Wilder Faculty, Students Attend NAPA Meeting
November 7, 2018
By Pamela Stallsmith
The Wilder School sent an impressive delegation of faculty and graduate students to the recent 2018 Academy Fall Meeting of the National Academy of Public Administration, whose theme focused on “Grand Challenges in Public Administration.”
NAPA, a congressionally chartered nonpartisan and nonprofit academy, helps government leaders solve their most critical management challenges and provides expert advice in building and managing more effective, efficient, accountable and transparent organizations. Founded in 1967, NAPA includes more than 850 Fellows including former cabinet officers, members of Congress, governors, mayors and state lawmakers, as well as scholars, business executives and public administrators.
Three members of the Wilder School have been elected NAPA Fellows: Interim Dean Susan Gooden, Ph.D., and professor of public administration and policy; Blue Wooldridge, D.P.A., professor of public administration and policy; and William H. Leighty, senior strategic adviser and former chief of staff to Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Governor L. Douglas Wilder is an Honorary Fellow.
Wilder School Delegation
For the first time, NAPA invited students to attend the fall meeting, held Nov. 1-2 in Arlington. The Wilder School delegation included Gooden, Wooldridge and Leighty as well as doctoral students Corey Miles, Sombo Chunda and Suparna Dutta; Javon Johnson, a Wilder Fellow and student in the Master of Public Administration program; and Conor Blackwood, a Wilder Fellow and student in the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness master’s program.
“This was a huge opportunity for students to network, explore career possibilities and gain perspectives from senior-level practitioners of public administration,” Gooden said. “Also, this gave NAPA Fellows the chance to hear from students and gain insights into their academic and professional interests.”
For Chunda, attending the NAPA conference reinforced the realization of the importance of government in our daily lives.
“It was mind blowing to be in sessions with the best minds in public administration and discuss national issues in a nonpartisan manner,” she said. “The quality of the discussions, the level of civility and passion will continue to inspire and remind me of the huge task ahead to get the general population anywhere close to that level.”
The sessions covered a broad range of challenges facing public administration today, including the future of federal public service, government and emergency management; the importance of revitalizing the middle class in the United States; the emerging role of artificial intelligence; a statewide look at managing elections; civil service reform; the economic and political side effects in Asia of trade disputes; social equity; and the status of women in public service.
Reflections on the Field of Public Administration
Gooden participated in a session that explored the 50th anniversary of the Minnowbrook conference, held at Syracuse University in 1968 and that challenged the academy to better respond to the social and political turmoil of the time. That conference launched the New Public Administration movement emphasizing citizenship and public service. She also appeared in a video by Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs reflecting on today’s challenges in public administration and sharing their thoughts about opportunities for the academy to make an impact.
The chance to spend a day discussing critical issues of modern governance provided a unique experience for an early-career doctoral student such as himself, Miles said.
"Being a peer counterpart with the professionals who have written the books that I routinely reference in my classes or who are key public administration principals was a fantastic exercise in how much NAPA and the Wilder School respect the professional development of emerging thought leaders,” Miles said. “Shaking the hand of a leading scholar like Dr. Don Kettl or receiving a word of encouragement from someone with the merits of a Gen. Arnie Fields truly made the 2018 Fall Meeting a banner day of my time at VCU."