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Student Responses to the 2019 ASPA Conference

Five students from John Jay College’s MPA program participated in the 2019 ASPA Conference. The ASPA Conference took place in Washington, DC from Friday, March 8, 2019 to Tuesday, March 12, 2019. This academic conference provided opportunities to present research, participate in panels and workshops, and engage with colleagues in networking events. Below are reflections from the conference written by Evana Alam, Xiomara Guerrero, Eunice Lee, Segun Olaniyi and Gwendolyn Saffran.

Evana Alam

This was my second annual ASPA Conference 2019, held at our nation’s capital, Washington DC. The event presented numerous conference tracks ranging from social equity, ethics, management, and problems in public administration. Scholars of public administration arrived from all over the country as well as other nations, who shared the same interests and vision of the field’s future. 

I was pleased to attend this conference with my colleagues at John Jay College, some of whom are fellow MPA students and many distinguished faculty from the department. They shared their research, which composed of gender equity, corruption, and performance budgeting to name a few. Some of the research were complete while others were a work in progress.  It was exciting to join in the research discussion held in various rooms and listen to presenters talk about their specialized research and network with professionals who were eager to learn about me and other prospective students.  

One research that stood out to me in the conference was during the social equity track. There, one of the scholars discussed how rampant sexual harassment against female humanitarian workers exists, supported by a survey from Humanitarian Women’s Network. Moreover, this problem was amplified in nations where there is conflict and forced displacement. The scope of the problem was very high in the public sector and people were afraid to talk against it based on several factors.  The research was an example of how important our work towards gender equity and public administration is. To provide recommendations and solutions to these problems, academics gain much by collaborating in public administration conferences such as ASPA. Next year, I plan on proposing my developing research on gender equity as an MPA student of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I encourage all public administration professionals and students to participate. It will not only jump start your career, but it will connect you with the right people in the field.  See you in Anaheim, California for ASPA 2020!

About the author:

Evana Alam is a graduate student in the Masters of Public Administration Program (Public Policy and Administration), with a dual specialization in Human Resource Management and Management & Operations. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from East West University from Dhaka, Bangladesh and is certified by the International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA) as a Supply Chain Analyst.  As a member of the American Society of Public Administration (ASPA), she participated and assisted Women in the Public Sector in the 2018 ASPA Annual Conference at Denver, Colorado. Currently, Evana also works as an administrative assistant in the Teaching and Learning Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her hobbies are photography, traveling, painting and learning about different cultures.  After graduating, she plans to launch an organization that will empower the economic and social development of Bangladeshi women. 

Xiomara Guerrero

I had the opportunity to attend the ASPA Annual Conference that took place in Washington, DC from Saturday, March 9th  to Monday, March 11thwhere I met with professors and students from John Jay. The conference covered the challenges that are presented in every level of government, whether it’s the national, state, and local government as well as private and nonprofit organizations. Each day was filled with several panels and sessions to choose from that aimed on five impacted areas: global public administration, infrastructure, public finance, public service and social equity. A workshop that I enjoyed and found very informative was the SEDI workshop. The Social Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Workshop (SEDI) presented a discussion on equity, diversity, and inclusion. The workshop delivered strategys on self- awareness, inter-personal interactions and decision-making process that can lead to meaningful engagement with members within a workplace. By closely examining how issues that surround social class, language, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, and religion we are able to understand that these differences can be set as an advantage or disadvantage. Our identity plays a significant role in determining how we understand and experience the world as well as shaping the types of opportunities and challenges we face. In order to develop awareness, the workshop presented an identity wheel exercise, and a cookie person scenario both exercises allowing us to recognize our privilege as targeted and advantaged group. For the identity wheel participants had to indicate if they felt they were a targeted or advantage social group and splitting every social group they identify themselves with. Each table received a distinct “cookie person” with a scenario and how that “person” will feel in the indicated place setting including their ethnicity, gender etc. These exercises made not only myself but my peers have a different perspective on how not only we view ourselves, but how others view us. In conclusion, in order to be more effective in providing future administrators with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to be successful, we must continue to promote the concept of diversity and effectively link our public administration skills. Having people who work in public agencies who truly represent the community has the huge potential to make both working and living spaces more diverse and inclusive.

About the author:

Xiomara Guerrero is a graduate student in the Masters of Public Administration Program (Public Policy and Administration), with a specialization in Human Resources Management. She has earned her Bachelor of Science in Public Administration with a minor in Spanish from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. During her undergraduate studies, Xiomara interned for Legislator Monica Martinez 9thLegislative District in Long Island. Being part of the staff allowed her to interact within her community—raise awareness toward legislation, and deal with issues that were presented by continents within the district. As Xiomara continues her studies she is seeking internships in non-profit organizations as an advocate to improve policies and legislation affecting survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence. 

Eunice Lee

I attended this annual American Society for Public Administration conference in Washington, DC from Sunday, March 10 to Tuesday, March 12. The theme for this year’s conference was “A Call for Action: Advancing Public Service,” and sessions were divided amongst five tracks: public finance, infrastructure, social equity, public service, and global public administration. Throughout my three days at the conference, I attended panels and workshops from several of these tracks with a personal focus on social equity, a particularly resonant theme for my line of work in police oversight.

