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Call for Proposals is Closed

Making a Difference: Good Governance in Disrupted State(s)

Waves of disruptions have rocked our world in recent years, and public affairs education has had to pay attention. We’ve always taught students to expect crises in public service and how to manage through them. Elections, natural disasters, political conflict, and war have long been recognized as convulsive events that can radically reshape the policy terrain. But, in recent years, the source, the magnitude, the speed, the frequency, the intensity of these disruptions… all feel greater.

Civil political discourse and norms collapses. Technology brings new security and privacy threats, and artificial intelligence spawns autonomous decision making and regulatory challenges. Financial markets crash. Natural disasters overwhelm government response.

Disruptions have jarred us closer to home, too, threatening the status quo of MPA and MPP provision. We have been trying to change our curriculum to prepare students for a changed world. We have been restructuring our programs and degrees. We have been trying to apply assessment tools, our self-study processes and our scholarly research agendas to see if we’re making useful change in this disrupted environment. And we are recognizing that our struggle with disruption is not a local or even national one: there are massive global disruptions from climate change, migration, market shifts, social movements, and pandemics for which we must educate students.

Now it’s our turn: can disruptive factors destroy governance as we’ve known it? And at the end of the day, can we thrive amid all this higher education upheaval to prepare students for governance in a disrupted future? Many NASPAA programs have been responsive and resilient in this disrupted state, while others have struggled to adapt and respond. We can all gather at the 2018 NASPAA conference and together explore whether our schools are doing enough to address these vital questions. Are we making a difference to these disrupted states?

To examine this question, NASPAA seeks proposals in the following four tracks:

TRACK 1 – Teaching and Constructing Our Curriculum for Student Success in Disrupted State(s)
TRACK 2 – Program Design and Management in Disrupted State(s)
TRACK 3 – Research, Assessment and Accreditation: Measuring Program Impact in Disrupted State(s)
TRACK 4 – Global Context of Public Service in Disrupted State(s)

Track Descriptions

TRACK 1 – Teaching and Constructing Our Curriculum for Student Success in Disrupted State(s)

How have we designed and taught our curriculum to make a difference?

How well does our curriculum prepare students to meet the changing public service needs of their communities? As graduates move across sectors throughout their careers, are we preparing them for challenges they will face? How do programs respond with curriculum to address the emergent issues that can disrupt norms, transform processes, and complexify decision making? How have programs responded to student demands and disruptive technologies and norms in the curriculum? Are new public service competencies and delivery methods needed? What new pedagogies are we developing to increase student competency? How do we prepare students for understanding the differences between free, protected and hate speech?

We seek presentations and panels that identify how curriculum designs have embraced one or more of the following areas and made a difference:

  • diversity and inclusivity
  • competencies: cross-boundary/jurisdictional, network management, new public service, cultural
  • massive open online courses (MOOCs)
  • culminating/capstone projects
  • hybrid and online instruction
  • free speech and contested policy and social issues
  • civic engagement/service-learning
  • integration and use of disruptive technologies like Twitter, Facebook, smart phones and remote sensing
  • ethical and legal frameworks for data science

TRACK 2 – Program Design and Management in Disrupted State(s)

How have we designed our programs to make a difference?
How have programs around the world organized and implemented strategies that meet the current and future needs of stakeholders in their communities? How do programs determine the needs of their students, communities, and the field at large? How do programs differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace? How are programs adapting to shifting norms and values, evolving technologies, funding needs, and increasingly more wicked problems? How have programs responded to changes in the local context of the public sector? How have programs prepared students for the challenges of public service leadership in challenging environments?

We seek presentations and panels that identify how program design and management have embraced one or more of the following areas and made a difference:

  • role of strategic planning
  • recruitment and retention of faculty and students of color
  • uses of technology, as AI
  • continuous program improvement
  • management of inter-departmental and interdisciplinary curriculum
  • student recruitment strategies
  • challenges of small and lesser funded programs
  • program length / downward pressure on 2-year degrees
  • establishment a global footprint
  • new concentrations

TRACK 3 - Research, Assessment and Accreditation: Measuring Program Impact in Disrupted State(s)

How do we assess AND communicate program impact?
How have programs assessed their impact to make a difference? How do programs connect research and practice? What new research questions, methodologies, and technologies are being employed to study and plan for disrupted state(s)? Given the challenge of declining trust in government, how do we communicate the value of our programs? How have disrupted forces affected NASPAA accreditation, and how can accreditation serve as a positive disruption to advance public service education?

We seek presentations and panels that address the following areas in assessing and communicating program impact:

  • data creation and management/analytics
  • rethinking research methods
  • relationships of research and policymakers
  • research informed curriculum and program designs
  • cultural competency as an assessment framework
  • data quality and government authority
  • social media platforms for data collection and research analysis dissemination
  • potential of accreditation

TRACK 4 - Global Context of Public Service in Disrupted State(s)

How are we addressing the environmental context of public service?
How are programs preparing students for the growing role of private and nonprofit organizations in public service? How are programs responding to global crisis, e.g. climate uncertainty, population growth, wars, famine, etc.? Why is comparative analysis more important now more than ever? How exportable is/should the U.S. model of public administration be? How are we leading the way on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly SDG 16? How are technological changes, market forces, and natural disasters, all which cross national borders, disrupting public service? What is the state of international governance?

