Uniquely Qualified

Minnowbrook is a very important example of the many ways public administration looks to Maxwell when exploring its path forward.

This summer it was my honor to welcome a roomful of top public administration scholars and practitioners to the 50th anniversary edition of an event that, to most of them, already occupied a hallowed spot in PA lore: the Minnowbrook Conference. There are few PA devotees anywhere who are unaware of the legacy, launched in 1968 when Maxwell’s Dwight Waldo challenged young scholars to consider a deeper, broader role for themselves in the arena of public affairs.

Maxwell long ago emerged as a leader in public administration.

I posed as central questions of the weekend, “Is public administration relevant? And how do we strengthen its impact?” I listed pressing, sometimes troubling challenges we face in public affairs. Our strength in addressing those challenges, I said, is our field’s interdisciplinarity, and reminded the group that integrating broader perspectives cannot be an “import-only exercise.” “What is our intellectual and professional export?” I asked. What will our impact be on our discipline, and on the world at large? That’s Minnowbrook.

Dwight Waldo came to Maxwell because Maxwell was the rare, perhaps unique, place where something like Minnowbrook could happen. Because of its integration of social science departments, policy research, and professional programs in public administration and international affairs, Maxwell approaches big, public questions with a broad outlook. “Theory, policy, and practice,” as we always say.

Owing to that quality, Maxwell long ago emerged as a leader in public administration. Minnowbrook is one towering example: Who else would you trust to guide virtually unlimited exploration of a discipline’s future? But it’s far from the only example.

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Dean Van Slyke, welcoming participants to the Minnowbrook at 50 conference

Maxwell is prominent in the discipline’s associations and conferences, and is tapped to implement key initiatives. On the next page, read how Maxwell was selected by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management to run a day-long exploration of public policy careers for students of color, with the intention of boosting diversity in the field. With the American Society for Public Administration, Maxwell recently co-hosted a major international conference in China. We are one of only three schools participating with the National Academy of Public Administration on the Grand Challenges initiative, addressing government challenges through the 2020s. And we are one of only five schools participating in a new consortium, committed to boosting racial, cultural, and gender diversity among post-docs joining PA faculties.

Naturally, this is gratifying. Disciplinary and interdisciplinary leadership is something that I, as dean, love to brag about. But I mention it also to remind you of something that the alumni among you recognized as students, and that the world recognizes as well: This is a special kind of school of public affairs. And your continued support and investment in the Maxwell School is critical to our providing this type of world class scholarship, teaching, and leadership.

David M. Van Slyke
Dean, Maxwell School
Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government Policy

This article appeared in the winter 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.