newsId: B89C02FC-5056-AF26-BE83951D2988C442
Title: Summit Highlights the Ways Research Can Shape the Federal Workforce
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Abstract: As part of the effort to foster a culture of inquiry and collaboration that drives effective Federal workforce policy, for the second year in a row, SPA co-hosted the OPM Research Summit.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 06/20/2017
Content:

At two million strong, the federal workforce is bigger than nearly all Fortune 500 companies. It is responsible for managing many aspects of the ways Americans live day to day. With this many employees, how can government ensure the best available research is driving human resource and operation policies for this important sector?

As part of the effort to foster a culture of inquiry and collaboration that drives effective Federal workforce policy, on June 7, for the second year in a row, AU's School of Public Affairs partnered with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to host the OPM Research Summit, "Transforming Human Capital Management Policy through Research, Innovation, and Analytics."

The 2017 Research Summit brought together 300 academic researchers, federal practitioners, and industry partners to share research, exchange ideas, and to participate in critical conversations about ways to transform Human Capital Management Policy through research, innovation, and analytics.

Anjali J. Forber-Pratt

Anjali J. Forber-Pratt, paralympic medalist and assistant professor at Vanderbilt University, gives a keynote presentation at the OPM Research Summit.

This year, the summit focused on four specific tracks: performance management, diversity and inclusion, workforce reshaping, and analytics and technology; with the goal of developing a research agenda that will help shape the federal workforce for years to come.

The Research Summit offered strategies, research, and lessons for attendees to apply at their respective agencies. For instance, in a few short decades, our country will no longer have the diversity gaps of today. Attention to diversity and inclusion can ensure the federal government's workforce is as diverse as the people it represents.

"Research can help us understand the strategies on how to include employees no matter a person's race, ethnicity, background or beliefs," SPA Dean Barbara Romzek said in the closing remarks. "I know that at American University, we have made great strides ensuring diversity in our academics, students, and faculty. But this is a process, and we still have work to do. The norms of our culture need to reinforce inclusion. We need to make inclusion the expected behavior, not exceptional behavior."

In practice, many diversity programs focus mainly on achieving demographically diverse groups. Intellectual diversity, or the wide variety of perspectives and values people bring, also matters. Diversity of problem solving styles is also important. As several OPM Research Summit speakers pointed out, diversity in all its forms needs more attention.

"The power of human capital cannot be underestimated, and we ignore it at our peril," said SPA Senior Associate Dean Vicky Wilkins. "This year's summit sparked new conversations that highlight core human capital challenges facing the federal government, and inspire the development of a research agenda that informs the evolution of workforce policy into the future."

The Summit also covered how there are growing opportunities to collect and leverage digital information. The increase in digital data has led many government managers to change how they make decisions. Managers today rely less on intuition and more on data.

"Data analysis is a high priority for OPM and for American University, which is constantly exploring new ways to use data to inform policymakers," said Wilkins. "In fact, our school is getting ready to launch a new research center this fall that will be focused on data science and we are developing an Master's degree in data analysis."

Research shows that high-performing organizations succeed when employees are highly-engaged. Agencies should continue building on the recognition that employees work best when they are motivated to succeed. That motivation relates to the work itself and the environment within which people work. Leaders who recognize that employees are affected by how they are treated at work will increase employee engagement and enable higher performance.

"When we draw on the knowledge of a diverse workforce, we are better able to distinguish the best possible way to serve our customers, the American citizenry," said Kathleen McGettigan, Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. "We must create the right opportunities for the needed, but sometimes challenging policy discourse."

Learn more about the Office of Personnel Management and use the resources from last year's Research Summit. And read OPM's blog about the Summit.

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Title: Memorial Award Honors SPA Alumnus, Kevin Sutherland
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Abstract: Devontae Torriente SPA/BA ’18, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Scholarship.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 06/20/2017
Content:

Devontae Torriente SPA/BA ’18, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Scholarship.

“I'm honored and grateful to receive this scholarship and I hope that the work I have done and will go on to do will make the Sutherland family and the AU community proud,” said Torriente, a New York City native. Torriente is studying justice & law with an interest in criminal justice reform and politics at AU’s School of Public Affairs.

The memorial scholarship was established to honor the memory of Kevin Sutherland, SPA/BA’13 who was killed in Washington, D.C. on July 4, 2015. The annual scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students enrolled in the School of Public Affairs, with an emphasis on honoring those involved in public service and student government.

“Kevin left a such a positive legacy for the School of Public Affairs,” said Vicky Wilkins, SPA senior associate dean. “We are so honored that his family chose to help other students succeed while at SPA.”

In addition, The Kevin Sutherland Internship Fund will support students taking unpaid public service internships on Capitol Hill.

“It is our intention to create an endowed scholarship to support students seeking a career in public affairs,” said Sutherland’s father. “In particular, we hope to encourage students who will follow in Kevin's footsteps and enter public service for the right reasons. Kevin was not seeking fame or personal recognition or a high title. Kevin was passionate about making the world a better place.”

For more information about giving to the fund, the internship scholarship, or if you’re a student interested in applying, visit the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Scholarship Fund website.

You can learn more about Sutherland’s life and photography at http://kjslegacyproject.org.

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Title: Serving in the Trump Administration: Exit, Voice and Loyalty
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Abstract: Experienced scholars and practitioners at the Public Management Research Conference discussed how federal employees were adjusting and reacting to serving in the Trump Administration.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 06/13/2017
Content:

U.S. presidential transitions are a time of uncertainty for government employees as priorities and policies shift. Yet, the election of Donald Trump, who pledged to "drain the swamp" in Washington, spurred a new level of anxiety in some.

Experienced scholars and practitioners at the Public Management Research Conference, held June 8-10 at American University School of Public Affairs, discussed how federal employees were adjusting and reacting to serving in the Trump Administration. Despite headlines predicting major upheaval, the experts reassured the audience the bureaucracy was slow to change and the protections are in place to keep needed services going.

"Every career civil servant takes an oath of office pledging loyalty to constitution - not to the president - and they take that oath seriously," said one of the long-time public administration panelists. "What they do is for the betterment of the country. When they are given orders that are unethical or in opposition to the best interest of the U.S., they will sit back and engage in guerilla government."

One scholar spoke about guerilla government - public servants who act against the wishes of their superiors. Some in the new administration are expressing dissent and demonstrating a resistance from within. They might obey administration orders in public, but disobey in private. This might mean leaking information to the media, working with interest groups to leverage influence, stalling the enforcement of policies, holding clandestine meetings to plot strategies for working with administration appointees or filing complaints with investigative offices.

