Select Page

Throw a dart at a map of eastern Wisconsin, and you’ve got a fair chance of hitting a municipality or local government led by a Titan. 

In more than two dozen counties, cities, towns and villages across Wisconsin, alumni and current students of the master of public administration (MPA) program at UW Oshkosh are doing the nuts-and-bolts daily work of government.

Michael Ford

Michael Ford, director of the University’s MPA program, is both delighted and not at all surprised.  

Since the inception of the MPA program, which began in 1972, Ford said the majority of its 600-plus graduates have landed jobs in the public sector at the local, state and federal levels. Others found work in the nonprofit sector. 

A map of Wisconsin communities and local governments led by UWO MPA graduates.

“We have a saying in our field, ‘politics decides; administration does,’” said Ford, who has worked both as an elected official and as a practitioner working on state and local policy. He also is an associate professor of public administration at the University.

And right now, alumni and at least two current students are putting policy into action in their respective municipalities, many of them outside the bigger cities of Madison and Milwaukee.  

Ford is optimistic about the state’s future because of the program’s alumni working at the frontlines of these smaller municipalities.  

“So much of the public discussion about government in Wisconsin can be dominated by Milwaukee and Madison, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “But I see the impact that we’re having on where the majority of Wisconsinites live and work.” 

Ford said the two-year graduate program prepares students to jump right into the fray of government. Each student has to work on a capstone project, working with either nonprofit organizations or local governments to solve real-life problems throughout the state.

Mikko Hilvo

Mikko Hilvo (‘19 MPA) works as the city administrator for Cedarburg (pop.12,700), which is 20 miles north of Milwaukee. For his capstone project, he focused on the wages and benefits for the city of Cedarburg.

“Based on the information I put together for it I was able to implement a three-year process to increase our city wages and benefits,” he said. “Everything I learned in the MPA program has helped me thrive as a city administrator.” 

Some students land jobs even before they graduate from the program.  

Geena Skowronski became the city administrator of the city of Elroy (pop. 1,278) in September of 2022. She is scheduled to graduate in December. As part of the MPA program, students are paired with mentors in their field of study.  

“To gain a relationship with someone who has been working in the field for years was invaluable,” Skowronski said. “Each class I’ve taken through the MPA program has added value to my journey as a city administrator and as a leader more broadly.” 

Benjamin Krumenauer

Benjamin Krumenauer, who graduated from the MPA program in 2017, is the administrator for the Village of Bellevue (pop. 16,588), near Green Bay. Krumenauer chose the University’s MPA program because of the bounty of practical professional experience its faculty and staff members offer.  

“UW Oshkosh has the ideal mindset and course curriculum for people seeking higher education in local governance,” Krumenauer said. “Faculty and staff have direct experience in municipal management and profile a wide range of skills and experiences.” 

Krumenauer looks back at his graduate school experience with gratitude. “The MPA program gave me more than just the credentials to succeed,” he said. “The discussion-based format of the program allowed me to quickly discover that a successful leader is a person that gets out there and is part of the community.” 

Ford believes the work that former students like Krumenauer and others do creates positive ripples beyond their municipalities. 

“We have so many intractable divides in this country that I really think local government is the place we can go to, to try to bring our country back together,” Ford said. “I know that sounds pretty dramatic, but I do think there’s some structural advantages there, meaning that (city administration) is officially nonpartisan so (city administrators) can cut through some of those surface-level partisan debates. It is the level of government that most affects your day-to-day life. And I think the best way to restore faith in our government is to have a competent local government.”

The University’s successful MPA program, which went fully online Spring of 2023, recently opened up more opportunities for students to pursue an advanced degree. Upper-level sociology students at the University will have the option of taking masters level courses for dual credit that will allow them to complete their MPA in one year after graduation. 

Ford welcomes the opportunity to teach more students who want to make a positive difference in their communities.  

“I’m happy to dedicate my career to making sure that we’re producing graduates that can solve the problems of the day,” Ford said. “I know their passion and to see them on the front lines in communities across the state, large, small and in between, I just have incredible confidence in the impact they’re going to make.” 

Learn more: