Willow S. Jacobson, PhD

UNC MPA Program Director; Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Administration and Government

Email Willow S. Jacobson, PhD

With the naming of Willow Jacobson as the director of the UNC Master of Public Administration program in September 2021—the first woman in the role—the program began its next chapter, building upon the UNC MPA mission of preparing public service leaders and creating usable knowledge that improves governance.

Jacobson has spent her accomplished career teaching, advising public officials, and contributing to recognized local government scholarship in the areas of leadership development, organizational theory, and human resources.

Jacobson joined the School of Government faculty in 2003. Prior to that, she taught in the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Connecticut and worked on the Government Performance Project and the New Jersey Initiative at the Alan K. Campbell Institute at The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She has also assisted with strategic planning for community collaboratives in California and Oregon state governments.

Her research has appeared in Public Administration Review and Public Personnel Management. Jacobson earned a PhD from Syracuse University.

Fields of Expertise

  • Human resource management
  • Leadership development
  • Organizational theory and behavior
  • Public administration
  • Public management

Selected Publications

Dula, Lauren, Maja Husar Holmes, Willow S. Jacobson, and Kristina Lambright. 2021. “What She Said, What He Said: Local Elected Officials’ Views of Effective Leadership Behaviors.” International Journal of Public Leadership 27, no. 2 (April): 133–44.

Piatak, Jaclyn S., Jessica E. Sowa, Willow S. Jacobson, and Jasmin McGinnis Johnson. 2020. “Infusing Public Service Motivation (PSM) Throughout the Employment Relationship: A Review of PSM and the Human Resource Management Process.” International Public Management Journal 24, no. 1 (August): 1–20.

Jacobson, Willow S. and Sharon R. Paynter. 2018. “Verdict Pending: Understanding Leadership Role Identity for North Carolina Judges and Lawyers.” Public Personnel Management 48, no. 2 (December): 252–79.

Jacobson, Willow S. and Kristina Lambright. 2018. “The Development of County HR Policies: The Perspectives of Counties in Two States.” Public Personnel Management 47, no. 4 (April): 398–418.

Jacobson, Willow S. and Jessica E. Sowa. 2016. “Municipal Human Resource Management: Challenges and Innovative Practices in Turbulent Times.” State and Local Government Review 48, no. 2 (August): 121–31.

Jacobson, Willow S., Jessica Sowa, and Kristina Lambright. 2014. “Do Human Resource Departments Act as Strategic Partners? Strategic Human Capital Management Adoption by County Governments.” Review of Public Personnel Administration 34, no. 3 (October): 289–301.

Jacobson, Willow S. and Shannon Howle Tufts. 2012. “To Post or Not to Post: Employee Rights and Social Media.” Review of Public Personnel Administration 33, no. 1 (May): 84–107.

Brenda Bushouse, Willow S. Jacobson, Kristina Lambright, Jared Llorens, Rick Morse, and Ora-Orn Poocharoen. 2011. “Crossing the Divide: Building Bridges between Public Administration Practitioners and Scholars.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21, no. S1 (January): i99–i112.

Heather Getha-Taylor, Maja Holmes, Willow S. Jacobson, Rick Morse, and Jessica Sowa. 2011. “Focusing the Public Leadership Lens: Research Propositions and Questions in the Minnowbrook Tradition.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21, no. S1 (January): i83–i97.

Willow S. Jacobson. 2010, “Preparing for Tomorrow: A Case Study of Workforce Planning in North Carolina Municipalities.,” Public Personnel Management 39, no. 4 (December): 353–77.

Jacobson, Willow S., and Christine A Kelleher, and Cynthia J. Bowling. 2010. “A Woman’s Touch? Gendered Networks in State Administration.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Vol. 20, no. Issue 2 (April): 477–504.

Willow S. Jacobson, Ellen Rubin, and Amy Donahue. 2008. “Integrating Labor Relations and Human Resource Management: Impacts on State Workforces.” International Review of Public Administration 13, no. 2 (September): 13–31. Willow S. Jacobson and Donna Warner. 2008. “Leading and Governing: A Model for Local Government Education.” Journal of Public Affairs Education. 14, no. 2 (Summer): 149–73.