On the first day of Public Administration and Democracy, Professor Tina Nabatchi asked us students, “What is Public Administration?” The only thing you heard in the room was the humming of the AC as no one had a quick and definite answer to her question. As I approach the end of the semester, let us take the time to reflect on what I have learned about Public Administration and what this degree consists of!
Friday afternoon alumni, administrators, and students packed to Maxwell auditorium to listen to Donna Shalala, the president of the Clinton Foundation, longest-serving United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, and former chancellor/president of three universities, speak on “Ethical Leadership in Higher Education”.
It was inspiring to have a woman who has achieved so much across sectors come and speak to us. Governance and higher education has long been a ‘boys-only club’ but leaders like Shalala are paving the way, and by doing so bringing their fields to new summits of success.
Shalala was introduced as ‘a force of nature’, and as she spoke it quickly became evident why. She spoke candidly and confidently. She did not shy away from discussing the ‘hard topics’ like gender and diversity. Her knowledge and analysis of governance, leadership, and higher education was evident in her answers. Here are some points from her talk:
- A Liberal Arts degree is still the most valuable pre-graduate degree.
- Diversity means ‘doing things differently’, not just the diversity of student and staff populations. Support systems should reflect cultures and curriculum should not be ethnocentric.
- DIVERSITY IMPROVES EXCELLENCE.
- The first responsibility of a University is to be a world-class institution.
- Life is an adventure. Complex and difficult jobs are where we can make a difference.
I left feeling inspired for my own future and thankful for the opportunity to listen to such an amazing speaker here at Maxwell. The true value of the Maxwell degree is the sum of the classroom experiences, opportunities outside the classroom, interaction with peers and professors, and belonging to a network of alumni with the likes of Donna Shalala.
This Saturday when I got out of my negotiation course I met up with my fellow International Relations students, Gretchen and Phuong. We drove to a small venue to volunteer with My Lucky Tummy, a pop of food-court with food prepared by local community members who came to Syracuse as refugees. My Lucky Tummy is a popup food court that hires five amateur chefs to each cook a beloved dish from ‘home’. The public is then invited on a “walking tasting of the world”.
It was a great opportunity for local chefs to get their food out there and for folks to come and try authentic dishes from around the world. That night alone I had curries from Laos and India, Salad from Iraq, a fried delicacy from Burma, and dessert from Pakistan. It was an incredible, delicious, and one-of-a-kind event.
I did more than just eat while volunteering- don’t worry! The kitchen was a joyful, high-pace, chaos that made me feel more at home than any other experience I’ve had at Syracuse. I chopped pistachios, poured tea, and cleaned dishes. I got to get to know the chefs and other volunteers while we worked together. My Lucky Tummy’s Website says, “Food takes tradition & love”. There was a lot of love in that kitchen. We didn’t know each other, but we were laughing and having a wonderful time. Food brings people together, bridges borders, and builds beloved community.
I was tired from the week’s classes when I arrived at the event, but I am so grateful I got the opportunity to attend. I really felt belonged by my local community, and I was revived and energized when I left. I believe that engaging with the local community while at Maxwell is important to “making deep connections between the conceptual and the pragmatic, while promoting dedication to citizenship, community, and the rigors of public discourse”.
I want to thank Eric Horvath, President of SUPRA, from organizing this event. It is great to work alongside peers who are committed to citizenship and community beyond the classroom.
A little bird told me that My Lucky Tummy one day plans to be a restaurant. I hope to see that happen while I am still here at Maxwell!
*Photos by Laurence Ford Photography