).  Presenters should be concise, organized, and share the presentation load equally.  Groups should practice beforehand and be very conscious of the time (presentations will be stopped at 21 minutes, regardless of whether everyone has had a chance to speak).   Additionally, presenters should convey professionalism in their dress and style of presentation (be sure to practice first and make effective use of audio-visual aids like PowerPoint).  Be conscious of the need to sell your ideas to your client.  Presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer periods.  Additionally, students will be given feedback by students and the instructor to enable them to improve the final written submission of the group paper.  Presentations are worth 5% of the final grade.


Budget-cutting exercise.  The budget-cutting exercise can be done in either of two ways, depending on student interest. Option 1 is to work on the Wilmington city budget.  Option 2 is to work on the national budget of a foreign country of your choice (one for which full budget information is available, most likely this will be online). 


For Option 1: Wilmington, take a look at the budget of the City of Wilmington at (choose the 2006-2007 budget).  Imagine that revenues are down 10% from expectations.  How and where do you cut the budget to make expenditures match revenues, and why?  Write up your recommendations in a five-to-seven page memo for Sterling Cheatham, Wilmington City Manager.


For Option 2: Foreign Country, take a look at the budget for your nation (ask the instructor if you require assistance in finding a country’s budget on the web. Some countries will have detailed information available, others will have none, some will have only news coverage of announced budget figures. It will be best to work on a budget for which relatively complete information is available.).  Imagine that revenues are down 10% from expectations. How and where do you cut the budget to make expenditures match revenues, and why?  You are your country’s finance minister. Write a five-to-seven page memo to your president or prime minister explaining your recommended course of action.  Remember that the proposed changes need to be politically possible (even if painful) for your government’s leader.


To do this assignment well will require time and research. Get started early enough!!!!!  The budget-cutting exercise is worth 10% of the final course grade.


Case Memos.  Cases are short vignettes about real or hypothetical management problems.  Students are asked to put themselves in the roles of one of the protagonists in order to understand how to tackle real-world situations confronted by public administrators everyday.  Students must apply the theories and frameworks studied in class to the solution of these management problems.  They must also use their critical thinking abilities to analyze the case and develop a proposed solution. Remember, real-world management problems rarely have neat solutions that translate directly from the textbook.  Writing case memos will help students to learn how to confront a messy reality.


Case memos should be two single-space pages in length.  They should follow the format shown in the sample case memo discussed in class (and presented in the hyperlink at the start of this section).    Students must submit four out of the  five case memos listed on the syllabus.  Only the best four results will count toward the final grade if students submit all five memos.  Each of the memos contributes 5% to the overall course grade.


Midterm exam.  The midterm will have both short (identification) and long (essay) questions to answer. Students will have a choice of questions on both parts of the exam.  The midterm is worth 20% of the final course grade.


Final Exam.  The exam in this course will have both short (identification) and long (essay) questions to answer.   Students will have a choice of questions in both parts of the exam.  The final exam is worth 20% of the final course grade.


Course Policies


Academic Honesty


This instructor believes academic honesty is the foundation of the entire enterprise of a university. Only in an environment of honesty can genuine learning occur and good citizenship be fostered.  For further information, students should consult the online UNCW Code of Student Life at (The Honor Code begins on page 6 in the 2010 version).  Students should also feel free to ask the instructor any questions they may have about academic honesty.  Because academic honesty is treated as a serious matter, the course policy is one of zero tolerance for academic DIShonesty. 


The core principle of the Academic Honor Code is that student work represents the original work of the student.  For this reason, plagiarism, using the work of another without proper citation, and cheating, the unauthorized use of information during an examination, are prohibited. 


The Academic Honor Code works for both students and teachers.  Students can expect that the instructor will treat them in a fair, honest, and impartial manner.  The instructor also expects students to deal with her and with one another honestly.  Plagiarism and cheating are violations of academic honesty because they steal from the original creator of the work.  In addition, they violate the relationship of honesty between student and teacher as the student attempts to pass off work as his or her own which was produced by another.  Further, plagiarism and cheating violate the bond of honesty among students themselves.  Students who produce their assignments through long, hard work are being violated by those taking a shortcut through the misappropriation of another’s work or knowledge.  Most sadly, students who violate academic honesty cheat themselves of the chance to learn.


