Recap: 2015 Public Administration Conference

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government held its annual Public Administration Conference November 5–7 in Chapel Hill. The three-day event, focused on the theme of “connectivity,” provided an opportunity for MPA@UNC students, on-campus students, alumni, practitioners, faculty, and staff to discuss latest trends in public administration and network with each other. Below are some highlights from the conference.

Day 1: UNC’s First Female Chancellor and the First Female Governor of New Jersey Shared Leadership Stories

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt opened the conference with remarks on public service leadership. Folt shared with the audience a glimpse into the future of the university, emphasizing public service as a “north star” in her own career success and a source of inspiration to students, alumni, and the dedicated faculty and staff who support them.

Former New Jersey Governor and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman delivered the 2015 Deil S. Wright Lecture titled “What is Leadership?”

Whitman discussed leadership strategies and approaches from her own experience that resulted in the success of a single project or in managing a complex organization.

Her leadership lessons included the following:

  • Know and believe in what you want to accomplish, and be able to explain to others why it is important. Involve stakeholders in the process.
  • Invest in the best people you can find, then let them do what you hired them to do. Don’t micromanage.
  • Don’t give attention to where you don’t want to go; rather, know the challenges but keep focused on where you’re headed.
  • It is important to have diversity and different life experiences represented in the conversation in order to come up with solutions that stand the test of time. No one group has all the answers.
  • For most big decisions, government will impact the process. Democracy does not ask a great deal from us, but we must  participate by voting and by letting our elected officials know where we stand on the issues.                                              

Day 2: Faculty Research and Alumni Practitioners

On day two of the conference, faculty presented on their individual research projects, encouraging students to inquire and learn about their work. This is an important component of the conference, as many current and former students aspire to research similar issues.

Concurrent sessions showcased local practitioners discussing how the scale and complexity of challenges facing local governments are outpacing the innovative solutions needed to address them. Attendees heard from innovators focused on increasing entrepreneurial and small-business activity and connectivity in underdeveloped urban corridors. Panelists shared success stories on how big data has driven accessibility of government services and how the civic hacking movement has improved quality of life for many North Carolina residents. Faculty and alumni also led an interactive session on diversity, inclusion, and equity in public administration.

Day 3: UNC Versus Duke Football Game

Few experiences match a homecoming football game showcasing the epic rivalry between UNC and Duke. Sharing this event with your MPA peers? Priceless. The Tar Heels came away with a 66-31 victory against the Blue Devils, leaving both online and on-campus students with the ultimate UNC experience and filling the community with pride.

Overall, the conference provided opportunities for MPA@UNC students, who have dynamic interactions with faculty and each other online, to connect in person. School of Government students, faculty, and staff came together to generate ideas that will have lasting impact.

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