Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Study Focuses on Diversity in Public Administration

Understanding diversity and learning how to manage its complexity are perhaps among the most important challenges public administration schools are facing today in preparing future public leaders and practitioners to effectively manage a changing and diverse workforce, and to effectively serve an increasingly diverse citizenry. While a number of studies acknowledge the importance of incorporating diversity courses in Public Administration curricula, very few empirically examined the extent to which this effort has been realized.

A recent study by Dr. Meghna Sabharwal and two PhD students, Imane Hijal-Moghrabi and Marcene Royster was accepted for publication in Public Administration Quarterly. Their study builds on Hewins-Maroney and Williams’s (2007) observation that teaching diversity is not a missing component of public affairs education. However, unlike Hewins-Maroney and Williams' research that focuses mainly on observing course titles and catalog description of 50 National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) accredited schools, the present study employs content analysis to thoroughly examine the syllabi of core courses for the same 50 schools MPA programs in order to assess the extent to which Hewins-Maroney and Williams' findings still hold if the unit of analysis is changed.

The overall findings are disappointing and do not seem to confirm those of Hewins-Maroney and Williams, suggesting that diversity and its various dimensions appears to be a missing component of the MPA curriculum. Women faculty members are significantly more likely than their male colleagues to include topics that relate to gender and race in their syllabi, and  master’s level institutions are more likely to incorporate gender and race/ethnicity related topics in their curriculum when compared with research universities.

The implications of this study are enormous given that public administration programs across the nation act as a training ground for future workforce and serve as an engine of social growth and development. Failing to incorporate diversity-related issues in our curricula implies that schools of public administration are not doing a good job in achieving their mission. Thus, identifying and bridging gaps in the MPA curriculum are essential if our programs are to prepare future leaders and public servants to their new roles. Otherwise, we might be promoting a curriculum that no longer serves the needs of our changing societies and organizations.

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