New Member Spotlight - edward French
New student Spotlight - Mary Kristina Wharton
- NEW PICTURES from the 9th annual SPALR/ROPPA Symposium at the 2011 ASPA Conference.
- Click Here to see a video about the Presidential Management Fellows Program.
- Stephen Condrey and Rex Facer appointed by President Obama to the Federal Salary Council :: Read the Article
- ROPPA included in Web of Science :: Read the Article
Member Spotlight - Edward French
FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGER TO ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DR. P. EDWARD FRENCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN INVOLVED IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
By: Kelli Conrad
Dr. P. Edward (Eddie) French, associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University, brings a unique perspective to the classroom with his real-world experience.
Being in a classroom was not always French’s career goal, though. Before entering the world of academia, he was a local government manager and public administration specialist in Virginia. Some of his duties included managing the town’s day-to-day operations, working with council members, and preparing the budget.
Even though French did not always plan on teaching, he said he has always been interested in government. “I’m one of those different people I guess that as a kid, [I was] always fascinated with government,” French said. “I enjoyed government in high school. It was my favorite subject.”
He majored in political science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1986. Following that, he went on to East Tennessee State University to study city management, where he received his first master’s degree (later, he went on to receive his second master’s in education from the University of Virginia). Once he decided to get his doctoral degree, he knew he wanted it to be in public administration. He did not immediately seek to obtain his Ph.D., though.
French’s first teaching experience came about as a favor to a friend from ETSU who had just received a grant. At the time, French was working as a local government manager when he received the invitation to come teach a class.
“[My friend] called me one day and said, ‘I have good news and bad – the good is we received a grant, but the bad news is, with this, we have to teach a class in municipal risk management. You’re the only person I know that can do this.”
Being a local government manager, French had no experience teaching, but he gave in after his friend was unable to find another suitable person to fill the role. Not long after he began teaching the municipal risk management class, he started to really enjoy teaching, and his wife and family encouraged him to go for his Ph.D.
The decision to obtain his doctoral degree is what took French to Mississippi State, where he received his doctorate in public policy and administration in 2001. During that time, he met Dr. Marty Wiseman, who became one of his mentors, and still is today. His first job in academics was as a visiting professor at Appalachian State University. From there, he went to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as a lecturer, and then to the University of Memphis as an assistant professor, which he said he really enjoyed. “It was not an easy decision to leave Memphis. I really liked the people and students there.”
In 2007, Mississippi State had an open position and asked if French would be interested in coming back home. Since his arrival at MSU, French has continued to study local government and serves as a Stennis Scholar for Local Government with the Stennis Institute of Government. In addition, French has been the recipient of the 2012 MSU President's Faculty Diversity Award, the 2011 Clinton Wallace Dean's Eminent Scholar Award, the 2010 Arts and Sciences Researcher of the Year for Social and Behavioral Sciences Award, and was voted by MSU students as the Outstanding Political Science/Public Administration Graduate Professor in 2009 and again in 2011.
“I’m honored to come home to the place that I received my Ph.D., and now as Graduate Coordinator running the Master’s and Ph.D. programs in the classes that I once sat in 10 or 11 years ago - that makes it special,” French said.
French has been busy with research projects since receiving his doctoral degree and has been published nearly 50 times, including in the top journals in his field. Today, he serves as Associate Editor for Practitioner Outreach for Review of Public Personnel Administration and is on the editorial board of State and Local Government Review. Most of his early work dealt with state lotteries, which he said is where he got his start years ago. Through this research, he and his best friend Rodney Stanley examined how well the lotteries worked to fund education for local and state governments and if they truly benefitted students. Once he had completed extensive work on the lottery system as it relates to education, French said he moved on to other subjects in local government and human resource management. Since then he has worked with many different aspects of local government, where most of French’s research is focused, he said.
His later works included studies on forms of local government, at-will employment, 11th amendment immunity, and pandemic influenza planning for local governments, which he said he has really enjoyed.
French is currently in the process of working on two different projects; one of which is looking at workforce planning determinants in local government. The other, which is only in its beginning stages, deals with gender and ethnicity to see if women and minorities are breaking through the glass ceiling more in local government than in the past. This is a new direction for his research, French said.
His family encouraged him to go back to school when Dr. Lon Felker, the man responsible for getting French to teach his first class, asked him for help. Had he never taken Felker up on that offer, Mississippi State would not currently have their graduate coordinator.
Student Spotlight - Mary Kristina Wharton
STUDENT PREPARES FOR A FUTURE CAREER IN HOMETOWN GOVERNMENT
By: Kelli Conrad
Mary Kristina Wharton has known she wanted to work in local government since she was in elementary school.
“Ever since we did the tour of City Hall in fifth grade, I always was drawn to it,” Wharton said.
Not only has she always wanted to work in local government in general, Wharton, a native of Durham, N.C., moved back home after her undergraduate education was completed so she could work in her hometown’s local government. She graduated in 2009 from Smith College Northampton, Mass. with a Bachelor of Arts in economics. Following that, she went on to receive her Master’s of Public Administration in public policy at North Carolina State University in 2011. She also received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University in 2011.
Part of her master’s program at North Carolina State required her to complete an internship before receiving her degree. For this, she interned at the City of Durham’s Human Resources Department as a Planning & Systems intern. While working there, she dealt with employees and their benefits from various angles, such as healthcare benefits, wellness plans and initiatives for employees, all of which she enjoyed. She was able to work with them and help them figure out what they wanted, too. Wharton also drafted an employee newsletter while there, in addition to a handbook about childcare benefits.
“It’s a lot of dealing with people which I liked, and I got a chance to do a lot of policy writing and research other municipalities’ policies,” Wharton said.
Wharton was enrolled in classes at this time, also, and one in particular on budgeting, was very helpful to her. She said it was a great learning opportunity in which she was able to learn the theory in class and then go and apply it the next day at her internship. Budgeting gave her an opportunity to see the big picture of how city government worked while she was interning and using those skills. During her internship, Wharton actually worked on a new budget initiative for the Human Resources Department for the City of Durham. It allowed her to be heavily involved in the budgetary process which is a core element in any city government.
Wharton said she enjoyed getting to work with people more in human resources than she would have in dealing with economic development and budgeting. The work further confirmed that she wanted to pursue a career in local government.
Wharton is currently employed as the Administrative and Financial Coordinator at Green Tech Marketing, also in Durham, N.C. There she works with recruiting and budgeting for a small firm where she said she is able to get a lot of hands-on experience that she hopes will help give her the experience she needs for a career in local government. After she has enough experience under her belt, Wharton wants to return to working for the City of Durham with budgeting and finance.