One of the enduring grand challenges is how we collectively, creatively, and democratically respond to key challenges facing our communities, nation, and the world. Among these challenges are environmental change, including an increased incidence and intensity of disasters such as flooding, sea level rise, and wildfires attributable to climate change; health care; an aging population; addiction; inadequate infrastructure; inequality; unaffordable housing; racism; transportation; immigration; economic development; and public safety.

In response, the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program trains future leaders to systematically and creatively address these and other challenges in the coming years. With its interdisciplinary public affairs infrastructure—representing colleges, departments, and centers across campus—the University of Iowa is a leader in public affairs locally and nationally. The program educates public affairs leaders who will creatively and knowledgeably address society’s most critical issues and contribute to addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century.


The MPA degree at Iowa reflects the important role public affairs plays at the University. Besides taking courses in the School of Planning and Public Affairs, students take courses and learn from faculty in a variety of areas including:

  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
  • History
  • Law
  • Political Science
  • Public Health
  • Social Work
  • Sociology/Criminology
  • Strategic Communications

Areas of Concentration

MPA students can select from two areas of concentration:

Public and Nonprofit Management

Includes courses in strategic management and communication, organizational structures, governance, leadership, nonprofit effectiveness, public sector HR, grant writing, fundraising, and more.

Public Policy

Students can specialize in various policy areas: Environmental and sustainable development policy, economic development policy, education policy, health policy, criminal justice policy, housing policy, transportation policy, and more.

What is the Field of Public Affairs?

Public Affairs leaders analyze, develop, manage, and implement public policies within government agencies at the city, state, regional, national, international, and nonprofit organizational level. The profession promotes public institutions that are economically resilient, innovative and entrepreneurial, just and equitable, and efficient and well-managed.

Specific policy areas include:

  • Climate and Environment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Economic and Workforce Development
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Social Justice
  • Transportation

To learn more about our school and opportunities at Iowa, we invite you to schedule a campus visit with us, attend an Open House, or participate in our informational webinars. For more information we encourage you to contact:

Abbi Castle, Admissions Coordinator