L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Wilder School insights explore racial equity implications of COVID-19 during a national conversation on pandemic response

by Pam Cox

"What can be learned from comparative (cross-country) COVID governance?" was the topic of a National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) panel discussion on March 2, 2023. The Social Equity in Governance and International Affairs Standing Panels co-sponsored the discussion which explored the geopolitical tensions caused by COVID-19 and showcased how countries learn from one another when dealing with "local" impacts of common global challenges. 

RaJade M. Berry-James, Ph.D., Wilder School senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs, is an elected fellow of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and chair of the Standing Panel on Social Equity in Governance. She remarked on the importance of this conversation.

“Some of us have lived through an epidemic, a pandemic, and now this endemic period. I think this panel was a real master class on some of the lessons learned to really understand the impact of COVID-19 on our communities, our countries, our people and our collective.” 

Berry-James is serving a two-year term as chair and has signaled her commitment to these types of conversations in her 2023 strategic plan, “Leading by Convening.'' It is dedicated to embracing diversity, advancing equity and driving inclusion across multiple sectors and levels of government.

Spotlight on Wilder School publication on racial equity and COVID-19

The panel discussion began with the introduction of two recent publications about the global response and racial equity challenges impacted by the pandemic. Elsie Harper-Anderson, Ph.D., Wilder School associate professor and director of the Ph.D. program introduced the volume “Racial Equity, COVID-19, and Public Policy: The Triple Pandemic,” edited by Elsie Harper-Anderson, Jay Albanese and Susan Gooden (2023, Routledge). It takes a critical look at how many existing areas of racial inequality in the United States rose to the surface as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Gooden is dean of the Wilder School and an elected NAPA fellow. She is a past president of the American Society for Public Administration.  

Harper-Anderson reflected that “harkening back to the heart of the pandemic, many truths were told, and they didn’t necessarily line up with each other. Leadership is important in creating transparency so that the truth, driven by the data, is there.”

The volume represents a collaboration of original research by 25 authors, including 16 Wilder School faculty members, three Wilder School Ph.D. students and three Wilder School alumni. 

Panel participants also heard an introduction of the publication “Global Risk Management; The Role of Collective Cognition in response to COVID-19” (2022, Routledge) edited by Louise Comfort and Mary Lee Rhodes.

Following the presentation of the publications,  panel participants explored several topics including: With COVID-19 as an example, how can public administration scholars and practitioners learn from experiences of other countries? With equity as a common global health challenge, what can US scholars and practitioners learn from COVID-19 governance experiences of other countries? What might next steps be for comparative learning about governance of local impacts of global health challenges?

Blue Wooldridge, Wilder School distinguished career professor and professor emeritus, applauded the discussion emphasizing that “we have the responsibility to highlight the importance of equity so that government and non-profit administrators recognize that the economy is important, efficiency is important, effectiveness is important, but equity is the most important of the four pillars of public administration.” Wooldridge is an elected NAPA fellow and past-chair of the Standing Panel on Social Equity in Governance. Wooldridge received the inaugural Philip J. Rutledge Social Equity Leadership Award in 2021.

Watch the complete video: National Academy of Public Administration’s Social Equity in Governance and International Affairs Standing Panels joint panel discussion, "What can be learned from comparative (cross-country) COVID governance?"