Over the years we found that we had many areas of shared interest covering a range of topics. We were both focused on public administration issues, public policy issues and – of course – federalism. We had similar backgrounds and interests. That led us to somewhat unusual places. I doubt that few if any APSA members besides the two of us who visited Azerbaijan (at different times) decided to visit an ancient community of Mountain Jews in Guba – a city in the Caucuses where the Jewish residents continued to use a language that was derived from Persian. (Their migration northward from Persia probably took place just after the destruction of the first temple.)
Both of us were hard to characterize and we didn’t fit into clear categories. We both wore several hats, moving between the world of practice and the academy. Over the years we wrote together, planned conferences, especially within the NAPA and other professional organizational frameworks. We didn’t always agree but both of us appreciated the other’s perspective. Paul’s review of one of my books, Federal Management Reform in a World of Contradictions, in PUBLIUS in 2013 is something that I really treasure. He picked up on my use of the myth of Sisyphus and agreed with my warning that continuing to pursue traditional management reform efforts was dangerous. He wrote that “Ill begotten reforms that are destined to bring about waves of disenchantment and disillusionment can only hurt the cause that the [reformers] believe in.”
I appreciated Paul’s ability to understand and operate effectively in both the world of the academic and that of the practitioner. I think that was always something that he sought. He continued to include this duality to the days before he died.
Paul never abandoned the sensitivities that he developed as a practitioner. He was able to bring those sensitivities to his writing, his teaching, and his role as a leader in the fields that are represented by this panel. He didn’t threaten the people who did not agree with him. He never lost the perspective that flowed from his years in a congressional agency – GAO. He was able to remind his colleagues of the reality of our shared powers governmental structure. He made sure that we considered the realities of federalism. Unlike many of his colleagues in our fields, he often focused on the congressional role and its powers, moving beyond the traditional executive branch perspective. For an organization like NAPA, that perspective was likely to be ignored and it was Paul who often raised those important issues. I will never forget Paul’s comments at a conference on performance measurement when he reminded the audience that a one size fits all approach that was coming out of OMB wasn’t the only approach that could be considered.
Its difficult to know what constitutes a good colleague. But I believe it extends beyond publications and teaching syllabi. I think its important to look beyond Paul’s own research work to include the contributions he made as a citizen and professional. Paul’s perspective went beyond traditional measures of collegiality that are normally found inside academia. As the editor of the Georgetown University Press book series on Public Management and Change I could always rely on his assessments and suggestions for authors in his reviews. In fact, I cannot think of any time that he turned down my requests; the books in our series reflect his input. Sometimes it took a little nudging to get his review but it was worth it.
I’d like to conclude my presentation today by discussing the concern that Paul and I shared about pracademics -- the term used to describe the synergy between the worlds of the academy and that of practitioners. Paul wrote an article in Public Budgeting and Finance in the Spring of 2009, laying out a call for the development of what he called a “healthy relationship that is vital to the success of both practitioners and academics.” He wrote the piece as a part of a tribute to the life of Dick Zody, another Virginian but from Blacksburg who was described by Paul. This piece – while a tribute to Zody – tells us what he believed was important. It's incredibly relevant to our current attempt to assess Paul’s contributions.
“One of Dick Zody's greatest strengths was his anchoring in both academic and public service worlds. The fact that Dick was able to stretch over many different communities is no surprise, of course, to those of us who knew him. Boundless energy, infectious enthusiasm, passion for both people and ideas—this characterized someone whose life and career would not be contained or bound by one path, institution or discipline. Many aspire to careers like this, but few actually accomplish it. Multi-tasking is the watchword for many today, but let us remember what Dick exemplified—not just doing many things, but doing them well. Dick's career exemplifies the integration of academic teaching and research with the communities of practice that public administration has aspired to achieve since its founding as a field. As Dick Zody's path reminds us, there is no substitute for creative, proactive leadership to start a renewed dialogue that will lead to productive institutional change.” This piece is a model for us today.
When I had the opportunity to address some of these issues in the Gaus lecture that I gave 5 years later, I echoed some of the same issues that had been important to Paul. But my sense was that the years that had elapsed contributed to forces that made it even more difficult to find ways to continue to encourage faculty to find ways to blend the two roles of academic and practitioner.
Despite the fact that the history of our fields allowed people – indeed encouraged them – to wear both hats, it was clear that there were more obstacles to these opportunities than had existed in the past.
I noted that limited opportunities now exist for faculty members in public management, public policy, and related fields to move between the academy and the world of practitioners. As a result, I created the Pracademic Fellowship Program administered by the APSA Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs, that seeks to create opportunities for a generation of mid career faculty members to recreate the historical experience of joining theory and practice.
The fellowship provides APSA member academics with practical, hands-on experience built around the reality of the decision-making world. It seeks to give participants a close view of decisionmaking that may not emerge from a traditional research orientation. The recipients can take this experience back to their institutions and classrooms to help build bridges between the academic and practitioner worlds.
An informal advisory committee was created around the program and Paul became a very important member of the small group. A year ago a panel was organized at the Philadelphia APSA conference to provide a discussion of the program, focusing on the experience of two individuals who had spent a semester in different parts of EPA as part of a pilot effort. And Paul was a participant in that panel. In his comments he noted both the importance of programs like the pracademic fellowship but, at the same time, the difficulties that constrained their influence. His absence on the advisory committee will be obvious as the program hopes to expand this year.
As others on this panel have noted, Paul’s spirit and influence are very much alive. I will miss my friend.