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Public Administration Faculty and Students Collaborate to Publish New Top-Ranked Study

many hands figuring out puzze pieces

Two SPA faculty members and two graduate students embarked on a research project to shed light on how nursing homes serve racially and ethnically diverse residents. The result was an article, “Managing Racial Diversity: Matching Internal Strategies with Environmental Needs,” by Anna Amirkhanyan, associate professor; Ken Meier, distinguished scholar in residence; Steve Holt, SPA/PhD ’17; and Austin McCrea, incoming AU PhD student. The article is published in Public Administration Review, currently ranked #1 among public administration journals by the ISI Journal Citation Reports.  

Collaboration is an increasingly attractive approach to research because it melds various scholars’ perspectives and expedites the project. Still, the recent SPA joint effort is somewhat unusual because Meier estimates that less than 10 percent of academic articles today have as many as four authors.

“The combination gave us a much better paper than we could have done separately. It enabled us to probe more deeply,” said Meier, who was listed in a 2017 article in PS: Politics and Political Science as the most productive political scientist in the world from 1990 to 2014.

“It was amazing to work with Ken, someone who helped advance many of the management theories that we tested in this project,” said Amirkhanyan, who also said each researcher’s skills added value.

According to Amirkhanyan, “For PhD students, this was an opportunity to work on unique data sets — both primary and secondary, think about the implications of their findings, and collaborate with the faculty on the task of writing a research piece from very beginning to the very end.”

McCrea, who was a doctoral student with Meier at Texas A&M, took the lead in developing the theoretical framework and literature review for the paper. Holt worked intensely in the summer of 2016 coding the information, merging the data sets, and conducting regression analysis. His contribution focused on the methods and results in the paper.

“Having experienced and savvy scholars helped guide the project in a consistent direction,” said Holt, now a tenure-track assistant professor at the University at Albany, SUNY. “As you are working with someone like Ken who is legendary, it can be intimidating at first. But over time, I realized I could bring meaningful things to the conversation and gained confidence.”

McCrea, who just completed his master’s degree in political science, will begin his PhD program at AU in public administration this fall. Working on the project, McCrea said he learned from Meier how to assess the body of work and frame their analysis, while Amirkhanyan’s meticulous editing improved his writing.

“It was an efficient process because we each focused on one particular aspect,” said McCrea.  

Amirkhanyan said everyone worked hard on the team, and there was a cooperative spirit during the two-year process, which included some long-distance yet regular communication between the coauthors. “Everybody contributed something to the study. This was an equal collaboration where everyone had a voice,” said Amirkhanyan.