"Guerilla government happens all the time - but I think it is happening a lot more in Trump administration," said a panelist and public management scholar. "It is a manifestation of inevitable tension in a democracy and bureaucracy that will never go away. It will ebb and flow - and it's really at a top level now."

Another scholar said that the Trump Administration wants to disrupt the regulatory state and it can influence policy in the way it chooses to implement regulations. The new approach to dismantling the administrative state is affecting policies and norms regarding homeland security, immigration and other areas. President Trump has also appointed leaders to agencies that have been outspoken against agency missions. "This has consequences on employee morale and budgetary battles."

One of the scholars during the roundtable called for more research on political appointments and a closer look at the impact of federal spending. They also encouraged researchers to make themselves available to media to speak about the practical implications of their research.

"This is best of times and worst of time for public management and public administration," said one panelist scholar. "We've never had a better opportunity to demonstrate our relevance to the world."

Those speakers who had been through several transitions, emphasized the need for public servants to look at the big picture. This transition doesn't feel much different to previous administrations, said one panelist who urged federal employees to put their ego as a practitioner on the back burner when making decisions. "Our job is to steer, guide and mentor public servants who get wrapped up in the excitement of an event and say: 'Stand back. Take the long view.'"

"Every presidential election usually ends up with one political party replacing another," said another panelist. "Yet, with 2.6 million federal employees and a $4.1 trillion budget, it's hard to move an organization like that. It survives shocks all the time - about every four years, in fact."

The election of President Trump, who is largely unfamiliar with government processes, put the transition behind from the beginning. The administration has been slow with appointments, further limiting its influence. Trump's unfamiliarity with running government is also hampering his team's ability to exert the change pledged in the campaign.

"You cannot change the culture and direction of an agency by yourself, you need wiliness of bureaucracy to come with you," said a scholar panelist. "It will be hard to make substantive changes in the short and long term."

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Title: Public Management Research Conference Brings Fresh Perspective to Pressing Issues
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Abstract: American University School of Public Affairs welcomed more than 400 scholars from the U.S. and abroad for the 2017 Public Management Research Conference, June 8-10.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 06/12/2017
Content:

American University School of Public Affairs welcomed more than 400 scholars from the U.S. and abroad for the 2017 Public Management Research Conference, June 8-10. Doctoral students, scholars, and senior academics gathered to present papers, exchange ideas, and find inspiration in each other’s work.

“From increasing nationalism in Europe and the U.S., to the management of global climate change, to attacks on the very legitimacy of public services – the challenges for public management is great,” said Barbara Romzek, dean of the AU School of Public Affairs. “But in difficult times, it is important to remember that public management is a stabilizing force in a world that can be otherwise unsettled. And we, as researchers, play an important role in that.”

PMRC is a chance for scholars to share research, get feedback, and collaborate.

“This conference draws a group of scholars where everyone has connections to each other’s work – that’s not always true at larger conferences,” says Meghan Rubado, an assistant professor of political science at Cleveland State University who attended and presented at PMRC. “Here I feel like every panel I go to I’m hearing something that connects to my work, ideas, or interests in some important way.”

Taha Hameduddin, a doctoral student in public administration from Indiana University, says he valued the feedback he got from his presentation on employee engagement in the federal government and will incorporate the comments into his manuscript before submitting it for publication. He believes the current political climate may translate into guaranteed job security for researchers. “There is so much turmoil that people studying government will forever be employed,” he says.

Tamyoko Ysa, a professor in public management at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, says she enjoys the opportunity to engage with colleagues in person at PMRC and the international scope of the network. “We try to understand from Europe what is happening here in the U.S., but it’s hard -- being here helps you to understand better,” says Ysa. “Also with students coming here from all over the world, you can begin to see talented people that could be hired by us in the future.”

Exposure to researchers from different countries and political systems is a big benefit of PMRC, says Richard Callahan from the University of San Francisco. In the wake of the U.K. election, Callahan says he could discuss the results in “real time” with a participant from Sheffield, England. “I like the international aspect,” he says. “You get to discuss shared challenges with constitutional democracies. It opens up the importance of institutions and context matters, and gets away from the idea that there is one way – the American way.”

Rosemary O’Leary, incoming Public Research Management Association president and Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Kansas University, says the conference aims to inspire Ph.D. students and senior scholars alike. The panels of presenters from a variety of academic backgrounds -- economists, political scientists, and sociologists – can provide different perspectives and a fuller understanding of topics.

“I hope people are motivated and uplifted when they see the high quality of research,” says O’Leary. “I hope they go back to do the best research they can possibly do.”

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Title: Public Management Scholars Discuss Diversity Research at PMRC
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Abstract: A panel of experts at the Public Management Research Conference discussed the need to rethink research methods, gain access to data, and make findings more widely available to the public.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 06/12/2017
Content:

A panel of experts at the Public Management Research Conference - hosted by American University School of Public Affairs – discussed the need to rethink research methods, gain access to data, and make the findings on racial and gender disparities in the federal workforce more widely available to the public.

Brian Williams of University of Georgia encouraged his colleagues to go beyond scholarship of public management diversity research to translate their work into action.

“There is ample evidence that shows we are not affecting change,” said Williams. “The practical question is how do we engage in efforts that move from our minds to our hearts and ultimately to hands and feet?”

There are internal and external obstacles to producing practical research and getting results to policymakers. Papers that count toward academic output and considered “important” but aren’t as valued as “significant” work that is centered on outcomes of helping others, maintains Williams.

"To improve diverse representation in government, scholars need to communicate science in understandable language that has implications,” said Williams. “There is an opportunity to go beyond this siloed research and to start to build bridges.”

At the roundtable, Nathan Favero of American University School of Public Affairs raised concern about the broad groupings of race and ethnicity used in diversity research.

“We should do more to disentangle these categories,” said Favero. “Within groups, there can be differences in values, upbringing, and socialization. Also artificially grouping African-Americans, Latinos and Asians into one minority category can overlook the differences in each subgroup.”

Gregory Lewis of Georgia State University addressed the need to push for better quality data and access to federal personnel records. In conducting research on diversity, Lewis noted the importance of recognizing reasons for under-representation of Latinos (many ineligible because of citizen status and younger age) and the impact of veteran preference in hiring on the federal workforce.

“The number of journals and scholars interested in questions relating to diversity is very encouraging. However, the discussion is still very narrow – there aren’t many conversations outside of race, gender, and ethnicity,” said Alisa Hicklin Fryar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma.

During the question-and-answer portion of the session, some participants raised the need to think about diversity in terms of age and economic class. Others requested training material for mid-career bureaucrats on implicit bias and diversity.

