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Public Administration Theory Network (PAT-Net) Hosts Successful Conference

Anthony Campbell

The 2010 Public Administration Theory Network (PAT-Net) conference was held in Omaha, Nebraska on May 20-23 and was hosted by the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The formal theme of the conference was Alternative Ways of Thinking about Democratic Public Administration & Policy. However, the informal theme was a focus on intergenerational exchange of thoughts, ideas, and perspectives between students, professors, and practitioners. Anyone in attendance can attest to the palpability of the latter theme, one could hardly take a step without encountering a senior scholar offering advice to students and junior scholars regarding how they can enhance their scholarship or advance in their career.

As is the case with almost any conference these days, low attendance was expected by many due to the overall economy and a lack of travel funds at most colleges and universities. Such pessimistic expectations did not hamper the spectacular work of conference coordinators Angie Eikenberry, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Mohamad Alkadry, Old Dominion University. By almost any metric, the 2010 PAT-Net conference was a success: attendance was greater than anticipated and vendor support exceeded expectations. In what was one of the biggest groups in recent memory, the conference had 124 registrants of which 33 were students (29 of whom received funding assistance).

The tenor and tone of the conference was set before the conference formally began, with a pre-conference doctoral student workshop presided over by notable public administration theory scholars Gary Marshall and Christine Reed, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Camilla Stivers, Cleveland State University. The purpose of this workshop was to explore the concept of Intellectual Craftsmanship, developed by the sociologist C. Wright Mills. Furthermore, the intent of the workshop was to evoke within and among students an exploration of their intellectual identity.

Conference attendees enjoyed a wide array of keynotes and plenaries from noteworthy scholars such as Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley (Democratic Governance: A Geneaology), Geoffrey Bakewell, Creighton University (The Tragedy of Public Administration in Classical Athens), Michael Spicer, Cleveland State University (In Defense of Politics in Public Administration: A Value Pluralist Perspective), and Michael George, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Contemporary Experiences in Collaborative Stakeholder Governance). In addition to the usual mixture of keynotes, plenaries, and sessions, a highlight of the conference was the walking tour of the Omaha waterfront on the Missouri River. Michael George led a large group of students and professors along the waterfront and shared his experience as a member of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (pictured).

Another highlight of the conference was the Open Space Technology (OST) forum that ran throughout the entire conference. Overseen by Thomas Bryer, University of Central Florida, the OST format allowed for conference attendees to create and manage sessions that were not part of the formal agenda. With OST sessions ranging in size from 1 to 10+ people, topics that otherwise may not have been explored, such as pedagogy and social media, were discussed and contemplated by attendees. Although this was only the second year OST has been employed, this successful endeavor is expected to be a permanent feature at all future conferences.

The 2010 PAT-Net conference concluded with deserving praise being lauded on conference organizers, contributors, and volunteers. Conversations could be overheard at almost every table regarding the success of the conference and how the future of PAT-Net was in good hands with the new generation of public administration theory scholars. In an era when academic freedom is enduring considerable erosion, conferences such as PAT-Net are a refreshing and reinvigorating affair.

The 2011 PAT-Net conference will be held May 19-22 and will be hosted by Mohamad Alkadry and Old Dominion University. Budgets will most certainly still be tight, but this is a conference you will not want to miss–plan early so you can attend. For more information, please visit www.patheory.org

Anthony Campbell is a public administration doctoral student, University of Nebraska at Omaha. Email: [email protected]

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