We seek presentations and panels that examine how we prepare students for success in the current global context of public service, including:

  • consequences of globalization
  • public service privatization
  • emergency management and crisis response
  • SDG16
  • management of interest groups and advocacy roles
  • role of politics
  • uncertainty public service loan forgiveness (PSLF)
  • international comparative
  • exchange / study abroad programs
  • public service bashing

Submitting Your Proposal

Option 1 – Fully Formed Panel
Panel sessions will occur during the main conference on Thursday, Oct. 11 and Friday, Oct. 12. A fully-formed panel consists of a convener, 3-4 confirmed speakers, and a well-developed topic of discussion. When submitting a panel for consideration, you should explore the implications of the track themes and what they mean for public service education. Panel proposals are welcome in any format, including, but not limited to, conventional presentations, roundtable discussions, a presentation with respondents, and panel discussions. Conference sessions will be one hour in duration and should ideally have no more than four presenters to allow for the audience to engage in a thoughtful and meaningful discussion of the topic.

Panel proposals require clear and concise titles, succinct and persuasive descriptions, ideally links to at least one conference track and/or the overall conference theme, and well-thought-out learning objectives.

Before proposing a panel, you are encouraged to contact peers at other institutions and examine carefully how these ideas are being developed in the classroom, in program administration, in community relations and in research. Reaching out to relevant NASPAA committees and/or sections for input and formal endorsement is also encouraged.

While the basis for your panel proposal may be a published paper, your proposal should examine the implications of your research and include discussion of opposing viewpoints. Conference panel proposals should not be manuscript abstracts. Proposals should present an idea and describe how all sides of the idea will be discussed. Proposals that present variety across types, sizes, foci, or geographic location of programs will receive preference. Proposals should include presenters from at least 2 different institution.

Proposals may be submitted without a full slate of presenters, and if possible, it will be combined with similar panels, to create a full panel, or they may not be accepted. In order to accept as many presenters as possible, the conference planning committee may ask you to be flexible in your presenters, or they may suggest substitute presenters.

If you would like NASPAA to send out a survey to gather information from NASPAA members for your panel, please indicate that in your proposal. A limited number of surveys will be sent to NASPAA members and requests for surveys will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Option 2: Pre-Conference Workshop
Pre-conference workshops, which are held on Wednesday, Oct. 10 (concurrent with the Accreditation Institute), are intended for a longer (2-4 hour) and more fully interactive exploration of the conference theme or one of the tracks. These are not intended to be long panels, but rather workshops in which participants learn and practice new skills. They may be facilitated by one or more persons. A proposal for a pre-conference workshop should indicate the intended learning objectives and targeted workshop participants. Please note: only one or two workshops will be accepted as schedule permits.

Panel Logistics (not applicable to the pre-conference workshops):

  • Panels are one hour in length; the full length of presentations should take no more than 45 minutes, with at least 15 minutes reserved for a question and answer period.
  • Each panel should consist of a convener, up to four presenters, and up to one respondent (optional).
  • The panel convener will manage the panel development process, and then at conference session, the convener will open the panel by framing the discussion and moderate the Q&A period.
  • If the convener would like to make a presentation, he/she should only invite three additional presenters.
  • Each presenter will have no more than 10 minutes to share ideas and commentary. It is essential for the panel convener to manage presentations to ensure ample time for discussion at the end of the presentations.
  • If a respondent is added to the panel, he/she will not make a presentation but will instead offer summary comments on the panelists’ presentations. The respondent’s comments should be within the 45 minutes to allow at least 15 minutes for questions from the audience.
  • All presentation rooms will be set up theater style with PowerPoint presentation technology. A limited number of rooms will be available with audio capability; please indicate in your proposal if you will need audio technology.
  • Panelists should consider alternatives to the usual presentation/response format, including moderated roundtables and other forms of presentation that encourage lively discussion and debate.

Presenter Limits:
To maximize the overall number of presenters, the Conference Planning Committee will continue the NASPAA practice of following the Rule of Two: limiting presenter participation to two sessions during the main conference. This includes roles as convener, presenter, and/or respondent, but each session only counts once. This rule does not apply to the following types of sessions: meetings, plenaries, workshops, and the Accreditation Institute.

Proposal Selection:
NASPAA typically receives nearly 200 excellent proposal submissions for each Annual Conference, so please understand that selecting panels is a difficult and highly selective process. As such, quality rather than quantity is always best when submitting proposals. We much prefer to receive your best ideas rather than every idea you might have. Preference will be given to panels that address the theme of Making a Difference: Good Governance in Disrupted State(s) and which:

  • Address at least one of the conference tracks;
  • Include panel participants which represent the diversity of NASPAA institutions;
  • Will allow for discussion and analysis of current topics;
  • Have representation from at least two schools, and ideally, from two or more countries;
  • Involve practitioners, students, or other stakeholders;
  • Include a full slate of presenters;
  • Report on experiences with collaborative work across programs, stakeholders, and/or countries;
  • Are nonpartisan and examine multiple viewpoints of an issue;
  • Encompass an appropriate volume of information to present in one hour, which will facilitate a thoughtful and meaningful discussion;
  • Represent the interests of and/or have the explicit endorsement of a NASPAA committee or section; and
  • Reflect originality and relevance.

The conference selection committee will be reviewing all submissions during May 2018. NASPAA will notify the convener of the final status by the end of May/early June 2018.


Questions regarding your proposal, please contact Leigh Anne Elliott at



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