UTRGV public administration master’s degree prepares students for success

BY Vicky Brito

Pi Alpha Alpha, the UTRGV chapter of the national honor society for Public Affairs graduate students, recently inducted 45 new lifelong members and now has more than 100 in its ranks.

The chapter was established in 2009 at UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American. Chapter adviser Dr. Aziza Zemrani, chair of public affairs and security studies, said being a part of Pi Alpha Alpha is an academic accomplishment for those invited to join because it helps forward the MPA program’s goals of preparing students for jobs in the public and private sectors.

“What is good about this lifetime membership is that it does improve their ranking in federal, state or local government pursuits,” Zemrani said. “When you are a member of Pi Alpha Alpha, it increases your categories for federal government in the federal sector. Most job interviews ask you if you’re a member of any honor society.”

Pi Alpha Alpha rewards excellence in the public administration field, and students are selected based on a GPA of 3.75 and above. Students must have at least 50 percent of their 36 credit hour program completed to qualify. Once students are selected, they are sent an acceptance letter and pay $50 for lifetime membership.

The Pi Alpha Alpha national organization is part of the Network Association of Schools of Public Affairs, or NASPA. IT is open to students, alumni, faculty and honorary members.

The following UTRGV Public Affairs and Security Studies professors are members of Pi Alpha Alpha:

· Dr. Terrance Garrett, professor.

· Dr. Matthew Weiss, assistant professor.

· Dr. George Atisa, assistant professor.

· Dr. Alexandre Couture Gagnon, assistant professor.

“I cannot tell you how important Pi Alpha Alpha is for our department, the College of Liberal Arts and UTRGV,” Garret said. “Pi Alpha Alpha means that our students and faculty have joined a community of scholars concerned with the professional growth and development of the disciplines of public administration and public policy worldwide.”

Mel Escamilla was inducted into the UTRGV chapter at a ceremony in April this year. She since has graduated from the program and now serves as director of Grants and Programs for Knapp Medical Center, a not-for-profit healthcare organization in Weslaco.

“The UTRGV MPA program is an amazing program,” Escamilla said. “The learning and the interaction between students is invaluable to real-life work experience. The professors and coaches are key to the success of this program.”

UTRGV student April Michelle Dominguez is on track to receive her master’s degree with honors this summer.

“The UTRGV master’s in Public Administration accelerated online program allowed me to achieve my educational goals while maintaining my family and a demanding full-time job,” Dominguez said. “The faculty and staff truly have a vested interest in the program and students.”

The accelerated version of the MPA degree offers the same number of courses as the regular MPA, but in seven-week semesters, rather than the traditional 14 weeks.


UTRGV’s MPA program has been named one of the Best Online Master’s of Public Administration Degree Programs by OnlineColleges.net, ranking sixth of the 25 universities listed.

“The sky is the limit on what you can do with an MPA,” Zemrani said. “It’s a program that prepares you for a career in different positions and different activities.”

For more information on the MPA degree, contact Zemrani at 665-255, or email aziza.zemrani@utrgv.edu.