“We’ve got this huge gap in diversity management and there is not good, research-based material to help leaders figure out what to do,” said Catherine Gerard, director of the Program on the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Cooperation at Syracuse University. “The field needs to think more holistically about connecting the pieces based on the experience of the people we are theoretically writing for - not just researchers, but public managers.”

K. Juree Capers, and assistant professor in public management and policy at Georgia State University, said researchers have a responsibility to make their work open.

“As a professor at a public institution, our work is a public good and I need to work to share it with the public,” said Capers. “If it’s not accessible to the public, I’m not doing my job.”

Diversity should not be a separate part of the curriculum for graduate schools, according to Morgen Johansen, associate professor in public administration at the University of Hawaii. She told the panelists that she includes material on social justice and social equity in every topic so her students embrace the idea of being inclusive public servants.

At the conclusion, Moderator Leisha DeHart-Davis of University of North Carolina said that there was a recognition that the field public administration can change how it does its business.

“There needs to be openness to different types of research,” said DeHart-Davis. “Our field can be relevant and rigorous and engaged in real world problems. There is no reason we cannot pull that off, but it takes intentionality. I think we heard receptiveness to going in that direction. The stars are aligning in public administration that will lead to a very different field five to 20 years down the road.”

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Title: Turkey’s National Healthcare Program Significantly Reduces Infant Mortality
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Abstract: A new study coauthored by SPA Professor Erdal Tekin, links a nationwide medical program in Turkey to a 25.5 percent reduction in infant mortality.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 06/12/2017
Content:

A new study coauthored by AU School of Public Affairs Professor Erdal Tekin, links a nationwide medical program in Turkey to a 25.5 percent reduction in infant mortality. The study also shows an 11 percent decrease in mortality among all age groups.

The study, published in the June issue of The Journal of Public Economics found that Turkey’s Family Medicine Program, a government-funded healthcare service, presented significant benefits for Turkish citizens. For instance, the program ensured that each citizen was provided with a designated family physician. It also facilitated free-of-charge doctor visits to citizens and community health centers.

Turkey’s Family Medicine Program was established in 2005, and by 2010 it covered the entire population. Within three years, it was estimated that the central government had reached its goal of assigning a maximum of 3,500 people to each one of the more than 21,000 family physicians working in the program.

“The findings are significant because of drop in infant mortality rates, but also because it shows programs like Turkey’s can minimize inequalities among the different provinces and regions,” said Tekin. “The program has been particularly beneficial in areas with higher mortality, where the benefits take affect faster.”

Tekin collaborated with Resul Cesur, Associate Professor of Healthcare Management at the University of Connecticut, Pinar Gunes, assistant professor of economics at the University of Alberta, in Canada, and Aydogan Ulker, senior lecturer in economics at Deakin University in Australia.

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Title: SPA Hosts Second Global Health Forum After Ongoing Interest in 2016
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Abstract: Bringing together scholars from various disciplines who share an interest in global health policy creates a synergy that is gaining momentum.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 06/07/2017
Content:

Bringing together scholars from various disciplines who share an interest in global health policy creates a synergy that is gaining momentum.

AU's School of Public Affairs hosted a second research symposium on global health policy in May drew 30 participants from the local DC-Baltimore area, as well as Boston, New York, and as far away as Canada. Launched as a regional gathering for researchers in higher education in October 2016, the expanded spring meeting attracted representatives from non-governmental organizations, think tanks and funding agencies who discussed papers on four panels at the day-long event.

"People come with very different ideas, starting points, and theories," said SPA Professor Jeremy Shiffman, who organized the symposium. "Some come with a problem-solving vantage point, while others from a more critical analysis perspective. It's good to have different perspectives coming together."

The May symposium focused on investigating how power is exercised in the global health field with the aim of building a network of global health social scientists. The group has grown to encompass economists, historians, sociologists, geographers, public health specialists and anthropologists, along with political scientists.

Adam Koon from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the symposium was a valuable way for scholars with works in progress to get feedback and it has the potential to foster mentorships. The meetings provide a "huddle," said Koon, where researchers can share notes every few months and then break out to further their work.

AU's Lauren Carruth, a medical anthropologist and assistant professor in AU's School of International Service, said she learned from the diverse group.

"It's helped in my larger thinking and teaching," said Carruth. "I've added new information to my syllabi today based on what was being talked about."

Radhika Gore from Columbia University suggested a future symposium could produce material for a journal special issue. Others supported the idea of a collaborative product coming from the meeting or posing specific questions to focus on to help drive the research themes.

The papers were varied, but many felt the discussants guided the conversation and sparked robust discussion.

"The synergy with the panels was really great," said Aviva Liu, who just completed her doctorate in SPA.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor Sara Bennett said it is valuable to build a community where people can reach out to one another between the symposiums. That is best sustained, she suggested, by continuing to meet regularly and organizing from the bottom up and serving as a springboard to other meetings.

Witnessing the interdisciplinary discussion at the symposium was very powerful to donors, said Sharmila Mhatre, deputy director of the Public Health Program at the Open Society Foundations in New York.

"It's encouraging for the future to have actors not just in academia, but in policy and agenda setting, collaborating. I'm really impressed with the papers," said Mhatre. "Those in academia have a role to play in activism and change for global health systems."

At the conclusion of the symposium, participants pressed for a day-long symposium with colleagues from low- and middle-income counties (in Africa, South Asia, Latin America) in conjunction with the Health Systems Global conference in Liverpool in November 2018.

Jesse Bump from Harvard University was one of several participants who endorsed the idea of expanding globally, but also continuing to collaborate on an organic basis in the U.S. He said participants might be willing to develop shorter papers or co-written papers that could be shared. "We can get a much more coherent group together if we are building on little projects."

Elanah Uretsky from George Washington University, who presented at the symposium on China's role in global health, said she hoped the network may lead to some research partnerships.

"It's a really great opportunity for us to get together and share our common interests and figure out how we can engage the dominant global health discourse so we can help move forward in our work," said Uretsky

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Title: SPA’s Brian Forst and Ruth Lane Retire After Distinguished Careers
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Abstract: Associate Professor Emerita Ruth Lane and Professor Brian Forst, both at SPA, will retire this summer, after distinguished careers in research and academia.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 06/07/2017
Content:

Associate Professor Emerita Ruth Lane and Professor Brian Forst, both at American University’s School of Public Affairs, will retire this summer, after distinguished careers in research and academia.

During her time with SPA, Ruth Lane’s research focused on comparative politics, cognitive science, and computer modeling. She is the author of three books, including her recently published book, The Complexity of Self Government: Politics from the Bottom Up. Her work has also been published in top academic journals, including the American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics, and Journal of Theoretical Politics.

