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Teachers and mentors have the greatest impact on our career decisions and aptitude for advancement. Whether you are teaching now, or want to explore how to break into to teaching opportunities, we hope you find the resources in this section and throughout ICMA's site useful in your pursuit of learning and teaching about local government. Use the resource links to the right to explore teaching resources academics and practitioners can use to help prepare yourself or colleagues for teaching local government courses.

ICMA's Advisory Board on Graduate Education is a member-group that brings practitioners and academics together focusing on academic relations, and filling the graduate school pipeline. Members of the ABGE are also a resource you can use to explore teaching and find ways to get involved with educating future local government professional managers.

Academic Resources

How to Teach a Course

Do you remember your best teachers? The ones with a story to tell? The ones who got you excited? This is a profession rich with stories, and one that can easily captivate the minds of students of public service. ICMA's Advisory Board on Graduate Education urges members to share their experience by serving as adjunct faculty at a local university, and to help ABGE members have developed resources for managers who want to go back to the classroom.

How do I get started?

There are a number of ways you can engage with MPA/MPP programs:

  1. Approach one of the schools in your area and express an interest in teaching.  The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) maintains a list of member schools with accredited graduate public administration programs on its web site.  For other colleges in your area not on this list, you could check with the Political Science Department about their undergraduate offerings in local government or public administration and whether they have a graduate program in public administration.
  2. Download ICMA’s publication Managers As Teachers: A Practioner's Guide to Teaching Public Administration.
  3. Each year at the ICMA Annual Conference, the ABGE hosts a discussion session for managers who teach, or for those who would like to teach called, Managers as Faculty. Watch for it in the conference program - it's usually scheduled for conference Monday from 4-5pm.
  4. Each year we also hold an academic research symposium, for full-time academics and students to present papers/research and engage with ICMA members at the ICMA Annual Conference. 
  5. Explore or help launch a Manager-in-Residence program.
  6. Be the management advisor to an ICMA Student Chapter!
  7. Review the ICMA/NASPAA competencies for teaching local government management.

Mission-Specific Elective Competencies for Teaching Local Government Management

In 2009, a joint NASPAA/ICMA working group created recommendations for adoption by NASPAA for “mission-specific” competencies for MPA programs with a local government management emphasis. These were officially released by NASPAA in September, 2009.

Download the Competencies Recommendations

Standard 6.3 Mission-Specific Elective Competencies: Local Government Management
Programs that have identified as part of their mission the offering of an option, specialization, or concentration that is intended to prepare students for a career in professional local government management should demonstrate their conformance to the following guidelines.

Graduates of the program will be able to demonstrate the application of their knowledge and understanding of:

  • The ethics of local government management, emphasizing the role of the professional chief executive.
  • The roles and relationships among key local and other government elected and appointed officials.
  • The purposes of and processes for communicating with and engaging citizens in local governance.
  • The management of local government core services and functions.
  • The management of local government financial resources.
  • The management of local government human resources.

ICMA Working Group

  • Mark M. Levin, (Chair) City Administrator, City of Maryland Heights, MO
  • Linda Barton, City Manager, City of Livermore, CA
  • Mario Canizares, Deputy City Manager, City of Coppell, TX
  • Marvin Hoffman, Professor, Appalachian State University
  • Cal Horton, Retired Town Manager, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Gary Sears, City Manager, City of Englewood, CO

Additionally, NASPAA's Local Government Management Education Committee (LGME) prepared proposed competencies for MPA/MPP programs with specializations in local government management, which were presented to NASPAA membership in 2012. These competencies are not part of the NASPAA Standards adopted by the membership in October 2009 (above), but were developed in consultation with ICMA’s Advisory Board on Graduate Education were selected because they are qualities generally associated with public administrators in local government.

Syllabi Samples

Sometimes we need to reinvent the wheel, but not all the time.  Like Newton, standing on the shoulders of our peers, mentors, or the giants before us can save a lot of time.  Especially when preparing to teach a course on public administration. Below are links to some resources online that might help you develop a course syllabus of your own.

If you have syllabi you'd like to share, just email them to careers@icma.org and we'll upload for others to use as well.  Below is some information on building a syllabus. If you would like access to sample syllabi please email rcarty@icma.org. Also see page 41 of the Adjuncts Corner compendium for creating a syllabus and more helpful articles.

How to Create a Syllabus

Excerpted from Dr. Dave's Blog, found online at teachingcollegeenglish.com, where you can read the entire post. No content was changed, though some was removed to encourage readers to visit his post directly.

