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MPA Application, Sample Statement of Purpose, Working with Refugees

For the last 9 years I have been working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in support of refugee services and peacekeeping missions in my native Africa. I have distinguished myself in this capacity, in particular, by my advanced training and experience in the area of gender sensitivity and respect for the rights of women – something sorely lacking in Africa, particularly in conflict situations. It is this experience that gives me hope that my application to your particularly distinguished Master’s of Public Administration at XXXX University will be looked on with favor.

I have made major contributions to strategically important policy initiatives such as the development and roll out of an Enterprise Risk Management Framework and also put in place measures to assist organizations to address fraud and corruption risks. Earning the MPA Degree at Harvard will greatly increase my value to the UN and the extent to which I will be able to assume greater levels of professional responsibility in the future with this organization. I seek the fullest immersion experience possible in the in-depth study of efficient utilization of resources, harnessing the power of tools, systems, processes, and most of all human resources, so as to assist the UN at providing the very best humanitarian services possible. 

Upon completion of the MPA Program at XXXX, I will continue working with the United Nations system, increasingly aspiring to leadership positions that will allow me to design and implement new policies and programs that better address the needs of vulnerable populations in various areas of the World, especially Africa. In particular, I keenly look forward to fostering the development of my home country, Guinea, among the poorest in the world. Despite its vast reserves of aluminum, ordinary people have yet to benefit from the development of the mining sector because it is poorly regulated and corruption is rampant at every level. One of my central, long-term goals is to constructively address this issue by helping to ensure the transparency of contractual agreements for the exploitation of natural resources, with appropriate rules and sound policies put into place geared toward the prevention of corruption. I hope to labor in the construction of a well-defined governance and organizational structure which is currently very much lacking in Guinea, integrating risk management as an integral part of planning strategies.

I very much appreciate the wealth of experience of the faculty in the MPA Program at XXXX, especially in the areas of public and government policies, the relevance of the classes offered in relation to my current position as a public servant, and the diverse background of students from around the world. Your program would be the ultimate learning opportunity, providing me with the advanced knowledge that I need to become as effective as possible in the fulfillment of my responsibilities.

As a current United Nations staff, this program fits very well with my personal aspirations and aligns perfectly with my professional goals. Earning my MPA at Harvard would be the optimal springboard for my professional advancement, enabling me to develop a cutting-edge understanding of public administration, with a special focus on governance and strategic planning, public policy, and negotiation. I will be more effective and have greater future potential for important contributions to development and respect for human rights. Earning the MPA will be my platform for sharing, exchanging, brainstorming on political and socio-economic issues and solutions, with students from all over the world and with diverse backgrounds and professional experiences, hopefully at XXXX.

The MPA will very much compliment the MBA that I have already earned by giving me an in-depth, critical focus and state-of-the-art knowledge base in the areas of Governance, Strategic Management, and Policy Development. When I return to my current employer, the UNHCR, I will put what I have learned to very good use for the balance of my professional lifetime, streamlining our operations and those of the UN generally speaking.

Essay 2 - Professional Contribution Essay: Describe your most substantial professional and/or public service contribution in which you exercised a significant leadership role in furthering the public good. (750 word limit)

Throughout the development of my career, I have made significant contributions to a broad variety of private-sector and non-profit organizations, most notably my current position with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). I was a key contributor for the development and implementation of the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) framework for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) headquartered in New York, as well as the decentralization of the Internal Control Framework (ICF) and Delegation of Authority (DOA) to its field offices in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Central Europe. As a result, financial controls were strengthened and the funds allocated for numerous humanitarian projects were properly used and managed. These programs included education and literacy, health, water and sanitation projects among others. 

For some time now, I have been leading the implementation of measures to address fraud and corruption risks at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Kenya, where I serve as a Senior Operations Oversight Officer. By strengthening our organizational structure in coordination with our partners, other UN agencies, and national government entities, we continue to improve reporting mechanisms, facilitating the sharing of information so as to more effectively detect for fraud and corruption, especially with respect to construction contracts and the procurement of fuel for refugee camps, issuance of ID cards and work permits to refugees, as well as inventory and warehousing management for items destined to people of concern. The allocation of UN funds to a variety of projects is therefore safeguarded, making sure that the funds ultimately arrive at their designated destination in the service of asylum seekers, refugees, and at-risk migrants, addressing their basic needs and human rights issues in a fair, equitable, and timely manner.

My commitment to public services started when I was 16, when I became a member of the Leo Club in my home country of Guinea, West Africa. At the age of 19, when I went to Montreal, Canada to pursue my undergraduate studies, I joined the Lions Club “Montreal au Service de l’Enfance” as one of the founding members with a group of friends who were also students at the University of Montreal, McGill University, and the University of Quebec. I served in various capacities notably Treasurer and also as a member of the public relations team. Every summer, when returning to our home countries, we implemented various projects aimed at helping children in need of assistance. One of the projects that I was in charge of was bringing clean running water to an orphanage in Guinea.

