Award given at July 1 PA Convocation, where 96 new MPAs received their Maxwell degrees

A new crop of Maxwell MPAs – 96 in all – celebrated the completion of their degrees at the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs’s annual convocation, held Friday, July 1, in Hendricks Chapel.  Among them were MPAs who met graduation requirements earlier this summer, and joint MPA/IR graduates who finished their degree at the end of the spring 2016 semester.

At the event, the department announced that Robert Murrett, a professor of practice in public administration and international affairs and deputy director of Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, is the 2016 recipient of the Birkhead-Burkhead Teaching Excellence Award and Professorship. The award is named to honor two former Maxwell professors who taught in PAIA. Guthrie Birkhead was a member of the PAIA and political science faculties (1950-2013), former director of Metropolitan Studies, and dean of the Maxwell School from 1977 until 1988.  Jesse Burkhead —  an expert on public budgeting whose book Government Budgeting was widely acclaimed — served on the Maxwell economics faculty from 1949 until his death in 1996.

The award is an “affirmation, and recognition of the day-in-day-out traction between the faculty on this stage, the students at Maxwell, and the high standards set by Guthrie Birkhead and Jesse Burkhead,” said Murrett, who was selected for the award by a committee made up of former recipients, based on student nominations. “But most of all, it’s about you, the MPA students, your commitment to public service, the skills you have honed here at Maxwell, and the challenges that we know you will meet effectively in the future.” Before joining Maxwell in 2011, Murrett was a career intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, retiring (after 34 years of duty) as a vice admiral. He is a staff member at the RAND Corporation and the Institute for Defense Analyses.


Also awarded at the PA Convocation was the Maxwell Public Administration Alumni Award, which honors an MPA alumnus who exemplifies the ideals of public service, espoused by the School and department and articulated in the Athenian Oath. It was given this year to Rain Henderson ’01 MPA, chief executive officer of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative at the Clinton Foundation, where she is responsible for driving CHMI’s strategic vision and fostering partnerships across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to improve the health and well-being of people across the United States. She was previously senior vice president of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a non-profit organization founded by the American Heart Association and Clinton Foundation.

Lisa Gordon ’90 MPA gave the Convocation Address. She is CEO and president of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, and former vice president and COO for the urban redevelopment organization Atlanta Beltline Inc. “Embrace your talents, embrace excellence, and embrace your purpose for making a difference in public service,” she advised the graduates. “When developing public policy, remember the humanity of the people you serve,” she also said, and added, “Be an ambassador for the Office of Reasonable Exception when policy or practices are not working.” 

The Faculty Address was given by Sarah Hamersma, associate professor and last year’s recipient of the Birkhead-Burkhead Award. She encouraged the graduates to find a practical, effective balance between their ideals and their capabilities. “Let’s not assume we can perfectly solve wicked problems,” said Hammersma. “Let’s instead come to our work ready to contribute to solving challenging problems, with a collaborative spirit, and without arrogance. While you don’t have all the answers, you do have skills and ideas that can contribute to a flourishing world, many of which have been cultivated here!” 

Two members of the graduating class spoke at the PA Convocation. Tomi Dapshi, from Pittsford, New York, gave the Student Welcome. And Maxwell Ruppersburg, from Athens, Georgia, gave the Brady K. Howell Student Address, which honors a Maxwell MPA graduate who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Pentagon. 07/11/16