Earlier this year, Ruth Lane was recognized for her 50-year career at American University. She started as an Assistant Professor in 1967. During her tenure, she served as a member of the American University Senate, on the PhD. Admissions Committee, as well as the Chair of the Provost’s Committee on Administrative Evaluation.

“Ruth has dedicated much of her life to the success of her students in SPA and her research,” said SPA Dean Barbara Romzek. “She has been a valuable member of the university. We are grateful for her service, her expertise, and for inspiring generations of students through her classes, and for her important research.”

Professor Brian Forst came to American University in 1992 following a successful career as a Captain in the US Army, an economic analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, and Vice President for Research at the Institute for Law and Social Research.

Forst’s research while with SPA focused on legitimacy, discretion and miscarriages of justice, terrorism prevention, and the management of public fear. In addition to journal articles in top academic journals, he published eight books, including Errors of Justice: Nature, Sources and Remedies, in 2004, which was awarded Book of the Year by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. His research on prosecution, policing, and the deterrent effect of the death penalty is cited extensively.

This year, he was recognized for his long commitment to AU, spanning 25 years as a faculty member and scholar. He has served as a member of the University Senate, as Department Coordinator on Police Studies, and on the Task Force on Graduate Education. He was chair of the doctoral program in SPA’s Justice, Law and Criminology department from 2000 to 2010. 

“Brian has made a lasting contribution to SPA and to the justice, law, and criminology field,” said SPA Dean Barbara Romzek. “We are grateful to his enthusiasm for learning, his research, and for his dedication to the school.”

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Title: Use of Natural Gas Linked to Improved Air Quality, Infant Health in Turkey
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Abstract: Improved air quality in Turkey results in healthier infants, according to a recent study published in "The Economic Journal" by SPA Professor Erdal Tekin.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 06/05/2017
Content:

Turkey’s use of natural gas, instead of coal, can have a positive effect on air quality. Improved air quality results in healthier infants in the region, according to a recent study published in The Economic Journal by AU School of Public Affairs Professor Erdal Tekin.

Tekin and his colleagues analyzed investments made by the Turkish government since the 1980s to build a natural gas infrastructure, which by 2011 had provided access to natural gas in 61 of the 81 provinces in the country. Their findings indicate that this led to improvements in air quality by reducing emissions from coal, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. 

The study shows that a one percentage point increase in the rate of natural gas services results in a four percent decline in infant mortality rate. The research accounted for the differences in the health services of the provinces, the type of economy, and the number of births. In 2011 alone, they calculate that the switch to natural gas directly resulted in saving 348 infant lives.

Tekin and his colleagues Resul Cesur, of the University of Connecticut, and Aydogan Ulker, of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, point out that the adoption of more environmentally-friendly energy policies can have benefits, without negative impacts on economic growth.

The researchers also suggest that, while natural gas is a viable bridge to more sustainable energy sources, there may still be health trade-offs. More research is needed to assess the environmental consequences of the natural gas extraction, called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’ Although fracking can help replace coal with natural gas, there are potential negative environmental impacts.

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Title: Building Bridges: CBR Students Work with DC Homeless
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: Working with Thrive DC, students conduct extensive surveys of the homeless population.
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 05/31/2017
Content:

As the District of Columbia faces intractable social problems, American University has made concerted efforts to aid the local community. The Community-Based Research Scholars program, directed by School of Public Affairs Professorial Lecturer Jane Palmer, is a shining example of this. Palmer and her CBR scholars and certificate students partnered with Thrive DC to help, and understand, the city's homeless population.

The venture appeared to be a win-win for everybody. "It's really important because it's mutually beneficial for the community and the students. And what the students spend their time on has a real impact on the clients at Thrive DC and the nonprofit," says Palmer.

Research and Results

In the fall, Palmer and her students discussed affordable housing, gentrification, poverty, and other issues pertinent to the area. But in the spring, they put those ideas into action.

Located in Columbia Heights, Thrive DC is a nonprofit that wanted to know more about its homeless clients. Since Thrive DC has a breakfast and dinner program, Palmer broke her class into two groups to conduct lengthy interviews with homeless people during those two sessions. After collecting their results, students used qualitative and quantitative software to analyze the data. The students presented their findings to Thrive DC, which hopes to use this feedback for grants to expand and improve its services.

"I think this is a real bridge of the academics and the community. Some community service work is disconnected from the classroom, and this was very much integrated," Palmer says. "This is actually going out into the community, meeting real people. Not just seeing them as a data point, but seeing the human across from you."

Though all students asked the same questions, students later focused on particular areas of specialty and interest: veterans' issues and social safety net matters; transportation and support systems; housing access issues; legal issues; satisfaction with Thrive services; and health and substance abuse.

Laurel Booth is pursuing her CBR certificate and she's in the three-year Public Health Scholars Program. She naturally focused on the health section, and she highlights the human element of Thrive DC's work. "It kind of inspired me as a researcher," says Booth. "I learned that research isn't always sitting behind a computer crunching numbers. It's talking to people."

Breaking Barriers and Stereotypes

If students believed any stereotypes about homeless people, they were thoroughly debunked after meeting them. They talked with people who had master's degrees, but still ended up out of work. Students also found that substance abuse was generally not the catalyst for clients' woes.

Members of AU's Community Based Research Scholars group that worked with Thrive DC.

The CBR students who worked with Thrive DC.

"In the dinner program, a very small percentage of people said that they had used alcohol or drugs on a regular basis," says Maya Pollack, CBR scholar and international studies major. "You put those characteristics down with people who are experiencing homelessness, and then we go to interview them and we're just completely proven wrong."

Palmer's class discussed some of those issues beforehand. "I think the class really prepared us well," Booth says. "We reviewed common, negative stereotypes. 'People might be dirty, or lazy'-that kind of nonsense. But it was really great to reaffirm that you're just talking to people. They're people who are for whatever reason going through what they're going through, but who are still interested and happy to talk."

Thrive DC has built a strong, supportive community. In fact, there are some low-income residents, no longer homeless, who still return to Thrive. In addition to her class, Pollack volunteered with Thrive DC all year, and she was initially shocked by the general aura of optimism there.

"We'd just have regular conversations, and I would say, 'How are you doing today?' And they would just say, 'It's a gorgeous day out. It's wonderful,'" she explains. "So even with people who are going through really hard times, I'm finding that they're so positive."

"They were very charismatic, and that was something that I didn't expect," adds Grace Lopez, a CBR scholar who is also pursuing the CBR certificate.

You might presume a cultural gap between college students and the city's homeless, but the students noted that clients were approachable and open. And Palmer's class made additional efforts to facilitate constructive dialogue. Lopez, who is fluent in Spanish, interviewed several Spanish-speaking homeless residents and established an immediate rapport with them.

