New leadership announced for Metropolitan State University’s trailblazing Master of Advocacy and Political Leadership program

By Robert Boos
Posted August 17, 2017

Metropolitan State University today announces new leadership for its Master of Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) graduate program. Matthew Musel will be the new director of Advocacy and Public Leadership. Adrienne Falcón will be the academic director of the Master of Advocacy and Political Leadership program.

Matthew Musel

Musel, senior program manager for major gifts at the Minnesota Historical Society, comes to Metropolitan State University as an experienced nonprofit leader, political organizer and grassroots advocate with skills in management, organizational development, training and strategy development. He is a skilled fund development officer with 11 years of experience in institutional fundraising, and co-founder of two nonprofit organizations to provide aid and assistance for immigrants. He is also a 2010 graduate of the MAPL program.

Falcón comes to Metropolitan State from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., where she is director of its nationally lauded Academic Civic Engagement program. She has extensive community organizing experience in Minnesota and Illinois. She also taught previously in the MAPL program, and holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago.

Musel and Falcón will start at Metropolitan State on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The announcement was made to the university faculty, staff and student body earlier today. As program directors, Musel and Falcón will be responsible for strategic direction, resource development, and academic leadership for the Advocacy and Political Leadership graduate degree program. Musel and Falcón succeed Wy Spano, who founded the MAPL program and directed it since its inception until his retirement in August 2017.

“I feel honored to follow Wy’s pathbreaking footsteps and am very excited to join the MAPL program at Metropolitan State for the opportunity that it provides for all involved—the dynamic and committed students, the experienced faculty, and the dedicated community partners—to develop ethical leadership, effective organizing practices, and thoughtful policy making skills in order to bring about systemic change,” Falcón says.

Adrienne Falcón

Adrienne Falcón

“Together, Matt and Adrienne will be assuming leadership of our Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership and, indeed, a leadership role in the college’s engagement in public affairs,” says Frank Schweigert, dean of the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs. “As MAPL’s new academic director, Adrienne brings a rich background in civic and political engagement, research, grants management, and teaching. As the new director of advocacy and public leadership for our Public and Nonprofit Leadership Department, Matt will lead our efforts in connecting MAPL students and our other programs with public leaders, external partners and supporters, and critical learning opportunities, drawing upon his extensive background in fundraising, electoral campaigns, and nonprofit leadership.”

The MAPL program was launched at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2004, with Spano as director. The program was relocated to Metropolitan State University in fall 2015 and it is now housed in the Department of Public and Nonprofit Leadership, in the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs.

The MAPL program teaches its students how to ethically and effectively influence public policy. It is for leaders who have experience with or interest in influencing public policy. Graduates from the program are a professional group of ethically grounded advocates and organizers, and generally go on to positions as local community leaders, labor leaders, government relations specialists in businesses, nonprofit sector policy advocates, inter-governmental relations specialists, political and campaign operatives, lobbyists, elected and appointed officials, and staff to policy makers. Many students who come to program are already working in one of those interest areas.

With the completion of the 21st cohort in May 2017, the total number of MAPL graduates comes to 215 students, more than 80 percent of whom work in the advocacy field. Approximately two-thirds continue to work in Minnesota.

“We are absolutely delighted to have the MAPL program at Metropolitan State,” Schweigert says. “It is a wonderful complement to our college’s long-standing and successful graduate programs in public administration, nonprofit leadership and management, criminal justice studies, alcohol and drug counseling, and psychology. While these programs prepare people for leadership in administration, services, and research, MAPL will prepare people to take leadership in changing the systems that shape administration and services.”

Metropolitan State’s first cohort of MAPL graduates were conferred at a ceremony Dec. 10, 2016. Fifteen students graduated, and Gov. Mark Dayton delivered the keynote speech in the graduation exercise. Dayton had previously addressed the MAPL’s inaugural graduating cohort of 13 students in 2006. Dayton and Julian Andersen, president of the Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation, were conferred honorary degrees in December 2016. The foundation has been a consistent and enthusiastic supporter of MAPL, and Andersen an invaluable advisor to the program.

“In welcoming these two leaders to Metropolitan State University, we mark a transition in MAPL’s leadership,” Schweigert said. “Their high standards and keen insights regarding public and political leadership inspire every part of this program and will guide its path forward. The program’s new leadership will build on this solid foundation and extend its reach locally and nationally.”

MAPL founder Wy Spano is a long-time Minnesota political analyst and a former DFL lobbyist at the Minnesota State Capitol. He founded and published the “Politics in Minnesota” newsletter and continues to speak and write about Minnesota politics in state and national media. He often pens guest columns for MinnPost and The Star Tribune, and is a regular panelist on Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac.”

“Matt and Adrienne are perfectly suited to run the MAPL program into the future,” Spano says. “Matt has been a great fundraiser for the University of Minnesota’s Extension Division and now for the Minnesota Historical Society. He’s also been heavily involved encouraging and working for people of color who decide to seek elected office in Minnesota. Adrienne has a Ph.D. in sociology, extensive community organizing experience in Minnesota and Illinois, taught previously in the MAPL program, and has led Carlton College’s lauded academic civic engagement.”