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About the Key Executive Leadership MPA

Using executive education models, the Key Executive Leadership MPA prepares public servants to become more effective organizational leaders. Begun in 1975, the Key Executive Leadership Program is a graduate course of study in the skills, knowledge, and values needed by top-level public executives and offers participants the perspectives and competencies necessary for effective performance in high level executive work. The curriculum includes the major activity areas used in certifying candidates for career positions in the Senior Executive Service. Classes are held on selected Fridays and weekends. Participants continue to work at their jobs while completing their studies.

Admission to the Key Executive Leadership MPA Program is competitive and restricted to those at the GS-12s or above) level or equivalent at a NGO, in the private sector, or have other leadership experience. The program is oriented to civilian personnel in the federal government, military or other uniformed personnel, state and local officials, and personnel in the nonprofit sector.

With the expectation that graduates of the program will move from managerial to leadership roles within their organizations, the executive MPA curriculum encompasses the principal components of public service education: the leadership of public service organizations, the public policy and organizational environment, and the analysis of issues.

The Key Distinguishing Factors

Action Learning

In lieu of a Master's Thesis, students identify a difficult, long-standing unresolved problem in their workplace; sign a contract with their supervisor to work on the issue; recruit five-seven persons to work with them on the issue; teach their colleagues the action learning process; apply the process to the issue and create recommendations for resolution; present the recommendations to the agency; write a paper identifying what they have learned about the process, what they learned about themselves and the persons on the action learning team, what public administration concepts they applied to their work; and what they learned about leading change; and present their paper to their colleagues in the cohort and the faculty of the program. Learn more and view sample projects.

The Cohort Approach

The Key Executive Leadership Programs uses the cohort model, in which students matriculate, advance, and graduate together. With a maximum of 20 students, students begin to create a trusting environment that builds through the program and enables knowledge transfer, enhanced communication, honed teaching skills, honest feedback, and a career-long support group.

"Pracademic" Faculty

Known for their prominent reputation in public administration, executive education, and adult learning Key "Pracademic" Faculty lead relevant and engaging discussions advancing student's knowledge in the five areas identified by OPM as critical to success in the Senior Executive Service (SES)—leading change, leading people, results driven, business acumen, and building coalitions.

International Leadership

The program offers students an opportunity to take a course in Brussels, Belgium that focuses on a comparison of the political structure and governance between the United States and the European Union. Members of the European Parliament, Ministers, and NATO representatives work with students in the program as they learn and understand the similarities and differences.


The Key Programs believes reading is necessary to expand a range of choices for actions. The books provided serve as the foundation for classroom discussions.