Bright and early we awoke for our first day going to the American Society for Public Administration Conference. The conference is being held in the Hyatt Regency, but we wanted to explore the Colorado Convention Center which was filled with various pieces of art from a Laughing Escalator” by Jim Green, “The Blue Trees” by Konstantin Dimopoulos, and a large, extremely blue and slightly nosy bear.
How to Change the World by Christina Perez
Our first panel of the conference was “Lessons Learned for How to Change the World.” The moderator, Jefferson Howell, Jr., and one of the three speakers, Bobby Inman and are from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Administration at The University of Texas at Austin. William McRaven is the Chancellor of the University of Texas System. The third speaker was Mark Welsh III from the Bush School of Government and Public Service and Administration in College Station, Texas. The most interesting part of the introduction was that they each had some ties to Texas.
Every speaker enlightened the audience on how to become better leaders and how their careers, from the armed forces to their current jobs had molded them into the leader they were. Chancellor McRaven talked about the fact that leadership is a gift given by those that you lead, which also holds you responsible for being honest and staying credible to those that follow you. Mr. Welsh added to that by stating that, “emotions never solve the problem, so it’s important to use logic.” Mr. Inman explained that everyone is different and that is why we should learn their story and figure out what motivates, angers, and interests them. The panel was perfect for the LEAP Ambassadors who have taken on leadership roles this past year and could take into consideration the advice of successful individuals who have proven that leadership is a great skill to have.
After the panel session was over, three people were honored with The National Public Service Awards for their hard work in the community. The people honored were Chancellor William McRaven; Susan Raufer, Director of Newark Asylum Office; and Dean Mark Welsh.
For the next time slot, the LEAP Ambassadors split up into two teams to attend the sessions, Bad Data and Social Media and Non-Profits.
Bad Data by Karla Rosales
The second session of the day was the Presidential Panel: Bad Data. It was presented by Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene who happen to be married to each other. They are both former journalists that decided to quit their jobs and work as a team. Richard previously worked as an editor for Forbes Magazine while Katherine worked for Ladies’ Home Journal as an editor too. Together they formed Barrett and Greene, Inc. and they focus on researching and analyzing state and local governments.
During the panel, we learned about the importance of data. It’s important to have good and accurate data to make unbiased decisions. Government agencies and politicians are referencing data more and more each day and it is important to have accurate data to properly solve important policy issues. They have both worked with state auditors across the country and have learned about the major causes of data problems.
- 17% problems related to technology
- 14% management issues and lack of accountability
- 12% poor and lack of planning
- 11% lack of training
- 10% data entry issues
- 9% lack of controls
- 7% sharing or collaboration problems
The panelists explained the three issues that they are currently studying; foster care, school absenteeism, and substance abuse. They are focusing on analyzing data to find the real factors affecting these certain government programs. For example, in the state of Kansas there is no data being recorded for families and therefore there is no good policy for placing children in the best home. When focusing on the school absenteeism issue, they found that there were serious policy changes made when there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of school absences. It was later discovered that there was a discrepancy in the data where the number of school suspensions were under reported in previous years, and students were being marked present and absent on the same day at the same school. It is important to collect and report accurate data to avoid unnecessary policy changes that might hurt the system in the attempt of fixing an issue that is not actually there. The third issue, substance abuse, related to death certificates. Even though a person’s heart failed because of a strong overdose, their death certificates are still being labeled as heart failure as cause of death. Therefore, research money is going to heart research instead of a drug problem. Data discrepancies like such don’t help in terms of public spending and misdirects attention to the wrong area. Christina, Bianca, and I greatly enjoyed this panel as it greatly provides a new perspective on the data research.
Social Media and Non-Profits by Victoria McClendon Leggett
Meanwhile, in the Social Media and Nonprofits panel there were six different panelists who presented their research. The topics ranged from “Sentiments Toward the EPA with Evidence from Twitter” to “Web-Based Accountability Measures of Texas Megachurches.”
Most of the presentations centered around how using social media can either help or hinder nonprofits in securing their funding goals, and the main point of the panel was to demonstrate to the audience that social media has become incredibly important for fundraising across all types of nonprofit organizations, both community-based and nationwide. A few of the panelists acknowledged that making donations through social media platforms will likely only become easier and easier as technology advances, and that social media will become an even more powerful instrument than it is today. For Beatriz and me, this was interesting information to have because LEAP is currently planning a Charity Football Game fundraiser and being able to get an insight of how social media affects non-profits as well as their effectiveness in fundraising pointed us in the right direction. On that last note, the everyone met to go grab a quick bite to eat at the MAD Green Restaurant and heading home after exploring a little bit of downtown.
Lowry Beer Garden by Bianca Saldierna
Later in the evening, we opted for a local restaurant in the Denver area called Lowry Beer Garden for our Saturday night dinner. The restaurant comprises more than 4,500 square feet of outdoor garden area, although sadly, the 33 degrees Fahrenheit weather did not permit us to sit outside. However, the unique indoor/outdoor setup had rows of wooden picnic tables and lots of Christmas lights which gave our cold night the right warmth and ambiance. From the great selection of food, we opted for some burgers, cobb salad, and even some fried calamari. We were glad to end our Saturday night with delicious food and in friendly atmosphere! Bellies full and very content, we reminisced of the great day we had and could not wait for tomorrow’s second day of interesting panel sessions.