In learning about other people's predicaments, they grasped the societal roots of homelessness. "You have that 'individual choice versus structural' argument when it comes to some social problems. And they came to better understand that there are traps that people can get in that are more structural," says Palmer. "That's a really good learning experience for them."

Bridges to Empathy

Palmer knows this is a demanding project for three credits. But she believes that if given responsibility, students will deliver. Lopez certainly appreciated the experience of presenting the research findings. "It was an opportunity to do something that freshmen usually wouldn't do," she says.

This also heightened students' empathy for vulnerable people. "The homeless population is one that I didn't think of prior to this. And this has kind of instilled in me this passion to talk about it, and want to help," Lopez says.

"I really want to continue my work and volunteering with Thrive DC," says Pollack. "I know it's not required. But I just started creating relationships and friendships-I started feeling part of the community-and I don't think I could top it."

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newsId: 614A9C95-5056-AF26-BE9E2F597E99E3CA
Title: Granddaughter of a slave, Justice Audrey Collins to receive Beacon of Justice Award
Author: Nicholle Granger
Subtitle:
Abstract: Only two generations removed from slavery, she has dedicated her career to supporting underrepresented people and communities.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 02/09/2017
Content:

As a youth, Associate Justice of the California Board of Appeals Audrey B. Collins, SPA/MA '69, would have never guessed that she would forge a history-making career. An American University School of Public Affairs graduate, Collins became the first African-American woman to serve as Head Deputy, Assistant Bureau Director, and Assistant District Attorney after joining the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office in 1978.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Collins to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and she served as Chief Judge of the Central District from 2009 to 2012. During that time, Collins became the first judge to declare a portion of the 9/11-inspired Patriot Act unconstitutional based on language that she found to be in conflict with the First Amendment. In 2014, she was appointed to the California Court of Appeal, where she remains today.

Over the years, Collins has been acknowledged for her many contributions to public service and social equality. On April 5, the Friends of Los Angeles County Law Library will present her with the 2017 Beacon of Justice Award, recognizing her exceptional commitment to expanding access to quality legal services for low-income people and communities.

Collins's story is unique in that not only did she come of age during the Civil Rights Movement, but she was also the granddaughter of a slave. To be only two generations removed from slavery is "very unusual for someone my age, now 71," says Collins. She was born in Chester, Pa. in 1945. But both her grandfather and father married later in life, which explains her proximity to slavery. After being freed sometime in the 1860s, her grandfather, Furman Lawrence Brodie, worked his way through school, eventually becoming a minister and teacher. "He didn't learn to read until he was 16," says Collins.

Collins was first inspired to pursue a career in law by her family's strong tradition of public service. Her father was a dentist who built a community-based practice in Chester, and her mother was a teacher. Collins describes her mother as a "brilliant woman who graduated from Howard University at the age of 20." Collins is convinced that had there been an opportunity, her mother would have become a lawyer. But growing up in Norfolk, Va., her mother experienced segregation and overt racism, something Collins encountered only when she visited. By choosing to raise Collins in Yeadon, Pa., her parents were able to shield her from that and ensure that she had the best educational opportunities possible.

Collins's interest in law became more apparent during her undergraduate studies in political science at Howard University. While she was not involved in the Civil Rights Movement directly, it was then that she recognized the need for equitable legal representation for African-Americans, especially protesters who were being detained by police. "It occurred to me at that time that the most fascinating and meaningful thing for me to do was to go to law school," says Collins. "I think, especially being at Howard, it was clear that lawyers were there on the front lines of what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement."

After completing her MA in government and public administration at American University, Collins went on to obtain a JD from UCLA in 1977, throwing her legal career into full swing. Collins would have never predicted that she would be where she is today. "I'm not a fan of the five-year plan," she says. "You don't have to have your whole life worked out. I think if you find something you love to do, something you're enthusiastic about doing, and do well, it will reveal itself."

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Title: AU Launches Crowdfunding Platform
Author: Joanna Platt
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Abstract: UFUND is a platform the AU community can use to directly fund projects and initiatives.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/15/2016
Content:

American University's Office of Development and Alumni Relations recently launched UFUND, a crowdfunding platform just for the AU community. This is a new way for alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of the university to directly fund the projects and initiatives they care about most.

AU faculty, staff, and students are planning ventures to shape the future of the community, nation, and world. By making a gift, donors support the development and success of these projects.

Currently, UFUND features five initiatives – The Eagle Innovation Fund, the DC-Area High School Ethics Bowl, an Alternative Break in Cuba, the Skills for Success Career Seminar, and production of the documentary In The Executioner's Shadow.

Members of the AU community are invited to submit new projects to be featured on UFUND.


 

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Title: An Eviction Notice Sparks an Award-Winning Career
Author: Heidi Hokanson, SOC/BA ‘15
Subtitle:
Abstract: Michael Worley is the recipient of two awards this year, for the political communications agency he started as a junior at AU.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/10/2016
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Michael Worley, SPA/BA ’12, is the President and founder of MDW Communications, a political consulting firm based in Fort Lauderdale. He has worked on campaigns from the municipal to congressional level, from South Florida, to Georgia, to New England. The firm has won two awards this year, the 2016 Campaigns & Elections Magazine Reed Award for Best Overall Direct Mail Piece, and a Pollie Award. At 25, Michael is one of the youngest people ever to receive a Reed Award. Today it seems everything is going right for Michael and his business, and it all started from a moment of financial desperation in Michael’s junior year at AU.

Michael was an over-worked, underpaid college student with a passion for politics. A national board member for the College Democrats of America for two years, Michael transferred to AU from Miami “to be closer to the action.” To get by financially, he had three different part time jobs and an internship. But all of a sudden in late 2010, Michael learned that his roommate hadn’t been paying rent for months, and they were about to be evicted. To make matters worse, his roommate abandoned the apartment and left town, leaving Michael to take responsibility for the debt.

At a loss for what to do, Michael sought advice from his boss at a Tenlytown cigar shop. His boss suggested he monetize his communications skills and start his own business. Inspired by the idea, Michael got to work right away. He ran a search through AUCareerWeb for companies hiring paid interns, and sent each of them a business pitch, offering his services as a professional social media marketing consultant who could provide better results than an intern could, for a lower rate than an agency would charge. Among his first clients were FroZenYo, American Tap Room, and the cigar shop in Tenleytown. “Things added up so quickly,” Michael says, “I was able to get out of debt and support myself for the next two years in college.”

