Aurora University

MPA Plus One Students Create Economic Development Plan for Waterman

As part of Aurora University’s Master of Public Administration Plus One program, AU graduate students partnered with village officials in Waterman, Illinois, on a yearlong Community Economic Development initiative. The project is the first of its kind at AU.

“The MPA students completed a yearlong project with the Village of Waterman, engaging with community leaders and analyzing data to develop a comprehensive economic development plan,” said Sarah Radtke, professor and chair of athletic training and exercise science, who is also a Waterman village trustee. “They did exemplary work, far exceeding my expectations. They were incredibly professional, always prepared and engaging, and polished in their presentation skills.”

The class of a dozen students met with community members to hear their thoughts on the future of Waterman, prepared a socioeconomic profile of the village, and presented it in a special meeting to the village board. They also drafted survey questionnaires that were administered to residents, and they hosted a community visioning session.

The project culminated in the Waterman 2020 Comprehensive Plan, which outlines the first steps in generating a new wave of economic growth while preserving the small town’s historic character. The students presented their plan to the village board at the end of their MPA program.

“The students engaged in a sustained, high-impact experiential learning project that combined their classroom learning with the development of management skills and networking opportunities with area professionals,” said Matthew Dabros, associate professor of political science and public policy.

AU’s Plus One graduate programs allow students to complete their master’s degree in one year. In addition to public administration, AU offers Plus One programs in business administration, criminal justice, digital marketing and design, and exercise science.