Now in her fifth year teaching in UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School for Policy and Global Studies, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs Amy E. Smith has found innovative ways to adapt her statistics course to serve all her students. She turns her slides into tactile diagrams, images that use raised surfaces so that visually impaired students can feel them.
“The material is very visually learned, so I’ve really had to rethink the way that I think about communicating,” Smith says.
Her adaptive learning is one of the reasons why The Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS) decided to give Smith the 2014 Graduate Faculty Teaching Award. The award recognizes excellence and creativity in the teaching of graduate students with an emphasis on pedagogy, including classroom-based and/or distance learning instruction.
“One of the things that I enjoy most is the engagement with students. The students that come to our Master’s of Science Public Affairs, or MSPA, Program, as we call it, come from a wide range of backgrounds," Smith says. "We have students who are high-level policymakers in state governments, state legislators, for example. We have town managers, appointed officials within the state agencies, as well as in federal agencies and nonprofits. And I really like the engagement with that real broad range of students. We also have students at the early stages of their careers so they’re just getting into public service work.”
Smith came to UMass Boston after earning her PhD in public administration and policy from the State University of New York at Albany.
“UMass Boston had a combination of things that were really appealing to me. I think the field of public affairs and public policy is very interdisciplinary and the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs here as well as the McCormack Graduate School really represented that. It was also a place where I could very easily combine my teaching and my research interests,” Smith says.
Smith, who researches aspects of public management, is currently looking at the ways women get into leadership positions in public organizations and what they do once they are there.