Please note two particular policies the instructor follows:

1) Work for this course must be yours, and it must be original.  If you wish to work on a project you have previously worked on for another class, you must add at least as much content as the assignment requires that is new and original for this class.


2) You may receive help on your written assignments (not tests) from your roommate, significant other, parents, the University Learning Center, or a passerby on the street.  The process of reading and revising your work based on the comments of others is an important part of how we learn and improve.


Contacting the Instructor


Students are encouraged to call or e-mail with questions, or stop by office hours (listed above).  I endeavor to be available to assist you with your course work. It’s my job.  As a hint, e-mails are likely to guarantee a quicker response than phone messages.  I am most happy to set up an appointment for a meeting in addition to those times listed as office hours.  However, because I have a young child at home, students must understand that there are limits on my time.  A note on courtesy: When students receive assistance through any one of these extra-class channels, they should be sure to thank the instructor for her time, thought, and effort.  This little trick will serve you well in the future. It is an expected part of social etiquette.


Late Papers




Students are encouraged to plan in advance to make time to complete assignments.  Things come up during the semester; relatives require our attention, cars break down, and students get sick.  Students should begin their assignments early enough to allow for these foreseeable and unforeseeable eventualities.  The instructor does not wish to receive any late assignments during the semester.


Papers are due at the start of class on the date listed on the syllabus.  Each twenty-four hours that a paper is late may result in a penalty of one letter grade.  Late papers must be submitted by e-mail (pasted into your message and attached in Word format) and must receive confirmation of receipt from the instructor to be considered "turned in."  For your protection, submit your paper from an e-mail account which will keep a record of your outgoing e-mail. With this, you could demonstrate a true attempt to submit the paper that somehow disappears into the electronic ether.  Do not submit papers to the instructor’s faculty snail mailbox, the department secretary, or under the instructor’s office door.  After submitting papers electronically, students should bring a print-out of the late assignment to the next class meeting.  Late assignments will not be graded on the same schedule as assignments submitted on time.  Under no circumstances should students miss class to complete an assignment.


Extra Credit


Students are invited to attend lectures, panels, and movies on campus that deal with international affairs.  Just check with the instructor beforehand as to whether  you've picked a good event.  After the event, submit a one- to two-page single-space write-up that deals with your reactions to the presentation. How does it relate to what we are doing in class? How does it relate to other things you've studied?  Did you agree or disagree with the speaker/s argument?  What did the presentation make you think about?  This extra credit will be used toward class participation or in the calculation of final grades in borderline cases.




Students are strongly encouraged to show respect for fellow students and the instructor by arriving for class on time. Late arrivals disturb fellow students and disrupt the learning process.  It is better to come in late than not to come at all, but try to be respectful of classmates by making arrangements to be in class and in your seat at the start of class.


Excused Absences


An excused absence is one that is discussed with the professor IN ADVANCE and for which documentation can be provided.  Only for excused absences will the professor allow work to be made up.  All make-up work will be done at the instructor’s convenience.




The instructor understands that some students may have need of accommodation (for example, extended testing time or a quiet testing locale) due to a disability.  If you feel that you are in need of an accommodation, please contact Disability Services in Westside Hall to make the appropriate arrangements.  The phone number is 910-962-7555. 


Electronic Devices


Students are permitted to use laptop computers during class to access PowerPoints, online notes, or to type their own course notes.  Laptops are not to be used for surfing the internet or checking e-mail.  Students with computers are encouraged to sit in the back of the classroom to avoid disturbing fellow students. During periods of class discussion, computers should be closed to ensure adequate attention and participation.  Obviously, when tests and quizzes are being administered, laptops are not permitted.  Use of cellphones, including texting, is never permitted. PLEASE NOTE: If students are found to be using electronic devices in a manner inconsistent with the professor’s assessment of the best environment for group learning, they may be penalized with a one-letter grade reduction in their final course grade.