During my years of public service, I have learned many valuable lessons as an advocate for tolerance, acceptance of other people, generosity, and hard work. I am convinced that the MPA will equip me with additional tools and knowledge that will be of great value in my commitment to my organization, the UN. In the years to come, I hope to serve as a Representative of the UN in a developing country in either a conflict or post-conflict situation, working closely with and bolstering the capacity of national authorities and helping them to design and implement government reforms leading to sustained economic development.

I thank you for considering my application to Public Administration at XXXX.

I want to help you get accepted to Graduate School in Public Administration, the MPA

I generally draft several Personal Statements of Purpose for graduate study in Public Administration each month and it is something that I have come to enjoy very much and I like to think that I am getting better and better the more MPA admissions statements I give my all to. I learn something important from each one that helps me to make the next one stronger. I have spent many years paying special attention to what programs and institutions in the area of Public Administration are looking for in applicants, specific qualities, interests, and characteristics that I will emphasize in your essay. Character is especially critical and I am an expert at portraying you on paper. It is all in the wording and I have what I like to think is a natural gift for statement expression.

Sample 1st 2 Paragraphs MSc International and Public Affairs, MIPA, Hong Kong

Reasons for interest in the MIPA Program: I see your Master’s Degree Program in International and Public Affairs at the University of XXXX as the best fit for my intellectual interests and professional drive and dedication to excel in the areas of international affairs and public relations. As a Chinese woman who was raised in Shenzhen—only one hour from Hong Kong—from the age of 10 until the time that I left for college in the USA, I have been inspired to learn a great deal about Hong Kong and I also speak Cantonese quite well. I have now been studying at XXXX State University for the past 3 years and will be graduating this coming May, 2014 with a degree in Finance from the XXXX College of Business. My minor area of study was International Business & International Studies.

It is my hope that the admissions committee will look favorably upon the fact that I am a Chinese woman, still only 22, who has studying in England as well as the United States. I was especially pleased to participate in our university’s Study Abroad Program and spend three months studying at the XXXX University of London. After completing the exchange program, I travelled around France, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic during winter break (15 days). The principal highlights of this excursion were my visits to the headquarters of international organizations in Europe such as UNESCO, and the OECD headquarters in Paris. I feel very strongly that it is important for someone in my field to travel extensively which is why I also traveled to Thailand last summer for almost 2 weeks.

I would like to share with you the following 5 tips that I highly recommend that you put into practice as you apply for Graduate School in Public Administration (Affairs, Policy).

1. Relax: The graduate or business school application process is a major learning experience, and often applicants learn as they go. It takes time; it can be hectic and nerve racking; but at all times stay cool, calm, and positive. Maintaining calm and being optimistic allows the applicant to be reflective and thoughtful and greatly heightens your chances of being accepted. 

2. Allow enough time: At minimum, take a few weeks to gather and compile all of the required material. Then check and recheck to make sure all of the elements are in line. The sooner that you get started the better off you will be. Make sure you don't wait until the last second before pushing the send button for your application.

3. Follow directions to the letter: Not following directions raises questions about how the candidate might adhere to policies and procedures once admitted and enrolled. If there is a word limit for essay questions, follow it. If you are asked for two letters of recommendation, for example, do not send more. If you are asked not to follow up via E-mail or phone, don't. Following directions shows respect and this is highly important.

4. Be professional: Maintaining a professional demeanor in all circumstances is a sign of maturity (especially in your statement). It's OK to have passion and confidence; in fact, they look for that in an applicant. It is never OK, however, to be overly aggressive, abrasive, or demanding. 

“International Humanitarian Law and the Current Challenges” Faculty of Law and Public Administration.

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Statements of Excellence for the MPA

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The Humanitarian Side of Public Administration

The humanitarian world, there is so much to learn, and so much good that can be done by improving the whole system that surrounds that world.

What Can Humanitarian Assistance Professionals Learn From The New Public

Administration Movement?

Although not quite a new phenomenon, non-state actors have now reached a number and impact that is unparalleled in history. Propelled by new communication technologies, social media, and postmodern worldviews across the globe, the rise of a global civil society includes “neighborhood, professional, service, and advocacy groups, both secular and church-based, promoting every conceivable cause and funded by donations, fees, foundations, governments, international organizations or the sale of products and services” (Matthews, 2006: 289).