  1. Make sure that everything that your department/college requires is included.
    • For my college this means:
    • Course description
    • Number of hours
    • Complete number of the course
    • Dates and times of class meetings
    • Policies on absence, late work, make-up work, plagiarism
  2. Add in caveats.
    • If this class is new to you, you will not know exactly what you can get done. I prefer to plan too much and reduce the work if it overfills the time we have.
  3. Put in a class calendar.
    • I have seen syllabi which read “Week 1: Intro to class and paper. Week 2: Revision and discussion.”
  4. What if I don’t know all that we are going to do?
    • Start.
    • Fill in what you know.
    • When I have had a new course at a new college with a new text, I have had no trouble at all creating a three week schedule. I figure the first three weeks will let me get to know the students and gauge the class. Then I can work on the rest of the schedule when I understand more what can be done.
  5. What if I put in too much?
    • Students are happy to take things out of a syllabus. They just are not too thrilled to add things in. So it is better to put in too much and have to take things out than to have to add work for the students.
  6. What if I put in too little?
    • I have additional information which I bring to class in case I put too little work on the syllabus.
    • For instance, in that class I did a significant introduction to the difference in status of women between the Old English and the Middle English period. This presentation was not on my syllabus because I had changed the syllabus and did not know if I would have time for it. But I had several places it could have been used and one of those days I had too little work scheduled. So I was able to use it there.
    • What this does for my class is two things. One, it makes sure my students get the value of their time recognized. They paid for the class and they ought to have their money’s worth. (Yes, even when they’d rather just get out quickly.) Two, it gives “value added.” The presentation I gave helped them on a later paper. If I had not had the presentation, their later work would have been more difficult. Because of the presentation though, assuming they took good notes and were involved in the discussion, that later work will be easier.

Teaching Tips

Think of the very best teachers that you have had.  What made them great?  How could you emulate them? Below are some tips and suggestions compiled by Frank Benest to help practitioners engage students and connect with their audiences.

  • Select topics that really interest or energize you – we want you to share your passion
  • Know your audience and tailor your material accordingly; ask the faculty member about the profiles of the students – their interests, level of education, past work experience in public service
  • Ask in advance the faculty members to query the course students to identify key issues in respect to the topic for you to address as an “in the trenches” practitioner
  • Integrate a real-life story from your experience (or your agency’s experience) related to the topic in order to capture the interest and attention of students at the outset of the class
  • Integrate an opportunity for students to interact or get engaged with you and the topic (e.g., some questions, a brief exercise, role playing with different points of view)
  • Use a real-life case study from your agency’s practice; take the case study up to the governing board’s decision point; ask the students what they would have decided and why; and then explain what the board decided and their policy rationale as well as the politics involved
  • Complete any worksheets or action plan formats yourself before using the materials in class
  • Not only describe the problem or challenge but generalize from the case study – what were the key issues and lessons learned
  • Articulate why the challenge and your agency/community response was energizing and fulfilling (this will help us market local government careers)
  • Avoid “war stories” that focus on poor governing board members, abusive constituents and long hours with no time for family or self
  • End your presentation by briefly promoting local government careers
    • Tell some personal stories that highlight the value of local government work and the self-fulfillment that you have found
    • Cite a few demographic statistics regarding the Next Generation Challenge facing local government (see the opening chapter from ICMA’s Preparing the Next Generation-A Guide for Current and Future Local Government Managers)
    • Use a theme like "Local Government Careers – Your World Starts Here," which focuses on how local government professionals can "make a difference in their own backyard"
  • Leave time for questions
  • Create a short bio so the faculty member can easily introduce you
  • Before you develop your notes, identify some key take-away points and then build your outline around those key points
  • Learning is a two-way street; encourage participation and an exchange of ideas

Other Suggestions

  • Suggest that the university program contact person organize a meeting with the program faculty members to discuss a topic of interest to the faculty so that you can provide a practitioner’s perspective to the topic and some resources
  • If practical, engage an emerging leader from your organization in one or several presentations (it will help university students query the younger professional on the benefits and rewards of local government careers)
  • If you are interested, suggest that any faculty members call on you for periodic lectures or other assistance

For more information or to contribute to this tip sheet, contact careers@icma.org; also see the Adjuncts Corner compendium and Managers As Teachers: A Practitioners Guide to Teaching Public Administration, a 25-page document providing solid guidance for the local government manager teaching a course.

Volunteer for the Graduate Education Committee

About& the GEC

ICMA has a long history of dialogue with the academic community through various member committees and task forces, each of which has worked cooperatively with a task force of professors appointed by NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration). The purpose of this dialogue and liaison is to improve the educational preparation of the next generation of local government managers.

The GEC is a member committee that meets jointly with professors of public administration for the purpose of enhancing the education of future local government management professionals. GEC members are appointed by ICMA's President and work hand-in-hand with NASPAA's Local Government Management Education Committee, through two subcommittees and break-out interest groups. Each subcommittee is led by one of two vice-chairs:

  • Academic Connections
    • Local Government Management Competencies
    • Getting Managers into the Classroom
    • Connections Between GEC and ICMA State Affiliates
  • Future of the Profession
    • Learning by Experience (internships, research projects, etc.)
    • New Career Paths
    • Filling the Grad School Pipeline

The GEC has created a number of useful tools for improving the education of future managers, including Management Internships Guidebook, and Guidelines for Managers Who Teach.

The GEC meets at the ICMA annual conference on Sunday morning from 8-10am, followed by the Academic Symposium from 10am-2:45pm.


All committee communication is managed through our group listserv. GEC members can sign-up for the group listserv by contacting staff liaison Rob Carty.

