On July 12, Ilia State University (ISU) held a commencement ceremony in Tbilisi for the first 29 graduates of its new Masters of Public Administration (MPA) Program. The graduation was the culmination of a four-year joint initiative by EWMI, ISU, and Columbia University to establish a high-quality graduate program to train Georgia’s next generation of public leaders.
In his opening remarks at the graduation, ISU Head of Administration and former MPA Program Director Dr. David Aprasidze congratulated everyone involved in developing and establishing the program in only four years. This includes 17 US professors from Columbia University, the City University of New York, and Arizona State University, who came to Georgia over the course of the project to work with MPA faculty and administrators on program administration, curriculum, and course design.
Jason Swantek, the Public Policy Advisor for EWMI’s Policy, Advocacy, and Civil Society Development Project in Georgia (G-PAC) discussed the program’s major successes en route to becoming the most practical program of its kind in Georgia. Mr. Swantek noted that the program had recruited highly experienced instructors, produced the first publication of Georgia-based public administration case studies, and established the Public Policy Research and Training Center (PPRTC), which has already begun to influence public policy and provide demand-driven training to government and civil society professionals. He identified the high caliber of students the program attracted as a particular success.
New graduate Gigi Katsaridze thanked the program’s instructors and encouraged his fellow graduates to aspire to do great things for Georgia. After his remarks, the students shook hands with program administrators and received their diplomas. The ceremony was followed by refreshments, cake, and live music to celebrate the occasion.
The MPA Program, which began its first classes in March 2012, serves as a focal point for public policy research and an incubator for the next generation of Georgian policy makers and public managers. The program’s instructors draw on their expertise in Georgia’s public, civil society, and private sectors to engage students in developing solutions to the country’s most urgent policy challenges. Students gain “real world” experience through an internship requirement and the opportunity to participate in research projects through the MPA Program’s PPRTC and case study publications. The program also provided students and professors with the opportunity to work with distinguished visiting US experts, who delivered public lectures and participated in MPA classes.
USAID through EWMI G-PAC provided approximately $700,000 to ISU to establish the MPA Program.