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Faculty Spotlight With Dr. Jo Ann Ewalt

Posted by: wichmannkm | November 2, 2016 | No Comment |
Dr. Jo Ann Ewalt

     Dr. Jo Ann Ewalt

This December Dr. Jo Ann Ewalt will retire from her successful career at College of Charleston. Professor Ewalt joined the Department of Political Science in July 2011 and served as the Director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. She has taught public administration, public policy, and research methods classes at the graduate level and also in the undergraduate Political Science program. Dr. Ewalt earned her Ph.D. in public policy and administration and her MPA from the Martin School at the University of Kentucky, and her BA in English from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her research has focused on policy implementation, with an emphasis on education, health, and welfare policy. She has also written about public administration pedagogy. We were fortunate to talk with Dr. Ewalt about her time at College of Charleston.


How did you decide to pursue a career in public policy?

I was working for the Council of State Governments. My bachelor’s degree was in English and I was involved with marketing and writing magazine articles, but I was more interested in policy than marketing so I decided to pursue a master’s degree in public administration. I was about halfway through my MPA degree when one of my professors found a policy research paper that I had written about social welfare programs interesting and she said that I should consider getting a PhD. If she hadn’t steered me in that direction, I honestly don’t know if I would have done it. It was one of my professors who encouraged me.

What was your role as the Director of the MPA program at the College of Charleston?

I feel so grateful to have had that opportunity. The MPA program is a wonderful program where students are doing incredible things in the community as well as the classroom. As MPA director, I was responsible for the administration of the program – recruiting students and facilitating the enrollment process, but also involving the MPA program in community research projects, helping students get internships that will enhance their marketability once they graduate, and facilitating networking opportunities. When you are looking for jobs, the more professionals you can meet, the better your chances are in terms of getting the kind of job you are looking for. As a program we did a number of applied research projects that we are very proud of. For example, we worked with the South Carolina Homeless Coalition and the Lowcountry Homeless Coalition to identify not just the number of homeless individuals but also the conditions of the people that are homeless. We examined the factors that might be increasing the likelihood of homelessness and identified policy areas that might address these issues.

What courses have you taught?

For political science, I taught the research methods course. Students come in a bit nervous when it comes to research and statistics, and I really enjoy seeing the growth of students in that class. In the MPA program, I taught a variety of classes, the foundational course that introduces students to the subfields of public administration, along with research methods, public policy, program evaluation, and capstone courses. The capstone is fun because students are at the end of their academic career and you see the integration of all the courses, what they learned in their internships, and many students do useful projects that help organizations. One of the themes of the MPA program is bridging theory and practice, so students get to see why theory and research are so important to organizations.

What has been your research focus?

Most of my research has been in the area of examining social welfare programs. I look at programs and policies such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps. One running theme through much of my research has been trying to explain why some states are more likely to enact certain policies than other states. Since moving to Charleston, I’ve done a number of projects around homeless policy. One part of my research is looking at a policy called Housing First.  The idea behind Housing First is that if you can get someone a place to live, other health and behavioral problems can be more productively addressed. After I retire I have several research projects around that whole idea. I look forward to continuing that.

Why did you become particularly interested in homelessness in Charleston?

I had moved from Kentucky, and there are homeless people in Lexington, but they are certainly not as visible as they are in Charleston and the problem is larger in Charleston. Some of that has to do with something as simple as good weather, so it is less arduous to live on the streets but some of it has to do with policy. There is often a lack of capacity to help people and policy decisions that create temporary solutions like shelters as opposed to more permanent solutions.

What are your favorite College of Charleston memories?

I think there are three things. I’ll start with my colleagues. The political science department and MPA faculty are so student-centered and I just love that. They are amazing teachers, wonderful scholars and they really do embrace the teacher-scholar model which says scholarship is very important but really the emphasis of using scholarship to aid students is something I embrace. The MPA students here are so inspiring. They come in with a passion about making a difference. That’s really the primary theme of MPA students. Whether they want to work for local governments, nonprofits, environmental agencies, or arts organizations, they have identified what’s most important to them is making the world a better place. And how can you not be inspired by that? The third thing is the willingness of the community around us to use faculty from the college in important ways. Many of my colleagues work with nonprofits, local government, and agencies to try and help solve problems. Governments and nonprofit organizations are often working on intractable problems. From the beginning, you wonder how they can possibly solve them, and so it’s so rewarding to work with professionals and be involved in addressing really hard social problems.

What do you see for the future for our students?

For both political science and MPA students, the need for them to be engaged in their communities has never been greater. Whether it is involvement in the political system, working for governments or nonprofits, they are getting excellent training here. They are learning to think critically about hard problems. My hope is that our students see that they are the solutions to our problems and they’re so well-positioned. I hope they do whatever they can to make the world a better place.

What are your plans for retirement?

I have two grandchildren, so I plan to spend time with them. I have still some research projects I’ll be doing. My husband has been retired for a while so we plan to do some traveling. We also are avid hikers and bikers so I look forward to being out the great South Carolina countryside.


under: Faculty

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