At the beginning of this semester, the MPA program called for applications for funding to attend the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) National Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, which was held March 8-12, gathered almost 1,300 scholars, practitioners, and students to share and discuss diverse ideas and themes across the field of public administration. This year, topics centered on “Advancing Public Service” through the lenses of: public finance, infrastructure, social equity, public service, and global public administration.
Our MPA program was well-represented by one of the largest student groups at the conference. Six MPA students were granted full or partial funding to participate and network within the broader community of public administrators and scholars and engage in panel discussions based on their personal interests. We asked attendees to reflect on their experiences at the ASPA 2019 Annual Conference.
MPA students were happy to meet Dr. Maren Trochmann, the new MPA faculty member, at the ASPA Welcome Reception. We are excited to have you at The College this fall!
Front (left to right): Steve Fletcher, Melanie Seidel, Ebony Venson, Michaela Abbott, Danielle Bloom, Patrick Carlson (Back): Dr. Kendra Stewart and Dr. Maren Trochmann
When you’re bogged down in the daily grind of exam prep and paper-writing, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees and forget the bigger, overarching reasons why you became an MPA student in the first place. The ASPA Conference in DC was a breath of fresh air and a moving reminder that all of this tireless work–the addled Addlestone evenings, the three-job juggle, the notecard psycho-scribbling–is all in the service of a career worth preparing for. The panels–especially the Jasper Eshuis-led examination of Public Branding in Local Government–were informative, and the people–like the Founders’ Fellow named Moustafa who shared with me his vision for data science’s place in the public sector–were inspiring. It was an unforgettable week, spent discussing the future of public service with brilliant people from across the country in the shadow of Capitol Hill. Thanks to the College of Charleston’s MPA program for affording me such a great opportunity. (Oh, and thanks to Spin Scooters, the electric scooter-share which, on more than one occasion, sparked some serious joy.)
I enjoyed the opportunity to expand my knowledge about the breadth of topics being studied within the sector. You never know what you don’t know, and this opportunity exposed me to the variety of opportunities that I didn’t know were available within the field of public administration. Through participating in the social equity track offered at the conference, I attended workshops that helped inform and further advance research I am actively pursuing in my studies here at the College. I enjoyed talking with scholars, practitioners and other students in the sector about their research and other professional experiences.
Attending the ASPA conference was everything I had hoped it’d be. It was so invigorating to be surrounded by individuals contributing unique perspectives on contemporary issues in Public Administration. I especially loved all of the panels surrounding public and higher education. I was introduced to many new ideas and networking opportunities. I can’t thank the MPA program enough for helping send myself and my fellow classmates to ASPA!
Something special about the ASPA conference was the mix of practitioners and scholars, and the wide variety of topics presented. I was able to make a lot of connections to content in our MPA classes, but many of the panels touched on topics that I had never come across. The panels and discussions inspired me to do more research on organizational learning, performance management, and diversity in public administration.
One panel that was extremely interesting to me was on “New Thinking on Public Service Values: Considering the Role of Emotions and Empathy in Public Service”. I think that we, as public administrators, rarely think about how we are affected by our emotions, because we are supposed to be objective and neutral in executing policies. However, as we are social and emotional beings, emotions will always play a role in our work. How to cope with those feelings is an important part of our everyday work.
The ASPA conference was an amazing experience, which granted multiple opportunities to listen, learn and meet with experts and administrators from the public administration field. There was such a large and interesting selection of panels and workshops to potentially attend that I found myself frequently having to choose between multiple intriguing topics. I attended a fascinating panel about the upcoming census, had the opportunity to ask Congresswoman Plaskett from the US Virgin Islands about disaster protection legislation, and ate at Shake Shack multiple times.
This experience showed me the diverse specialties of our field in action and connected me to a larger association of motivated individuals who are actively navigating the world we are poised to join. In theory, the generalist nature of our discipline allows for the study of larger systems and their problems. In a national conference of this size, it was possible to see the creation of system-wide/macro-level connections that can affect real change. Experiences like this have shown me how gathering industry experts and its apprentices can facilitate the connections, accountability, and motivation necessary to drive public service into the future.
With graduation looming over our heads and final deadlines coming up quickly, it’s easy to anticipate finishing this intense period of studying and working concurrently. After witnessing the extent of issues being addressed in the field, I realized that this balancing act will always be necessary, even after graduation. Attending the ASPA conference re-sparked an appreciation for continued research and motivation to advance trends while working in the sector. One of my favorite panels was titled “What will Government look like in 2040?”, where we discussed five predictions of future government engagement surrounding: volunteerism, agility and innovation, reliance on artificial intelligence, the need for collaborative soft skills, and increased trust in government. Overall, it was an enlightening experience that augmented my learning throughout my time in the MPA program. I am especially grateful for such a great group of fellow MPA’ers who were willing take in a last minute attendee!