MGS Conference Provides Engaging Conversations on Public Administration Challenges
November 05, 2012
McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
Top-notch academic researchers in public administration, political science, management, public policy, education, leadership studies, and urban studies joined public sector professionals, students and private and nonprofit experts at the University of Massachusetts Boston on November 2-3, 2012 to discuss emerging challenges and solutions for public administration in a time of change. The two-day event, the Northeast Conference on Public Administration (NECoPA), is the annual regional conference of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), the largest and most prominent professional organization in its field.
The event, cosponsored by the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, featured over 110 presenters in more than 30 breakout sessions, two plenary addresses, a poster session, a networking dinner reception, and more. Conference proposals were received from leading academics across the country as well as from Canada, Italy, Malaysia, and South Korea. Despite the diminished attendance due to the after-effects Hurricane Sandy, those who were able to travel to Boston contributed to interesting and engaging panel discussions on timely topics from consumer financial protection, Occupy Wall Street, and GM and Chrysler bailouts to cost containment on infrastructure megaprojects, casino development, and health care reform.
Provost Winston Langley opened the conference welcoming the attendees to campus. Noting the public mission of our university, Langley told the audience that “we at UMass Boston are tasked, duty- bound to expand the public, to make accessible the inventory of public meanings to all.” He noted, “It is not often we think of people as a whole, reimaging the structure and functions of society.” He applauded the conference planners for designing opportunities for “comprehensive conversations to illuminate the path we must continually travel” to build a better public sector.
MGS faculty member Michael J. Ahn helped plan the event. Ahn is president-elect of the Massachusetts chapter of the ASPA (MassASPA) and NECoPA. Following speeches from Suffolk University President James McCarthy and NECoPA President William Ciaccio of the New York Metropolitan Transit System, Ahn noted that the public sector professionals recognize the increasing importance of lean government spending and innovative practices and approaches to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public service organizations while continuing to advance and protect public value.
Ahn also spoke on trends in public administration, especially e-government, one of his own areas of expertise. As part of “Government 2.0, citizens develop various public service ‘apps’ customized to the needs of diverse populations. Our own City of Boston is well known in this area for its innovative approach to public service – New Urban Mechanics. The new paradigm of public administration will resemble that of Web 2.0—openness, sharing, and participation—where government will have to move towards providing customized services to meet the increasingly complex and diverse needs and problems.” He explained that citizens are no longer mere subjects of public administration, but are increasingly becoming the solutions to new problems and this requires a redefinition of the role of the public sector from supplier to facilitator of public services.
According to Christine Brenner, chair of the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, the event “was an example of MGS cooperation at its best.” She noted, “Conference participants, many of whom came from storm ravaged regions, were impressed with our site, our staff, our warmth and friendliness, and the quality of the conference presentations. … It was a great forum for our students, and I was particularly pleased to have a number of our MSPA grads return to present work from their May 2012 capstone projects.”
Faculty, current graduate students, and alumni from the McCormack Graduate School presented 21 sessions at the conference. Among them, Assistant Professor Maria Ivanova led a discussion on science, policy, and citizenry in global environmental governance, Assistant Professor Amy Smith presented on Performance Management, and Assistant Professor Heather MacIndoe teamed up with a public affairs alumna, Valerie Berger, who presented in a panel on citizen participation in government. Another MSPA alumna and executive director of Commonwealth Compact at UMass Boston, Georgianna Meléndez lectured on workplace affinity groups. Global Governance PhD candidate Ana Maria Sanchez shared her research on preserving equality and fairness in a time of great income disparity and Hsin-Ching Wu, PhD candidate in public policy presented her research on the role of the public sector on the arts and culture sector and on the national branding value and its policy implications. Others from the MGS community presented on disaster relief and emergency preparedness, immigration and diversity, the role of the public sector in arts and culture, equitable health care for Massachusetts' LGBT population, performance management, and school voucher policy.
Given the nature of the conference, organizers took up a spontaneous collection on the second day of the conference for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. According to Frank Creedon, one of the conference planners from Suffolk University, "Over the course of the conference, there were frequent references to the plight of the many people, particularly in New York and New Jersey, who were so severely impacted by the storm, and the importance of the work that is done in the public sector that is so needed in times of crisis and natural disaster. It seemed fitting, therefore, that those of us who care so much about public service, professionalism in public management, and good government, who had assembled in Boston to be part of NECoPA 2012, quickly stood up to do something to help." As a result of this philanthropic gesture, NECoPA sent a check of $325 to the Red Cross.
The event was also co-sponsored by the Institute for Public Service at Suffolk University and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.