Part of the emergence of this global civil society has brought about the development of a global humanitarianism, which has responded with both relief and development in midst of disaster and poverty during times of war and conflict, peace and rebuilding, empire-building, and decolonization. Scholars have traced the beginnings of international humanitarian aid to the beginning of the 1900s. It has been fueled by “charity, humanity, solidarity, civilizing mission, modernization, and global justice” (Paulmann, 2012: 143).

International humanitarian aid has increased steadily over the last couple of decades: from $6.5 billion in 2000 to $14.9 billion in 2008. An estimated 210,000 humanitarian aid workers were working for the cause globally in 2010 and projected a growth rate of 6 percent was expected annually in 2010 (Walker et al., 2010: 2223).

Peter Walker, Karen Hein, Catherine Russ, Greg Bertleff, and Dan Caspersz (2010) argue that efforts to professionalize international humanitarian assistance are important. Also, that this is necessary in an increasingly complex environment. They argue humanitarian efforts following the 2004 tsunami in Asia and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti attracted scrutiny concerning the effectiveness, cost, and coordination of the efforts.

In this context, the first steps towards professionalization have been made, as the discussion concerning the meaning of professionalism and the means to professionalization has continued.

Public servants in the American public administration have made efforts and arguments in the related literature.  The New Public Administration movement can trace its beginnings to the late 1960s at the first Minnowbrook Conference and contrasts itself to the New Public Management (NPM) movement. New Public Administration emphasizes the role of the public servant as a “professional citizen” and thus seeks to also highlight the importance of a citizenship ethic among public servants (Cooper, 1984).

For over two decades various new public management (NPM) techniques and practices, borrowed mainly from the private sector, have been applied to public sector reform in countries with distinct governance contexts.

The main drivers for these reforms have been economic and fiscal crises, as well as policy transfer in the context of external donor support. A report for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development argued that NPM can be beneficial in some cases, but should be applied selectively. It explored the institutional and capacity issues implied in the application of NPM to developing country contexts.

NPM originated from the crisis of the Keynesian welfare state in the 1970s in developed countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It marked a shift from public administration to public management, with the aim of slimming down the state, making it more efficient and effective.

In response to the financial crises in many developing countries in the 1980s, most governments embarked on reforms under the auspices of IMF and World Bank Structural Adjustment programs (SAPS).

A significant number have adopted some elements of NPM as part of donor-funded reforms, with a stronger emphasis on improved governance. However, these techniques are not being applied in a comprehensive or consistent way.

Many developing countries lack the capacities and accountability mechanisms required to make NPM work properly. Moreover, in recent years, enthusiasm for neo-liberal policies and NPM has been dampened by the realization that the state has an essential role to play in development.

The implementation of different elements of NPM has been examined in developed and developing countries. There are two main strands: techniques that focus on managerial improvement and organizational restructuring, and those that introduce markets and competition. Key findings in relation to developing countries include:

  • In some cases, NPM practices have brought benefits. Cost savings in contracting out road maintenance, for example. However, there are also some real constraints on applying certain elements of NPM.
  • Management decentralization requires credible monitoring systems and adequate capacity in national and decentralized units. However, in crisis states, capacity is often limited, increasing the risk of corruption and associated problems.
  • Performance contracting is often hindered by patronage systems, poor access to information and information systems, and weak government/managerial commitment and capacity.
  • Contracting out is becoming more widespread, with the added difficulty of managing networks of contractors and sub-contractors.
  • Charging for the required services is an increasingly common practice. However, user fees often have a negative impact on the poor due to a lack of effective exemption systems and safety nets.

The factors driving change in crisis states and developing countries mean that the context and conditions for introducing NPM reforms are different from those in developed countries. Important considerations include that:

  • Public-sector reforms are externally driven by donor conditions, timetables. Their over-ambitious nature and the demand for quick results fail to take weak institutional and management capacities into account.
  • Large-scale, short-term reform can have a severe impact on the public administration system, and on political stability, especially in fledgling democracies.
  • NPM reforms are often based on a blueprint imported from developed states. However, in reality, countries vary widely in their ability to implement change. Context and process require more consideration.
  • Too much attention has been focused on the policy content of reforms. Too little has been focused on appropriate arrangements for implementation. Increased local ownership and commitment would really help overcome this.
  • The NPM approach is not a panacea for the problems of public-sector management, but careful adaptation of some elements to selected fields may produce increasingly beneficial results.

So, there´s much to do! There is so much to do. Will you be part of the changes? We hope so. If we can support you in your cause through our services, you know where we are! Good luck.

You need a highly eloquent Statement that portrays you as someone with enormous potential to contribute to the advance of Public Administration over the long term. After you fill out my Online Interview Form, I will ask you some specific questions by email if I need any further information. Please also send your resume/CV and or rough draft if you have one: