Alumna and Staffer Heads to Louisville
By Tiffany Murray-Robertson
If you are an affiliate of the Wilder School’s Graduate Scholars’ Fellowship, the Master of Public Administration program, The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute (GEHLI) or the Central Virginia Chapter of Public Administration, then you’ve likely been touched by the capable hands of Lindsey Evans (M.P.A.’08, Ph.D.’17).
For more than a decade, Evans, a hurricane-force of can-do and personality, has served the school’s various constituents as a graduate assistant, instructor, program coordinator and research associate. Next week, the Georgia native will depart her beloved alma mater to assume a tenure-track position in the Department of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Louisville.
In her new role, Evans will teach core classes within the public administration curriculum, including program evaluation and human resources, and develop a new course on leading public and nonprofit organizations. She will continue her research on social equity, racial disparities and higher education policy. UofL is an urban, public, comprehensive Research I institution with an enrollment of more than 22,000 students.
“Lindsey has worked hard and taken advantage of many of the opportunities to work with our faculty, in our centers, and to gain teaching experience. She has also conducted a unique and rigorous study for her dissertation that demonstrates her expertise and promise as a public policy and administration scholar. We are very proud of her achievements and her strong representation of the program.”
-Sarah Jane Brubaker, Ph.D.
Evans’ appointment is emblematic of the shift in the Wilder School’s doctoral program in public policy and administration which has grown to accommodate those with an interest in competitive positions within the academy.
“For the past few years, we have been focusing our doctoral program on training scholars and academics and on placing them in tenure-track positions at research universities,” said Dr. Sarah Jane Brubaker, an associate professor and chair of the doctoral program.
“Lindsey has worked hard and taken advantage of many of the opportunities to work with our faculty, in our centers, and to gain teaching experience. She has also conducted a unique and rigorous study for her dissertation that demonstrates her expertise and promise as a public policy and administration scholar. We are very proud of her achievements and her strong representation of the program. Her success in this realm is a positive and promising reflection of these efforts.”
Evans successfully defended her dissertation in December. Her doctoral research examined the distributional equity of HOPE, a statewide, merit-based scholarship program for postsecondary students in the state of Georgia. The program, which began in 1993 and aims to reduce educational disparities, is fully funded by revenues from the state lottery.
Evans compared the source of lottery revenues, which disproportionately receives contributions from minority and low-income populations, with award receipts of postsecondary students. Her analysis found that race, ethnicity, immigrant generational status, first generation status and financial independence have a negative impact on the likelihood of a student receiving the HOPE Scholarship. Overall, recipients who shared these demographic qualities received less funding than those who did not. Evans is working on turning her research into a series of articles with a pedagogical focus. She hopes the inquiry can serve as a kind of case study for scholars interested in social equity analysis.
From Student to Scholar
Evans first joined the Wilder School as a graduate student in the public administration program in 2006. She was encouraged to do so by the school’s then-graduate program director, Dr. Susan Gooden, who was working to expand the visibility of the school’s graduate programs and seeking students whose interests and skills aligned with that of the faculty.
“I couldn’t fully articulate my interests at the time,” said Evans, of their initial meeting.
“I knew only that I was interested in disparities and intrigued by the factors that cause them. It was Susan who introduced me to the concept of social equity. It’s a perspective and a framework that is all about making sure that public services are provided equitably. Talking with her about her research and the implications of that research convinced me that the Wilder School was where I needed to be.”
Over the past 12 years, Evans has been closely advised by Gooden and the interest sparked by that initial meeting has grown into an impressive research portfolio.
As a member of Gooden’s research team, Evans has conducted analyses aimed at improving success among community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, and investigated the role of African American-led nonprofit organizations in improving youth outcomes. Collectively, their research has resulted in the publication of multiple book chapters, articles professional reports and academic presentations. Their 2016 paper “Getting Schooled: How African American-led Nonprofit Organizations Promote Positive Youth Outcomes” received the Best Paper Award from the Northeast Conference on Public Administration (NECoPA).
Evans has also become well-known in the field through her engagement with national professional associations. She is a former Student Representative, an elected position within the American Society for Public Administration’s National Council. Additionally, she served as one three national co-chairs who led the planning and implementation of ASPA's Annual Conference which brought together more than 1,300 practitioners, scholars and students in 2017. Other notable achievements include an appointment as an ASPA Founder’s Fellow and a citation for “Best Paper Presentation” at the 3rd International Young Scholars Workshop in Public Policy and Administration Research in Changchun, China.