Though discussions ranged from analysis of the toll of emotional labor on first responders to community engagement in long-term policy planning, speakers commonly envisioned a hopeful future for public administration. Many acknowledged the challenges to successfully implementing sound policy, and navigating the political landscape to get there then the inevitable crises that follow. However, panels clearly demonstrated the crucial and intensely collaborative work of practitioners in the field of public administration. Attendees shared recently released publications that could challenge or strengthen research with panelists, and noted areas for further exploration or links to other panels at the conference. It was inspiring to see individuals from a wide range of fields rallying together in the aims of making public service more equitable and effective.

ASPA also made a point to gather attendees from around the globe through events, talks, and a specific conference track dedicated to their work and subject matter interests. It also provided opportunities for different sections and chapters to meet. One such opportunity was a reception hosted by John Jay’s own Women in the Public Sector, which was attended by several John Jay alumni (as well as this year’s conference attendees). The reception was a highlight and wonderful reminder that we all have so much to learn from each other, and that this work cannot be pursued in silos. This was a unifying theme to my time at ASPA – I observed and benefitted greatly from the passionate, creative, and brilliant public servants who were actively advancing the field of public service, including our own faculty and my colleagues at John Jay.

Segun Olaniyi

Having the opportunity to attend ASPA 2019 was truly inspiring. Being able to listen and engage with students and professionals in their respected field was an eye opener. We as public servant have a responsibility to find innovative approaches to solve issues that impact our live. I was able to speak with professionals throughout the United States and just spoke about issues that are important. One of the topics that connected with me was a session on Efforts and Impacts of Community Organization, Nonprofits and Local Government Service Delivery. This topic addressed how there are misbalances within non-profit boards and management compared to the direct workers. He addressed the racial diversity in the organizational chart and introduces the questions of understanding how their should be more emphasis put on diversifying the amount of minorities on non-profit boards and within leadership. 

In addition, the conversation I had with program director, Malcolm Oliver, who works at California Lutheran University that turned out to very uplifting. He gave some amazing advise on how to continue to grow my leadership skills and thrive in my field. Overall, the closing speech from Vice President Biden left me leaving the conference with more motivation than ever.

About the author:

Segun Olaniyi is a native of New York but was born in the United Kingdom. He moved to the United States with his family at the age of 9. He is a senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice working on his Masters in Public Administration. Segun also attended John Jay College for his undergraduate degree and served as the President of African Students Association (ASA). He was a member of the Malave Leadership academy and worked on volunteer projects that involved non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. He currently works at Center for Court Innovation and serves as a member of the Organization of the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN) and American Society of Public Administration (ASPA). 

Gwen Saffran

From March 8-10, I attended the American Society for Public Administration’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. The theme of the conference was “A Call for Action: Advancing Public Service,” and panels and presentations focused on topics including advancing social equity, innovative and collaborative governmental action and services, diversity, and the future of public administration. All of themes converged in one panel I attended, Perspectives and Approaches for Promoting LGBTQ Equity. Panelists presented on a range of LGBTQ+ identities in various contexts. Most pertinent to my work as a research assistant was Dr. Roddrick Colvin’s presentation, “Nonbinary Gender Policies: Understanding How Agencies Adopt and Resistance to Change.” At a time when more and more jurisdictions are recognizing non-binary identities and providing third-gender options on identity documents, it was exciting to see other academics asking similar and important questions.

Following that panel, I presented as part of a panel titled Governing Toward Social Equity. Also part of the panel were Kirk Leach (assistant professor at the University of Arkansas) and Hannah Lebovits (doctoral student at Cleveland State University). The name of my presentation was “Emergent Non-binary Gender Identity Policy: Governing Toward Social Equity.” I discussed seven jurisdictions in the United States that offer an X gender marker (as opposed to an F or M) on some form of state-issued identification documents, as well as the findings of our qualitative analysis of these seven policies and the implications for public policy, public administrators, and public service values. It was exciting to present alongside academics asking hard questions and making important recommendations for public administrators to advance social equity.

Shortly after I returned home from the ASPA conference, 50 Muslim people were murdered in New Zealand while praying in their local mosques. There is, of course, no remedy to the loss experienced by the Christchurch community and the rest of the world, but it underscored the importance of the conversations being held at the ASPA conference. Continuing to ask hard questions about injustice and proposing and implementing policies and actions that promote equity and celebrate diversity is as important now as it was half a century ago. I strongly encourage other John Jay students to join the conversation.

About the author:

Gwen Saffran is in her second year at John Jay College pursuing an MPA studying Public Policy & Administration with a specialization in Criminal Justice Policy. She works as a research assistant with Professor Nicole Elias studying sex and gender in the public sector. Gwen is also a Tow Policy Advocacy Fellow through John Jay’s Prisoner Reentry Institute. She is placed at the Vera Institute of Justice, where she works on the Center for Sentencing and Corrections’ Safe Prisons, Safe Communities Initiative. The Initiative works with state and local departments of corrections to reform and reduce their use of solitary confinement.