Now Michael has worked on almost 100 campaigns. He has three full time employees, and produces everything from advanced digital marketing, to direct mail, and now television advertising as well. “Today we produced two direct mail pieces, produced a radio spot, and placed a digital ad, all before 11 a.m.” Michael says. His team is in the thick of municipal campaigns for elections this month. “We are involved in campaigns at all levels, but the local level is where you get to really make a difference. What people don’t realize is that if you don’t vote in municipal and state elections you have no seat at the table. Real policy making and impact on the community happens in the local level.”

Michael credits his AU experience for giving him the resources he needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. “AU was a catalyst for all the things that happened,” says Michael, “AU brought together people who had [started a business] successfully, who were living proof that you can do this if you work hard enough.” When Michael graduated, his decision to continue with his business was influenced by some advice from Chip Griffin, SPA/BA '94, who was president of the AU Alumni Board at the time, and is an experienced entrepreneur. He continues to get new opportunities from fellow AU alums in the political community. Michael is an active member of his local young alumni chapter, and he regularly gives back by volunteering for new and prospective student events.

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Title: Lori Interlicchio, SBA/BA ’15: Tinder leads to a Living Gift
Author: Patricia Rabb
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Abstract: After meeting on Tinder, Lori Interlicchio surprised her girlfriend with the gift of a kidney.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 02/09/2016
Content:

“I hope that someone out there sees our story and makes the decision to donate their organs or become a live kidney donor,” says Lori Interlicchio, SPA/BA ‘15, while describing her gift of a kidney to girlfriend, Alana Duran, whom she met last August on Tinder.

Three months after their initial meeting, Lori videotaped Alana opening a box of small presents (including an AU t-shirt) with an “it’s a match” sign hidden at the bottom. The video, viewed over 260,000 times on Facebook, captured the news that Lori was going to provide Alana the kidney she so vitally needed. “I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support that Alana and I received after we posted our video. I expected our family and friends to love the video, but I didn’t think we would go viral and certainly not that quickly,” she says.

Diagnosed at age 12 with Lupus, an autoimmune disease, Alana has required a hip placement, a pacemaker for congestive heart failure, dialysis for kidney failure and has been awaiting a kidney donor since 2011. Alana had no idea Lori was secretly being tested to see if she would be a match to donate a kidney.

On February 2, this long-awaited kidney transplant was successfully completed at Stony Brook Hospital in Stony Brook, NY, and both women are recovering well. “Alana’s kidney function was higher than mine,” noted Lori shortly after the procedure. During their recovery, Lori will take 6 weeks leave from work and needs to avoid lifting heavy objects. For the next 6 months, Alana has to avoid people who are ill since she’s now taking immunosuppressant drugs every day to avoid rejection of her new kidney.

Born and raised in West Islip, NY, Lori decided to attend the School of Public Affairs at American University because she wanted to study political science and felt that Washington, DC, was the best place to do it. “I liked that it had a campus feel while being in the city. It was the best of both worlds,” she adds.

While at AU, Lori was very active as a cheerleader and enjoyed competing with her team at the National Cheerleaders Association championships in Daytona each year. “The team was like my family, and Nationals was the culmination of all of our hard work each year,” she adds. When the weather was nice, Lori recalls meeting her teammates on the quad for impromptu practices where they would “throw each other around”.

One of her most memorable experiences as a student was camping outside of the Supreme Court with a few other AU students to observe the oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that made marriage equality legal in the United States. Lori also led an advocacy group at AU called “Red is in the Rainbow”. This group held blood drives on campus to spread awareness and speak out about the ban on blood and tissue donation from gay men. “It bothers me that if Alana and I were a couple of gay or bisexual men, rather than women, I couldn’t donate blood to her. My kidney would be considered high risk,” she exclaims.

After graduating last May, Lori has spent the past year in her hometown coaching cheerleading at her old middle school and working in a special needs high school while applying to law school. In her spare time, Lori describes herself as “a homebody.” Lori and Alana spend most weekends with their families - reading, playing board games, and working on puzzles together.

Her plans for the future include graduating from law school and passing the bar exam. “After that, I would love to do public service work litigating on behalf of LGBTQ people and families,” she says.

 

 

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Title: Hyong Yi, Passionate Public Servant and Love Advocate
Author: Melissa Bevins ’02
Subtitle:
Abstract: Assistant City Manager Hyong Yi made headlines giving love notes to strangers to honor his late wife’s legacy.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 01/12/2016
Content:

Like so many of his fellow AU alumni, Hyong Yi, SPA/BA ’94, SPA/MPA ’95, truly loves public service. When you ask him about his role as assistant city manager for the city of Charlotte, N.C., Hyong will tell you, “I love this job. This is what I am meant to do.” In his role, he is able to help run the city on a day-to-day basis, particularly with regards to all things environmental.

In high school, a class trip brought Hyong to Washington, DC from his childhood home in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. That trip combined with his love of politics sealed in his mind the fact that he wanted to attend college in the nation’s capital. In the end, American University was the only school he applied to. 

As a student, Hyong was driven and hardworking. He completed his undergraduate degree in just three years, then went on to complete his MPA in only one more. He was also a member of the University Honors Program, lived in a Living Learning Center in Anderson Hall, and still managed to study abroad in London for a semester. 

When asked to reflect on his time at AU, Hyong extols the virtues of studying abroad and says he thinks it should be mandatory for all college students. Although he was born in Korea, Hyong spent the majority of his life before college living in Pennsylvania, and he loved the opportunity to live overseas for a semester, studying, traveling, and immersing himself in everyday life in London. 

Upon completing his studies at AU, Hyong went on to work in DC government for several years. While living and working in DC, Hyong met the love of his life, Catherine Zanga. He and Catherine eventually settled in Charlotte and had two children, Anna and Alex.

In November of 2014, Catherine passed away after a 16-month battle with cancer. To mark the one-year anniversary of her passing, Hyong wrote 100 love notes and he, Anna, and Alex stood on the street and passed them out to strangers as they walked by. The notes chronicle the love story of Hyong and Catherine and, when read in order, tell the story of their courtship and marriage followed by their struggle with Catherine’s illness and ending with what Hyong wishes he could say to her now. 

The story received international attention in news and media outlets, and Hyong is thrilled. In addition to the physical notes that were distributed, Hyong gathered all the notes along with photos in a digital monument to Catherine’s life that can be found at 100lovenotes.com and plans to turn the project into a book to be released this year. His hope is that part of Catherine’s legacy will be to encourage people all over the world to write their own love notes and share their feelings with their loved ones before tragedy hits and it is too late.

