David Calkins, MPA candidate at Virginia Tech (Capital Campus, Richmond), adds both published author and panelist to his accomplishments with his recent paper presentation on September 20 at the 2014 Southeastern Conference for Public Administration (SECoPA) conference in Atlanta. Calkins presented his paper, entitled “Systems Dynamics of the U.S. Forest Service: The Complex Problem of Mission Imbalance and a Plan to Increase Public Value,” as a panelist in the SECoPA session on “Public Organizational Behavior.”

Calkins’ paper details the U.S. Forest Service’s attempt to strike a balance between timber harvesting and ecosystem management, and how that attempt has caused an overall decline in the agency’s public value. The paper proposes how the Forest Service, or agencies in a similar predicament, can use systems dynamics and strategic planning to increase their public value.

In addition to his graduate studies with the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Calkins serves as Deputy Chief, Plans Section at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and is an Army veteran. The SECoPA paper began as an assignment in a spring 2014 MPA course taught by Dr. Jonah Fogel – PAPA 5316: Systems Skills for Managers. When apprised of David’s paper acceptance, Fogel stated, “as is typical of our MPA students, David balances a demanding career with his schooling. Throughout the course he worked to bring course material into his job, in meaningful ways. It is rewarding to see our students work so hard to make a positive impact on our communities.”

The SECoPA conference consisted of three days of breakout sessions on topics that included, among others: intergovernmental relations; local government planning; emergency management; climate change; integration of the private sector; economics; human resource management; social issues; and international perspectives on public administration. Keynote speakers included Mark P. Becker, President of Georgia State University, who spoke about how GSU is working to both expand its presence in downtown Atlanta and help increase minority graduation rates; and Dr. Priscilla Oliver, 2014 recipient of the Walter F. Snyder Environmental Health Award, who spoke of how her passion for science, learning, and service helped her become the leader she is today.

According to Calkins, “this was my first strictly academic conference. And, as a practitioner of public administration, I learned a lot from my colleagues in academia about current research in our field. I learned about a variety of research methods, and saw areas where more research will be needed in the future.”

Contributed by: Leisha LaRiviere, MPA, Center for Public Administration & Policy