Certificate in Public Affairs Leadership

Public Affairs Leadership Presentation

Please note: In order to keep cohorts at a size that fosters relationship building, Certificate in Public Affairs Leadership applicants will be reviewed and/or admitted on a space available basis only.

The Certificate in Public Affairs Leadership offers mid-career professionals specific knowledge and skills in leadership, management, public policy, and analysis to succeed in today's challenging environment.

Intended for working professionals, this executive education training program allows students to complete a professional certificate in an integrative cohort format in nine months. The certificate stands on its own or can be a steppingstone to the mid-career Master of Public Affairs degree. Students complete the certificate in one academic year by attending classes that include a cohort of students in the Master of Public Affairs (Mid-Career). 

By enrolling in the Certificate in Public Affairs Leadership program, you will gain:

  • Advanced skills in leadership, management, and policy analysis
  • Enhanced capacity to bring effective solutions to public problems
  • A new network of colleagues from across the state
  • New modes of working in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors
  • Improved leadership capacity

While this certificate program is open to anyone interested in building their public leadership skills, often our cohort members come from the following areas:

  • Managers in nonprofit organizations
  • Administrators in city and county government
  • Officials in state agencies
  • Public servants committed to becoming more effective in their professional lives
  • Advocates and community and government relations professionals
  • Business leaders interested in collaborating with the public and nonprofit sectors

View Certificate in Public Affairs Leadership application requirements

Expand all

Collaborative Approach: Cohort Learning Community

The Master of Public Affairs (MPA) and Certificate in Public Affairs Leadership (PAL) cohort learning community offers 12 credits of the MPA core courses in an integrated format that combines the best of intensive on-campus and online learning. These 12 credits make up the entire curriculum for the PAL certificate. The program starts with an intensive, introductory week in August, followed by Friday/Saturday gatherings once a month between September and May. This schedule enables students to participate in coursework even if they live far from the Twin Cities and continue full-time employment while enrolled.

Establishing a strong sense of community, students in the cohort learning community complete the 12 credit requirements with the same peer cohort. Because this learning experience is integrated, students form strong relationships with each other and the faculty, participating in personal growth, creative problem solving, and honed application. Poetry, statistics, collage, and policy memo writing are all tools shared with other members of the learning community. Additionally, the cohort enables you to be part of the Humphrey community, even when you're not physically present. Students benefit from networking opportunities with Humphrey-wide faculty, alumni, MPA and PAL peers, and international fellows; full access to support staff in Student Services and Career & Professional Development; access to the School's website, podcasts, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Deep Connections Online and In-Person

Although face-to-face classroom time is less frequent, students create a close connection with each other during a week in August, and stay connected to others through regular on-line discussions about readings, and project updates. Monthly meetings (all day Friday and Saturday) enable the group to focus intently on policy analysis, leadership development, action learning projects, and quantitative analysis training.


The curriculum focuses on leadership abilities, critical thinking and analytic skills, systems thinking and an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, and the ability to work and lead as part of a team. The cohort program curriculum integrates the learning objectives and content of the core courses in the following courses:

PAL 2020–21 Session Schedule

Orientation Session:

Thursday–Saturday, August 27–29, 2020. 

Weekend Sessions:

Weekend sessions take place once per month between September and late April. 

  • September 25–26
  • October 23–24
  • November 20–21
  • December 4
  • January 8–9
  • February 5–6
  • March 5–6
  • April 9–10
  • April 30–May 1