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School of Government Hosts the World's Premier Public Management Conference

This past June, the UNC School of Government successfully hosted the 2019 Public Management Research Conference (PMRC). It is the leading public management and administration research conference and the keystone event of the Public Management Research Association (PMRA). PMRC brings together scholars from across the country and around the world to learn from each other and make professional connections.

Hosting PMRC is a significant opportunity for any institution to showcase their academic impact on this field of study. This year’s event showcased the School of Government to its professional peers from a faculty scholarship and research perspective and from a venue and campus perspective. Dean Mike Smith said, “It is a brilliant example of how our work depends on the talent and hard work of so many different people—faculty and an exceptionally talented and committed professional staff. In other words, we are successful because we operate as ‘One School.’”

The Path to Hosting

Becoming the host institution for PMRC 2019 was not easy. The School submitted its first proposal in 2014 to host the event in 2017. The case had to be made that the Knapp-Sanders Building could support more than 400 outside guests and that the UNC-Chapel Hill campus—and the Research Triangle in general—would be an attractive place for visitors to come from all over the world. A second proposal in 2017, led by faculty members Leisha DeHart-Davis, Whitney Afonso, Willow Jacobson, Rick Morse, and Bill Rivenbark, secured the 2019 sponsorship.

The Largest Event at the School

Although the School hosts numerous courses, programs, and events throughout North Carolina and beyond, PMRC was the largest multi-day program held at the School itself. About 450 conference participants, representing more than 140 institutions and 19 countries came to the School for four days of academic sessions, workshops, meals, and receptions. The Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, the UNC School of Law, and the Carolina Inn also provided space to accommodate the crowds.

An Academic Slam Dunk

The School of Government faculty prepared an extraordinary line-up of speakers and a rich platform for this multidisciplinary exchange. Many of them appeared on panels to present their own work and as gracious moderators and hosts throughout the four days. The receptions and entertainment—including a bluegrass band, an improv comedy performance, and of course, barbecue—also did not disappoint. During the conference, DeHart-Davis was elected vice president of PMRA; she will ultimately become president. This conference touched each staff division at the School and many people were involved in making it a success. Outgoing PMRA President and University of Kansas Professor Rosemary O’Leary said the conference was “superb, excellent, first class, intellectually-stimulating, and fun… It was a complete ‘slam dunk’ in every way. You have set the bar high for those who follow.”