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Title: Steven Leifman Receives Prestigious Rehnquist Judicial Honors for protecting vulnerable populations
Author: Kayla Kennedy, SIS/BA ’19
Subtitle:
Abstract: Judge Steven Leifman, SPA/BS ’81, is at the forefront of a mental illness public policy movement in the criminal justice system.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 12/04/2015
Content:

Upon the 20th anniversary of the William H. Rehnquist Award, Judge Steven Leifman, SPA/BS '81, is the first Florida Judge to receive this prestigious honor, which is presented annually to a state court judge who exemplifies judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics. Judge Leifman not only exemplifies all of those qualities, but his work goes above and beyond to protect the most vulnerable populations in the nation. 

Since 2000, Judge Leifman's work has focused on transforming the way people with mental illnesses are treated in the criminal justice system. Judge Leifman says he realized that "many of the same people who came before [his] court were appearing repeatedly and frequently." These defendants were charged with minor offenses and many exhibited signs of being distraught. Judge Leifman became determined to find a more suitable way to handle cases that affected those most vulnerable in the system. 

Through unwavering dedication and compassion, Judge Leifman has brought astounding results to both local and national courts. He described how "the stigma surrounding mental illness makes it more difficult for people to seek treatment, as a result many end up in the criminal justice system." People with mental illnesses are no more likely to commit violent crimes than people without mental illnesses. In fact, they are much more likely to be victims. In addition, recovery rates for people with mental illnesses have better recovery rates than people with diabetes. Unfortunately, many of our current laws do not reflect modern medical science and research. As a result, the public system often does not pay for all of the services that people need to recover from their illnesses. The challenges that people with mental illnesses face day in and day out are often overwhelming. The system has marginalized this population often making the opportunity for recovery extremely difficult. Judge Leifman notes that "they are just people who happen to have a mental illness and they have the same needs, desires, and ambitions as everyone else. In order to be more successful, we need to develop a system of care that is warmer and more welcoming." 

In 2000, Judge Leifman set out to fix this broken system. He created the groundbreaking Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, which diverts individuals with serious mental illnesses away from criminal justice system and into community-based treatment and support services. According to Judge Leifman "this has resulted in fewer arrests and jail days for people with mental illnesses, improved public safety and saved critical tax dollars." As part of this project, Judge Leifman also developed the nation's largest crisis intervention team training program. He notes that "this program teaches law enforcement offices how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and how to respond more effectively to individuals in psychiatric crisis." 

Judge Leifman has also served as a Special Advisor to the Florida Supreme Court, where he developed specialized training programs for judges to help them better handle cases involving people with mental illnesses and has been working with the Florida Legislature to reform Florida's mental health system. In addition, he is working with the Stepping Up Campaign, to help communities develop action plans that can be used to reduce the over- representation of people with mental illnesses in their local criminal justice systems. Judge Leifman notes that "so far about 150 counties in the U.S. have signed up and to "Step Up" against injustices in the criminal justice system." 

It is clear that Judge Leifman has exemplified judicial excellence. However, in the midst of all of his achievements, Judge Leifman believes his greatest success story is "watching people come back from their illnesses, into recovery, and to live meaningful lives."

Before joining the bench in 1996, Judge Leifman came to American University to pursue his undergraduate degree in political science. He had always been interested in public policy. Judge Leifman proclaims that "American University was the ideal university." Not only did AU offer many opportunities, it also helped shape his values by understanding that good public policy can help improve people's lives." Taking advantage of those opportunities, he spent a considerable amount of time refining his passion for public policy by interning on Capitol Hill and organizing events on campus with the Kennedy Political Union. Judge Leifman remarks that he was exposed to an array of issues and says living in Washington, DC was "like living in a laboratory." Indeed, Judge Leifman thrived in this environment, and he was able to apply what he learned in AU classrooms to the real world.

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Title: Alumni Board Member Found Call to Public Service at AU
Author: Kristena Stotts
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Abstract: Making local government a better place one program at a time.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/06/2015
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"American University's School of Public Affairs was top 10 in the nation for their public affairs program, and I knew that's where I wanted to be," says Chris Quintyne, SPA/BA '07, of his decision to attend AU. "I was born and raised in this area, but I wanted a unique experience," he adds. Chris didn't have to wait long to find just that.

While a student as AU, Chris was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Beta Beta Chapter. "I met amazing, lifelong friends. It was a really supportive community and I am still very active with the fraternity today," he says. 

When asked about his academic experience, he remembers the exact moment things clicked for him on AU's campus.

"Dr. Andrea Lang in SPA is the reason I became a justice major. She was very nurturing, and I could bring anything to her and receive great feedback," Chris recalls. "Any class she taught, I was taking it." 

Dr. Lang's mentorship propelled Chris to further his education past earning his bachelor's degree from AU. Chris holds a law degree and master's degree in public administration from Southern University Law Center. During his academic journey, Chris always looked for ways to either intern or work where law and policy intersect. He served as a law clerk in the Louisiana House of Representatives for the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, held internships with the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and worked as a deputy clerk at DC Superior Court.

Chris is currently the management assistant for the town of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Previously, he served as assistant town administrator for Capitol Heights, Maryland. During that time, he served a period as acting town administrator. He ran the day-to-day operations of the town's municipal government, supervised the department heads and all staff, drafted legislation that went before the Town Council, and secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding for the town's infrastructure projects. "I think it was that experience in public service that really gave me the opportunity to utilize all of the tools that I acquired from AU and my professional degrees," says Chris. 

"AU ingrained in me a desire to pursue a career in public service by providing me the opportunity to pursue substantive work experience in government while I was a student. That experience was pivotal in shaping my career interests and the work that I am currently doing in local government," Chris shares. Now he is an Alumni Admissions Volunteer, a member of the Black Alumni Alliance, and a member of the American University Alumni Board.

When asked how he manages to balance everything on his plate, Chris reflects on what he tells both himself and students he meets: "To whom much is given, much is required. If you work hard, give back to your community, and try to be a resource to support and be helpful to other people, I believe you will find yourself in a great position."

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Title: Dedicated to Diversity: Alumna is United Way’s Chief Diversity Officer
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
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Abstract: Darlene Slaughter’s love of people and teaching, plus her AU degree, fuels her passion for inclusion.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/15/2015
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“Having more diversity in the workforce will give a company or organization better results, have people collaborating better together, and ultimately impact the bottom line,” says Darlene Slaughter, SPA/MSHR ’93, who was recently named chief diversity officer at United Way Worldwide after spending many years at Fannie Mae, where she was also chief diversity officer.

The United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit organization. Its mission is to create community solutions in support of education, income, and health. United Way is engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide.

