Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

GMU Centers on the Public Service: Connecting Theory and Practice

Paul Posner

The fields of public administration and political science were founded by “pracademics” such as Woodrow Wilson who aspired to achieve the integration of teaching and research with the communities of practice in our field. While teaching theory, George Mason University has always been acutely aware that academic content and credibility rest, in part, on a deep connection with practitioners. Accordingly, as part of its MPA program, George Mason’s Department of Public and International Affairs has established three new centers to serve the complex needs of the broader public service:

  • Center for Federal Management Leadership
  • The State and Local Government Leadership Center
  • Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Policy

Public sector managers face challenges that are unprecedented in both scope and complexity. As passage of health care reform illustrates, public managers are increasingly on the proverbial hot seat to address a growing array of daunting and expensive problems that seem to defy understanding. Thanks to the escalating ambitions of political leaders themselves, there has been a virtual agenda explosion, as a wide range of “private troubles” become public problems. And most of these issues call on the involvement of many sectors beyond traditional government bureaucracies themselves, including nonprofits, private contractors and citizen groups.

The times are ripe for a major initiative to better serve the broad range of actors involved with public services today. The Centers can play an important role in assisting public managers in meeting their emerging challenges through training, research, networking and collaboration across jurisdictions. We envision the Centers becoming a vital part of the leadership of governance in the Washington area, but also having an influence on public management and governance issues throughout the nation and internationally as well.

The Center for Federal Management Leadership will be directed by Sheldon Edner, former director of the MPA Program at Portland State and senior staff with the federal Department of Transportation. This center will provide leadership to a federal sector undergoing major changes and fiscal adjustment, as the baby boomers retire. Many agencies are experiencing wholesale turnover in leadership and senior management at all levels of government. Already, the influx of new managers at the top and middle of organizations is raising significant challenges, as newly installed managers have to rebuild institutional knowledge and management experience. The Center for Federal Management Leadership will play an important role in assisting federal managers in meeting these emerging challenges. Opportunities to be pursued include preparing new managers for their broader responsibilities and promoting federal collaboration with other sectors of the economy.

The State and Local Government Leadership Center will be directed by Frank Shafroth, former senior lobbyist for the National Governors Association and the National League of Cities. This center will focus on the implementation of state and local policies, especially in the areas of ethics, demography and fiscal stewardship. As state and local governments confront perhaps the most severe challenges in more than a century, the Center will provide rigorous analysis of state and local government tax, budget and policy processes, as well as leadership and governance functionality. It will identify emerging intergovernmental issues, trends and turning points, and seek to transform state, local and metropolitan leadership. It will promote more effective intergovernmental communication, cooperation and coordination. The intent is to provide state and local elected officials and staff with the tools necessary to improve intergovernmental partnerships and effectiveness.

The Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Policy will be directed by Alan Abramson, formerly senior manager with the Aspen Institute and the Urban Institute. This center will seek to improve the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations through research, training, public education, and other activities that engage nonprofit leaders and others who care about these important institutions. Current major interests are: the role of foundations and philanthropy in our society; nonprofit-government relations; nonprofit accountability, governance, and effectiveness; global civil society; and social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. Over the past 50 years, governments at all levels have increased the roles played by nonprofit organizations in the delivery of services. Any research program dedicated to promoting public service has to recognize the central roles played by nonprofits in governance.

To learn more about the Centers, visit their website at pia.gmu.edu/psc.

ASPA member and past Society President Paul Posner is MPA Director for the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University. Email: [email protected]

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *