This past week the School hosted the Public Management Research Conference (PMRC), which is the leading research conference in the field of public management and administration. The conference brings together scholars from across the country and the world. PMRC was a great opportunity to showcase the School of Government for our peers in the field. It is a brilliant example of how our work depends on the talent and hard work of so many different people—faculty and an exceptionally talented and committed professional staff. In other words, we are successful because we operate as One School.
Faculty affiliated with the MPA Program put together a strong bid to the Public Management Research Association (PMRA) for the School to host PMRC. Leisha DeHart-Davis chaired the host committee, and the other members were Whitney Afonso, Willow Jacobson, Rick Morse, and Bill Rivenbark. Many thanks to the committee for their careful planning and hard work, and to other faculty members who also participated in different ways.
The path to hosting was not an easy one. The School was supposed to host a couple of years ago, but PMRA withdrew their invitation after some states prohibited employees from travelling to North Carolina following the passage of HB2. A group of public administration faculty, along with their able attorney, Bob Joyce, met with the PMRA board and explained the effects of HB2 and the legislation that replaced it. According to a faculty member from another university who attended the meeting, our team argued “persuasively that UNC should host the 2019 PMRA conference. What a class act! Everything the UNC group did was perfect, professional, and so well done.”
The respect that other scholars have for our public administration faculty is a major reason why the School was invited to host PMRC. Our faculty participated in the conference by appearing on panels and by acting as gracious hosts. Leisha was elected Vice President of PMRA at the conference and ultimately will become President. I’m sure that the professional standing of our faculty members among their peers has never been higher.
PMRC was successful on every level, and I want to give the highest possible praise to our staff for their exceptional work before and during the conference. It would not have happened without them. Period. We had in the neighborhood of 450 conference participants. There were many, many concurrent panel sessions over the course of the conference. The sessions took place here and at the Law School. There were three different receptions, including large ones at the Carolina Inn and the Gillings Center for Dramatic Art. We even had a big tent where people could eat, gather, and relax. The logistics were the most daunting we have ever faced, and our team pulled it off brilliantly. While many people were a part of the team, special thanks to the quarterback who provided great leadership—Julie Truluck.
Don’t take my word for it. Rosemary O’Leary, who just finished serving as President of PMRA, emailed the following: “Just a short note to thank you for the superb, excellent, first class, intellectually-stimulating, and fun Public Management Research Conference you hosted this week. It was a complete ‘slam dunk’ in every way. You have set the bar high for those who follow.” Rob Christensen, a faculty member from Brigham Young University wrote “that I experienced and heard NOTHING but positive things about the conference and the SOG’s flawless hosting. The facilities were perfect. The staff seemed to never run out of smiles and helpfulness. Y’all are doing something (many somethings) right.” I heard similar comments in my conversations with people at the Carolina Inn reception. A dean from another program told me at length how much he loved our building and that he thought it was the best one in the public management field.
It sometimes takes a special challenge and the outside perspectives of others to remind us that we are fortunate in so many ways. Our faculty are supported at a high level, and the excellence of our staff should never be taken for granted. Our building is not perfect, and at the same time we are incredibly fortunate to have it.
Many thanks to everyone at the School for supporting PMRC. It was a great team effort. In addition to the staff who seemed to be everywhere in their blue PMRC t-shirts, thanks also to those who worked behind the scenes in planning and supporting the conference. The program support team was the most visible, but the work of this conference touched every one of the staff divisions and every level of the organization. One School.