CSU’s MPPA program and City Hall come together to educate the next generation of public service leaders in Fort Collins

Former City Manager Darin Atteberry teaching the next generation of leaders what award-winning public service looks like in a MPPA class in Fall 2021.

By Maria Do

On Monday evenings in a room inside the Behavioral Sciences Building, an average classroom transforms into a quasi-City Hall where master’s students in CSU’s Public Policy and Administration program (MPPA) learn from former City Manager Darin Atteberry and current Assistant City Manager Tyler Marr in the course PPA 592 An Excellence Framework for City Management. After retiring from a successful 25+ year career in public service, Atteberry’s next chapter involves teaching the next generation of leaders what award-winning public service looks like.

“Darin Atteberry is a well-respected local government leader,” said MPPA program director and professor Susan Opp. “His passion for local government, storytelling abilities that capture student attention, and commitment to mentoring future public leaders make him the best kind of instructor for a program like the MPPA.”

“Having Darin teach in our program allows our students to make important theory-to-practice connections while learning from one of the greatest City Managers in this country.”

Atteberry’s classroom lessons are gleaned from two decades with the city and its nationally-recognized performance, which received the highest honor a municipality can earn – the Malcolm Baldrige Award for innovation, efficiency, and leadership in 2017.  “Sharing our professional experiences and engaging students to consider the role of leadership in local government is a true joy,” said Atteberry. “Our students care deeply, engage fully, and are poised to make a difference.”

ln Atteberry’s city management framework course, he, along with Marr and their experienced guest lecturers, share their practical knowledge working in the public sector. “Students in the MPPA at CSU have a remarkable opportunity to learn from practitioners in a world-class city for local management,” said Atteberry. “The program is a working lab for the next generation of public service leaders, right here in Fort Collins.”

“As practitioners in city management, we recognize that we are only one piece of the larger network of folks serving the community and working to make it a better place,” added Marr. “That’s why we have invited at least half a dozen guest speakers that give a variety of perspectives to our students.” Speakers from the fall 2021 semester include Fort Collins’s chief of police, chief human resources manager, planning manager, former fire chief, and former mayor.

City Manager Darin Atteberry and current Assistant City Manager Tyler Marr
Former City Manager Darin Atteberry and current Assistant City Manager Tyler Marr speak during the MPPA class “An Excellence Framework for City Management.”

Atteberry and Marr aim to teach students how to solve problems on the local level and show them how solutions realistically unfold for matters like leadership, talent, strategic planning, and operations, to name a few. Their interactive curriculum helps students acquire skills that land internships and jobs. “It’s important for us to provide a practical education for students–showing them the reality of what it means to do public service work,” said Marr.

The MPPA program launched in 2020 after years of collaboration and effort, sparked by Atteberry and Opp’s goal to bring a public policy program to CSU.

Opp reflected, “In just a short year and a half, we’ve added new tenure track faculty, developed important public partnerships that offer students valuable professional opportunities, integrated service-learning projects, added important and timely new coursework, and expanded our reach to an international scope with the addition of our first two international MPPA students in 2022.”

As for what’s next, she added, “we have several curriculum additions planned for the coming year as well as growing our practitioner presence in the classroom. This includes more practitioner-taught courses, networking events, and professional development opportunities for our students. CSU and the world-class city of Fort Collins is the ideal laboratory for our future public servants!”

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The priority application deadline for Fall 2022 is February 20. Learn more about the MPPA program.