At United Way Worldwide, the leadership and support organization for the global network, Darlene is responsible for ensuring diversity and inclusion are valued both at United Way Worldwide as well as all local United Ways. She represents the United Way at conferences, highlighting its efforts to reach across cultural boundaries. She also helps recruit and develop talent for the organization and travels to local United Way offices as a guest speaker or to create a strategy if they are struggling to reach a particular community of people.

“It’s a dream job because it encompasses everything from being the classroom teacher, to helping organizations think about how they are designed, to mentoring, and being a spokesperson for the United Way. … It’s an honor,” Darlene says.

Darlene’s dedication to diversity stemmed from her lifelong desire to be a teacher. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Howard University, and although she never taught in a classroom, Darlene always found herself in jobs that required her to educate others. She loved working with and teaching people, so it only seemed natural to pursue her master’s degree in human resources and organizational development.

“You learn about organizations and systems and human behavior but ultimately, the program itself is all about you, the individual, and what role you play in the world and how you create change in the world. It was enlightening to learn about yourself and what makes you the way you are, and then how you can use yourself as a tool to help others. It’s very powerful,” she says. “You are the change agent that organizations need; that’s what the degree is all about.”

Darlene has returned to campus and spoken to current students in the program through her friendship with Professor Mark Clark. She has also mentored students she met in Professor Clark’s classroom, always happy to answer questions or offer advice. She likes to give back, she says, because, “To this day, I look back and see that the work I am doing today absolutely is informed by everything I learned at AU.”

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Title: Key Alumna Helps Lead U.S. Response to Ebola and Other World Crises
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
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Abstract: Mia Beers recently returned from West Africa where she helped support the U.S. government's response to Ebola.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 04/09/2015
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When a catastrophic disaster hits a region of the world and the United States is sending assistance, chances are American University alumna Mia Beers, SPA/MPA '10, is a crucial piece of the puzzle. 

This past year, she says, has seen an unusually high amount of disasters, which means that instead of staying in D.C. to coordinate the government response, Mia and many other USAID staff have been deployed in the field.

In November and December of 2014, Mia was asked to lead the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) tasked with helping coordinate and support the U.S. government's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Mia was based in Liberia but oversaw teams on the ground in that country as well as Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Mali.

As team leader, she worked in partnership with the CDC, U.S. Public Health Service, and Department of Defense to provide treatment units, medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, and direct funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies. Her team also provided critical information to teams on the ground and the media, monitoring the outbreak and reporting on the evolving situation.

"There is a really incredible group of people from the U.S. government -– USAID and other agencies –- responding to Ebola in West Africa," Mia says. "I was just one of many people working on the response. The United States should be proud of its efforts in West Africa."

In any given year, USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance will send humanitarian aid to people on behalf of U.S. citizens in response to between 60 and 80 disasters. Four major efforts at the moment include: helping West Africa respond to Ebola, aiding those affected by the South Sudan conflict, working with victims of the Syrian conflict, and assisting displaced populations in Iraq.

When she isn't part of the on-the-ground response, Mia heads USAID's Humanitarian Policy and Global Engagement team, which supports U.S. disaster assistance. Her team helps with strategic communication and information dissemination, facilitates inter-agency relationships, coordinates funding, and makes policy recommendations to the U.S. government and United Nations.

Mia's interest in international affairs was sparked during her undergraduate education. After graduating from George Washington University, she got a job in Africa. "I thought I would be overseas for a short time; so did my family, but [while working for CARE in Somalia] I 'got the bug,' and didn't officially come home until 14 years later," she says. During those years, Mia worked for NGOs and USAID.

"I loved working in the field with an NGO having direct contact with communities, and when I moved to the U.S. government, I was really drawn to public service. ... My colleagues and I are proud of what we do. To say you are part of the U.S. disaster response and represent the American people is pretty amazing," she says.

When she returned to the U.S., Mia wanted to "to become an extraordinary leader -- one who inspires people to do their best and willing to take more risks." A recipient of the Donald G. Zauderer Scholarship, she enjoyed learning from her fellow students in the Key Executive Leadership Program at AU. 

"You learn from the faculty but also from each other. I learned as much from other federal managers as I learned from professors because we had so many shared experiences," she recalls.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Newsletter,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,Key Executive Leadership Program,School of Public Affairs
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newsId: 5D2A405D-5056-AF26-BE0F44BC32DC6F9E
Title: SPA Alumna Makes Career Move to University of California, Berkeley
Author: Kristena Wright
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Abstract: Rosemarie Rae, SPA/MPA ‘09, joins the higher education field after more than 30 years in the non-profit sector.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/11/2015
Content:

Rosemarie Rae, SPA/MPA '09, was recently named associate vice chancellor of finance and chief financial officer at the University of California, Berkeley. As a graduate of AU's public administration and Key Executive Leadership programs in 2009, Rosemarie actually started her graduate work late in her career. "I was in my mid-forties when I joined cohort 36. It was career- and life-changing. But I do contribute the experience I had at American University as a direct link to where I am now," she says.

Coming up on her one-year anniversary at UC Berkeley, Rosemarie actually spent the last 15 to 20 years in the nonprofit sector. "I used a lot of my research experience from my cohort," she says. "So many of the things I learned have really proven to be cornerstones of what guides my work today. I spend most of my time at Berkley in strategic conversation, and I really learned the art of strategic thinking from professor Robert Tobias, director of business development for the key executive leadership program, and other AU professors," Rosemarie adds.

Rosemarie shares that most of her current work is related to finance. Her undergraduate degree is in accounting;she sat for CPA exam and passed, and this has helped her tremendously over the years. However, the brunt of her work focuses on the alignment with other C-level executives at Berkeley and how they think about resource allocations. Additionally, they spend a vast amount of time figuring out the best use of their limited resources and how it supports the institution's strategic vision. 

Prior to beginning at Berkeley, Rosemarie served as the chief financial and administrative officer of The National Trust for Historic Preservation as well as executive vice president, chief strategy officer, and CFO at Volunteers of America. Berkeley is her first job in higher education. She says, "My nonprofit experience was similar in nature to higher education, so I felt well prepared."

Before her career change, Rosemarie went back to graduate school at AU for herself. She says, "I'm originally from the east coast, and I was eager to be in an academic setting and have an opportunity to learn and explore new ideas. It was far more rewarding than I ever thought it would be."

Her advice to students is the same advice she gives now as an administrator: "You have to realize that people really do want to help you. Whether it be your professors or your peers, tap into the resources that are offered to you. Mentorship is a great thing, professors are great, but think beyond the professor to someone who is in your field. Build your career by taking an interest in a range of things that will be helpful for career advancement," she says.

Her final thought for students, "Take a leadership role every chance you get, you'll need to strengthen that muscle if you want to be in a place of power in your future."

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