“None of this would have been possible without the support that I received from Dr. Gooden,” said Evans.
“I didn’t have any of these skills when I came here but over and over again, she has raised the bar. She gave me the tools that I needed to be successful and a tremendous amount of support along the way.”
A Linchpin for Students and Peers
With so much intense scholarship under her belt, it’s a wonder that Evans has managed to excel as a staffer, but excel she has. Through a progression of positions from graduate assistant to senior research associate, Evans has gone from tentative student worker to difference maker.
Her efforts at the Wilder School have included supporting the launch of the Wilder Graduate Scholars’ Fellowship program, assisting with the recruitment of prospective graduate students, and coordination of VCU Leadership Development, the university’s flagship program for building the capacity of emerging administrators within the university and the VCU Health System.
“Lindsey has been a mainstay at the Wilder School,” said Gooden. “You name it, she’s been a part of it.”
Gooden recalled with humor the 2007 Social Equity Leadership Conference Evans helped to coordinate and a tutorial she organized for a senior faculty member who needed help with the finer points of PowerPoint.
“That’s just who Lindsey is,” said Gooden.
“She’s always willing to help.”
Evans has also become a talented instructor. For years, she has taught research methods to graduate and undergraduate students and assisted faculty as a contributing lecturer to the school’s MPA capstone course.
In a note received earlier this week, Dr. Nancy Stutts, an associate professor who leads the capstone, described Evans’ presence in the classroom as an infectious brand of Southern je ne sais quoi.
“For several years, Lindsey has served as the capstone students’ hero. By about the fourth session of the semester, the students have begun to think that all the warnings about capstone may not have been exaggerated. Into this atmosphere of subdued anxiety strides Lindsey, and there is no mistaking who is in charge, or whether what she is about to say is the one and only way to get through this course.
Employing her fluid identities of down-home Georgia, reflective scholar, and competent professional, Lindsey deftly engages the group on an adventure. She moves quickly through stories, demonstrations, clear examples, and generous tips that she has learned through sometimes arduous experience. The students capture every word. Lindsey waves on her way out the door, ensuring the class, "Y'all will do great!" but the looks on their faces say it was over too quickly--they need Lindsey every week, or at least until the semester is over.”
Because of her commitment to teamwork, it is no surprise that Evans has developed strong relationships with her fellow classmates.
According to Yali Pang, a third-year doctoral candidate, Evans has played a major role in supporting other candidates in the program. In a short time, Pang said she had learned much by observing her.
“Lindsey is very professional, very organized and very considerate in the way she works. One of her greatest strengths is the support she offers to hers peers,” said Pang. “Whether it is helping them to look for internships, pursue teaching opportunities or assisting a fellow student with a concept paper for their dissertation—she listens, cares and helps."
"Over the years, I've worked with Lindsey on countless research and service projects," said Dr. Blue Wooldridge, a professor and senior faculty member at the Wilder School.
"During all of these acivities, I have admired her dedication to social justice, her professionalism, her innovativeness and energy. I know that she will be a major contributor to the UofL, and a wonderful supporter of her graduate students. Lindsey will be greatly missed here."
While Evans has called her departure bittersweet, she is excited to begin her career in Louisville and thrilled to be in a position to help emerging scholars.
“I’m very grateful to all the faculty who have mentored me during my time at the Wilder School,” she said.
“That includes those who served on my committee—Susan Gooden, Nancy Stutts and Elsie Harper-Anderson—and others, like Sarah Jane Brubaker and Blue Wooldridge, who encouraged me to broaden my horizons and develop connections with scholars in the field. Now, it’s my turn to invest in a student in the same way that they invested in me…to bring someone else’s talents and abilities to the forefront.”
Though Evans' position will take her some 564 miles away from her first professional home, her mentor plans to keep watch.
“Lindsey represents the best among our graduate students, so I am delighted to follow and support her career as she continues to do extraordinary things,” Gooden said.
“And,” she said, pausing to reflect, “It’s time. Lindsey is more than ready to fly…she’s ready to soar.”
Evans' final day in the office is Friday, April 27. Well-wishers may reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.