Graduate Education Committee, Member Roster

View the committee members in our online directory.  You must be a member of ICMA and logged-in to use this link as it contains contact information. To join the committee, sign-up during ICMA's volunteer process at Volunteer for Committees and Task Forces.

Volunteer to present at the ICMA Research Symposium

The Research Symposium is presented each year at the ICMA Annual Conference, typically on Sunday, from 10 a.m.–2:45 p.m.

The goals of this event are to:

  • Increase practitioner-academic dialogue about research needs in the profession;
  • Provide an opportunity and platform for professors and graduate students to present papers and research, seek feedback, and engage with practitioners;
  • When possible, engage PhD students and early-career academics to share their research or studies;
  • Provide a venue for academic members and non-members of ICMA to present at a national conference of peers and practitioners.

Please see details in the final program for a list of presentations and presenters.

To submit a presentation, contact rcarty@icma.org for details. 

Recommendations for Presenters

  1. Involve managers as commentators who are familiar with the issue/topic being presented by the academic or who have a vested interest in the topic
  2. If interested, academic presenters should provide the manager-commentator with an advance copy of their research presentation (two weeks before the ICMA conference)
  3. The commentators should offer suggestions for additional research questions that should be considered that address the issues that managers must deal with
  4. Post-presentation, engage the manager-commentator, audience, and academic presenter in a dialogue on the research topic and how the study can be adapted to meet the manager's needs
  5. All presentations should strive to be “TED-like” and no longer than 15 minutes, with 5-10 minutes for questions and discussion or a total of 20 minutes per presentation
  6. Ideally, also throw in a mindbender from the academic community’s perspective!

Volunteer to Become a City/County "Manager in Residence"

Recently, Frank Benest, ICMA's senior advisor for Next Generation Initiatives, had the opportunity to serve as a "City/County Manager in Residence" at two universities where he introduced students to local government, and emerged recharged.  These kinds of programs offer a great opportunity to instruct, reach into the future talent pool, and inspire another generation.  But also demonstrate to school instructors and administrators that key resources are available to them to grow and add value to their programs.

The idea is relatively simple.  During a one-week residency, the City/County Manager makes in-class presentations (faculty would identify classes and topics in advance).  The Manager also meets one-on-one with students about their career plans and provides coaching, meets informally with faculty about their research interests or current issues in local governance, and participates in any other Career Advancement or school activities. 

UC Berkeley

At the Goldman School of Public Policy, I conducted a workshop for a visiting delegation of HR Directors from China on the Talent Crisis facing local governments.  I also presented a “Careers in Local Government” brown bag with Masters in Public Policy students.  To complete my residency, I will be lecturing in two classes during the next semester on Public Policy and Public Budgeting.

University of La Verne

During my three days at ULV, I was scheduled for a full range of experiences.  I made presentations on Preparing the Next Generation in a MPA class and Collaborative Leadership in a DPA seminar.  I also provided a half-day workshop to all students in the DPA program on Leadership Development and Succession Planning.  Interspersed with these formal activities, I provided one-to-one career coaching to six or seven students (some of whom have followed up with me for further career advice).  Finally, I enjoyed a dinner with the PA faculty.  My housing was provided by Phil Hawkey, Vice President of Administration at ULV and former City Manager of Pasadena.


Based on these experiences, for others interested in creating similar programs with local universities I recommend the following:

  1. Don’t wait for a university to contact you.  Select one, two, or three participating universities and contact the university program representatives.  (For California, visit www.cal-icma.org and click on Manager in Residence Program; ICMA will be working with other states to develop a broader network of contacts).
  2. Don’t be constrained by the suggestion of a “one-week” residency.  You can do three days in a particular week or even split up the experiences over two or three weeks.
  3. To have an enriching experience, strive for a wide-ranging diversity of experiences, such as
    • In-class presentations
    • Informal discussions with students and faculty
    • One-to-one career coaching with students
  4. Include in the residency one-to-one career coaching.  Request that the university schedule these coaching sessions with interested students in advance of your visit and suggest that the students bring a resume, even if it is out of date.  Students are highly appreciative of this personalized experience.
  5. In advance of your residency, request that the professor of each class identify a topic and the time allotted so you can prepare accordingly.  Inquire as to the background and any job experiences of the students.
  6. To better prepare students for local government careers and to bolster their resumes, suggest that students get a free one-to-one coach through a state or regional Coaching Program (such as the Cal-ICMA Coaching Program; students can go to www.cal-icma.org and click on “Coaches Gallery” to select a coach).  You can also recommend that students become a student member of their state manager's or assistant's association, or ICMA for only $25.  Through attending state events and receiving related information on local government, they can better prepare themselves as well as put these affiliations of their resume.
  7. Direct students to career resources such as ICMA's Career Network including how to find internships, information about careers in local government, and how to enter and advance in their career.
  8. Ensure that someone in the university program will coordinate your schedule so you are efficient in your time and you have a diversity of experiences.
  9. Have fun and enjoy this new adventure!

I highly recommend that you contact one or more participating universities in your area and get re-charged!  ICMA and your state association can assist you in finding a university, if no formal program exists yet in your area.