Contracts (Individual Study)

Contracts (also called "individual study") are a means by which students can meet individual needs not otherwise addressed within the regular curriculum. There are two graduate contract options: graduate individual learning contracts and graduate internship contracts. Some students are required to perform a credit generating internship before they can graduate, while others may choose to perform an internship contract or an individual learning contract to pursue experience and/or knowledge not available through the normal course work.

The maximum credit amount that may be awarded for a MPA graduate contract is 4 credit hours per quarter (except for a Capstone contract).

Overall, MPA students may apply a maximum of 12 credit hours of graduate contracts (combination of internships and individual learning contracts) toward their degree. (policy changed in July 2015: removed 4 credit graduate internship credit maximum)

Individual Learning Contracts

When a student’s academic program design cannot be satisfactorily completed through the available elective courses and internships, the student may arrange a Graduate Individual Learning Contract with a faculty member. This is a negotiated agreement between the student and faculty for the student to pursue individualized study. In most cases, due to limitations of faculty time, the burden of the academic design and undertaking is on the student, with the faculty primarily assisting as a guide and mentor. It is the faculty’s responsibility to ensure that sufficient work is assigned for the number of credit hours desired. Students who believe they will need and benefit from a Graduate Individual Learning Contract should consult their faculty and the MPA Director for advice on the appropriateness of such an undertaking and for suggested faculty sponsors. MPA students will be required to submit Individual Learning Contracts (ILC) and Internship (INT) contracts with all approvals to the Director by Friday of Week One of the contract quarter.  

The individual learning contract process is a web driven process. The final contract is approved by the student and the faculty sponsor and must be approved by the MPA Director before the student registers.

It is important that students have an opportunity to become oriented to the MPA program before undertaking an individual learning contract. Students must complete one (1) quarter of MPA first year core coursework before registering for an individual learning contract, so that typically students must wait until the Winter quarter of their first year to undertake a graduate individual learning contract.

Contracts may be sponsored by continuing and visiting faculty members who are either currently teaching in MPA or regularly teach in Evergreen graduate programs.

A student registering for a contract and internship in the same quarter with the same instructor must merge the two activities into one graduate internship contract. The Registration Office will not allow one faculty member to sponsor more than one contract per quarter with the same student.


The MPA Program at Evergreen admits applicants with varying levels and types of professional experience. Some applicants may need to expand their public or nonprofit sector work experience in order to better understand the field, and to be more competitive candidates for future jobs. During the admissions process the MPA Admissions Committee reviews each applicant’s professional experience. If the Admissions Committee determines that an applicant has not completed at least a year’s worth of full-time work with significant responsibility in public or nonprofit administration or in a public policy area, the applicant will be required to complete an internship before graduating from the program. This internship is a minimum of two (2) credits for one academic quarter, equal to 10 hours of work per week with an agency or organization in the public or non-profit sector. When an internship is required the applicant is notified in the letter of admission.

An internship is a learning experience designed to aid students in achieving specific academic and professional objectives. Although some MPA students are required to complete an internship, all students are strongly encouraged to include an internship in their educational plan, especially if they do not have prior professional-level experience in the public administration area of interest to them

It is important that students have an opportunity to become amply oriented to the MPA program before undertaking a credit-generating internship. Students must complete one (1) quarter of MPA first year core coursework before registering for a credit-generating internship, so that typically students must wait until the Winter quarter of their first year to undertake a graduate internship contract.

Internship credit will count toward the MPA degree as part of a student’s elective credits.

Internships are generally with government agencies or nonprofit organizations. If you are considering an internship, you should initiate discussions with faculty. In doing so, you will assess the type of internship in which you are interested (credit generating or non-credit generating, paid or voluntary, type of agency or organization involved), the extent to which you will benefit from an internship, and how it fits into your overall academic plan.

Two internship options are available to MPA students

  1. A credit-generating internship is one in which the student, faculty sponsor, and agency/organization supervisor formally agree upon a student’s academic objectives for the quarter and develop a plan for achieving those objectives in a workplace setting. It must include new academic learning and not be developed only to obtain work experience or entry-level employment. Occasionally, a student may be allowed to undertake a credit-generating internship with the agency at which s/he is employed. Evergreen has strict policies for these internships: a student who wishes to do an employment-related internship must work with the MPA Director early in the planning process to ensure that the credit being sought is for a project that is not a part of his/her regular work.
  2. A non-credit generating internship does not include formal academic components or earn academic credit. Many organizations advertise entry-level internships throughout the year. While it is important to discuss such internship opportunities with an advisor, taking an internship that does not include academic credit is ultimately an arrangement between the student and the internship agency or organization and does not require the formal procedures or forms described below.

Locating an Internship

After you have determined that an internship is appropriate for your academic plan, and if you do not yet have a specific internship in mind, check with faculty and with the Assistant MPA Director for your cohort for leads and ideas.

The Washington State Legislature sponsors several graduate interns each summer. These interesting and well-paid internships are publicized and filled the previous fall because legislative staff persons are unavailable during the legislative session, which meets during the winter and spring. If you are interested in this type of internship, you may obtain further information through the office of the Assistant Director.

Internship Learning Contract and Registration

A credit-generating internship is planned, arranged and conducted to meet the needs of the host organization and the academic and professional objectives of the student. These objectives, needs and all other internship-related matters are agreed upon before the internship begins, and are formalized in the Graduate Internship Learning Contract. All Graduate Internship Learning Contracts require a faculty sponsor, who will guide and review the academic components of the internship. Generally, each credit hour equals 5 hours of work at the internship.

All credit-generating internships require a Graduate Internship Learning Contract. The internship contract process is a web driven process. The contract is a formal document signed by all parties: student, faculty sponsor, and field supervisor, as well as the MPA Director, before the student registers.

At the completion of a credit-generating internship, it is the responsibility of the student to write a narrative self-evaluation of the internship. It is the field supervisor’s responsibility to write an evaluation that assesses the intern’s job performance. The field supervisor and student intern should meet to discuss the evaluation at the end of the internship. The student’s and field supervisor’s evaluations are then sent to the faculty sponsor, who will meet with the student for an internship evaluation conference. The faculty sponsor is responsible for drafting the final internship evaluation, which will include all or significant portions of the field supervisor’s evaluation. Both the student’s self-evaluation and the faculty evaluation become part of the student’s official transcript.

While the host agency is encouraged to provide a stipend or salary to the intern, volunteer internships of equivalent learning and professional value are often more readily available. The intern will need to make a decision regarding compensation based on her/his learning objectives and financial position. The availability of compensation should in no way impinge on the academic validity and quality of the internship experience.

Internship placements will usually be within the Puget Sound region. Although internships may be arranged outside the region, they require special approval and arrangements. Your faculty sponsor and the MPA Director must approve an internship outside the region.