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Public Management Research Conference Brings Fresh Perspective to Pressing Issues

Washington, D.C., Capitol Building at Night

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.”