World Wide Web Resources


The web has a bounty of information for research in Public Administration (not all of it credible—be a careful consumer!!!).  Below, students will find a selection of websites.  Students should consult the instructor if they require any assistance in finding additional web resources on particular topics.  You may link directly to the following resources by using the online version of the course syllabus, available at



Periodicals, Scholarly Journals, and US Government Publications


As wonderful as the web is for finding information, periodicals and scholarly journals still form the backbone of our academic work.  Some periodicals and journals helpful for the study of Public Administration are listed below: Some resources can be found on the web. Others may be found via the library’s online journal databases.


American Review of Public Administration

Asian Journal of Public Administration



Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

PA Times

Public Administration

Public Administration Review

Public Management

The Economist


You can access many of these journals through the library's online journal databases.  From the UNCW homepage, choose "Library;" then choose  "Databases and Articles."  Start your search in the following databases: EbscoHost, Ebscohost Electronic Journals Service, Lexis-Nexis, ABI Global Inform, and J-STOR.

Course Schedule:


Introduce course requirements and expectations. 

Student pair introductions.  Any students with public administration experience?

Discuss: Article on contemporary issue in public administration.



Reading: SRB Ch. 1.

Discussion questions: What public services have you used to be here today?  Why does “bureaucracy” have a bad name?

Activity: Mass Graves in Rendano.



Reading: SRB, Ch. 2.

Discuss: Compare and contrast the agendas of the President, the Republicans in Congress and their Democrat counterparts.  Who is setting the contemporary US political agenda?  Also, consider “muddling through” and the “iron triangle.”

Looking ahead: Any issue or group requests for the Policy/Administration project?  Discuss how to prepare cases for discussion and consider memo writing (with sample memo).



Reading: Mike Carlie, “Developing a New Policy: A Police Department Responds to Street Gangs,” in Watson, 129-131.

Discuss: UNCW culture.  Is it functional or dysfunctional?

Activity:  The Importance of Writing Well (Handout).

Looking ahead: Assign Policy/Administration project groups.  Issues still to be decided later (if necessary).



Reading: SRB, Ch. 3.

Discuss: Alternative delivery systems in Malaysia (build-operate-transfer highways).  Update on privatization of Britain’s railroads. 

Activity: Comment/question cards.

Recommended: For more information on reinventing government, see the Community of Government Innovators at  Up-to-date global information on e-government is available in the World Public Sector Report 2003Also, a print resource on reinventing government is Donald F. Kettl, The Global Public Management Revolution: A Report on the Transformation of Governance, Washington: Brookings, 2000.



Reading: Robert P. Watson, “To Privatize or Not to Privatize? A City Prepares to Contract Out Services,” in Watson, 142-145.

DUE: CASE MEMO #1 (Write a memo to Alvarado as her assistant regarding the privatization of the city's garbage collection).



Reading: SRB, Ch. 4.

Discuss: Devolution in Indonesia.



Reading: Esther Scott, "Hurricane Katrina (B):  Responding to an 'Ultra-Catastrophe' in New Orleans,"  Kennedy School Case Study, 1844.0.


Looking Ahead: Draw lots/volunteer for Policy/Administration project presentation dates.



Focus: The Weberian Bureaucracy

Reading: SRB, Ch. 6.

For more information: Find Max Weber on the web at

Looking Back: Course review to this point.



Reading: Elaine Sciolino and Ethan Bronner, “The Decision to Bomb the Serbs,” in Richard J. Stillman II, Public Administration: Concepts and Cases, Boston: Houghton Miffllin, 2000 (7th e.), 207-217.

DUE: CASE MEMO #2 (It's early January 1999. You are Madeleine Albright. Write a memo to President Bill Clinton recommending a course of action over Kosovo).



Reading: SRB, Ch. 7.

Activity: In-class groupthink exercise.  Discuss: Groupthink and the Vietnam War.



