Villanova University’s MPA Program Learns in Action With GPA

Layla El Tannir, for GPA -- 2014 has been a bustling year at the Global Philadelphia Association. It comes as a surprise to many that all of our accomplishments come as a result of the work of a small but mighty team of international gurus. As a globally-minded group, they are always open to trying new methods and collaborating with people of the world. Over the spring, GPA opened its doors to Villanova University’s MPA (Master's in Public Administration) 8199 class to serve as the organization that students could study and devise a business plan for. Catherine Wilson, Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Public Administration, Villanova University led the Cultural Competency course.

The process followed a strict formula. The MPA teams analyzed all the work GPA had done and the processes it used to achieve goals. Additionally, they “conducted several interviews to gather background information and a view of the state of affairs on the ground,” according to Justin Evert, a Master's of History candidate, quoted in the Villanova’s Leaders’ Lounge Blog.

The students dug for information that could lead to potential difficulties for GPA in its work. While examining GPA, they also studied business models of similar organizations to look for patterns or possible successful styles of growth and development to suit the GPA concept. Over the course of three months, students gather research, study the market and develop a business plan that they present to the organization and their class.

“Students were able to work in a team-based setting, delegating responsibility across lines of individual expertise and competency and coming together to produce an excellent final product for the organization,” said Professor Wilson.

Keeping in mind that GPA is a nonprofit, funding is crucial to making its dreams a reality. In reviewing the process of the collaboration between GPA and Villanova, Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of the Global Philadelphia Association, shared the key outcomes of the business plans:

(1) GPA should charge for events that it hosts.

(2) In the pursuit of World Heritage City designation for Philadelphia, through Project World Heritage Cities, GPA should apply for grants to support research, raise awareness and make progress.

(3) GPA should begin to provide consultancy services, harnessing its expertise and sharing it with both members and non-members for a fee.

(4) GPA’s Board of Directors should charge for speaking publicly at events, as their expertise is extremely valuable.

Overall, there are three main perspectives to share, those of the students, the professor and team GPA. Sophie Lee, an MPA student, told Villanova’s Leaders’ Lounge Blog about working with a Global organization.

“Creating a business plan for GPA was challenging,” she said. “People make different assumptions, have various communication styles and praise or criticize something based on their values, beliefs and background.”

These are factors that GPA and its members face on a daily basis, but it is part of the mission to educate people in Philadelphia about the vibrant international community that exists both in and out of the city.

Professor Wilson commented on another role that GPA is responsible for, another component that students had to consider in developing their business plans.

“Making sure that the message that Philadelphia, with its rich historical and cultural heritage, is proclaimed from the rooftops. The business plan was a positive learning experience for GPA, the graduate students involved, and the rest of the class.”

Teelucksingh agreed with that sentiment in her concluding statement about the project, “Villanova MPA provides highly knowledgeable students to assess non-profits and come back three months later with pertinent recommendations, eradicating any hurdles that nonprofits are encountering.”

Image courtesy of Villanova University's MPA Program.