Reading: Michael T. Charles, “The Last Flight of Space Shuttle Challenger,” in Richard J. Stillman II, Public Administration: Concepts and Cases, Boston: Houghton Miffllin, 2000 (7th e.), 109-122.  Update yourself also on causes of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.  Some information is available from NASA at

DUE: CASE MEMO #3 (Write a memo to the NASA administrator recommending administrative changes to rectify the problems which resulted in the Shuttle Challenger disaster).



Reading: SRB, Ch. 8.

Discuss: Working in teams.

Activities: Developing performance indicators.  Preparing for the midterm exam, answering essay questions.

Looking Back: Course review from last review to this point.



One question free in advance: Give me four concrete and constructive ways to improve the course.


Mar 1  Class cancelled due to instructor travel


Mar 6, 8 Class cancelled for Spring Break



Reading: SRB, Ch. 9.

Activity: Draft a mission statement for our class.



Reading:  Esther Scott, "Hurricane Katrina (A):  Preparing for the Big One in New Orleans."  Kennedy School Case 1843.0.

DUE: CASE MEMO #4. Drawing on both the Hurricane Katrina cases (A&B), write a memo to Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans (you are his special assistant) on how to hurricane-proof the city for the future.  Obviously, this will require a series of actions and not just a single course of action as a recommendation.  Don't worry about extensive alternatives in this memo, but do keep in mind your criteria.  Organize your recommended actions well or the reader will get lost in a sea of detail.



Reading: SRB, Ch. 10.

Discuss: Which leadership styles are most likely to be effective over the longer term, authoritarian or democratic?  Which have you experienced in different organizational settings?

Looking ahead:  Introduce budget-cutting exercise.



Reading: Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty A. Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002, 9-48 (Chapters titled “The Heart of Danger” and “The Faces of Danger”).

Discuss: Leaders and leadership. Consider George Bush’s leadership.  How about the leadership demonstrated by the 2008 presidential hopefuls? 




Reading: SRB, Ch. 11.

Activity: Write an ad for a new member of the UNCW Political Science faculty.

Discuss: Unions in America and the civil service system.

Recommended: For more information on personnel management, try the UNPAN/World Bank website at:

Activity: Group presentation #1. 



Reading: J. Gary Linn, “Managing Conflict Among Hospital Staff,” in Watson, 50-54.

Activity: Group presentation #2. 

DUE: CASE MEMO #5 (As assistant to the Human Resources Administrator, write your boss a memo recommending a system for dealing with conflict in the hospital).



Reading: SRB, Ch. 12. 

Activity: Group presentation #3.

Recommended: For more information about managing diverse civil service workforces internationally, see Managing Public Sector Diversity at UNPAN.





Reading: SRB, Ch. 13. 

Visitor: Dr. Tom Barth will speak to the class briefly about careers in Public Administration and UNCW's Master's in Public Administration degree.

Activity: Group presentation #4.



Reading: SRB, Ch. 14.

Discuss: Corruption at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Nairobi, Kenya

Activity: Group presentation #5.


Apr 17  ETHICS

Reading: SRB, Ch. 5. 

Recommended: For more information about how to fight corruption, check out Transparency International at The site has links to the Global Corruption Report 2003, the Corruption Fighters’ Toolkit, individual country reports, the Corruption Perceptions Index, and the TI Sourcebook.

Activity: Group presentation #6.



Reading: Tony Vaux, The Selfish Altruist: Relief Work in Famine and War, London: Earthscan, 2001, 115-136 (Chapter titled “Afghanistan: Pride and Principle”).

Discuss: Ethics and international humanitarian relief. Consider also gender issues in development work.


Activity: Group presentation #7 (if needed).



Reading: Howard Husock, "The Growth of Grameen Bank," Kennedy School Case Study, 1830.0

Discuss: Non-governmental organizations and development.


Activity: Group presentation #8 (if needed).



No reading assigned for today.

Discuss: Getting to Yes, the BATNA, principled negotiation, and the Manager as Negotiator

Activities: Negotiation exercise.   Review for final exam.

TBA FINAL EXAM(Find the second-half course review here)