Meet the 2013 Policy Council: Laura Peck and Jodi Sandfort
July 24, 2013 09:00 AM
Each December, the membership votes for a new cohort to serve a staggered four-year term of office in the Association’s Policy Council. Previously, the membership elected seven new members while APPAM’s Committee of Institutional Representatives elected three additional persons. As of this year, members will vote for three individuals to serve on the cohort, two academic members and one practitioner. The Committee of Institutional Representatives will vote for one institutional representative for the Policy Council at their meeting in November and one student member will be appointed to the Council.
Last year, the membership voted for Jodi Sandfort and Laura Peck as part of the new Policy Council cohort. Serving until 2016, both women join Colleen Barry, David Johnson, Robert Kaestner, Mark Long, and Lucie Schmidt as the newly-elected Council members.
Jodi Sandfort is Chair of the Leadership & Management Area and an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her research, teaching, and practice focus on improving the implementation of social policy, particularly those policies designed to support low-income children and their families. As a result, she works with and studies the leaders, organizations, and networks of public, private, and philanthropic organizations that develop and deliver social programs.
Sandfort is the author of numerous academic articles, book chapters, and reports for policymakers and practitioners about nonprofit management, social welfare system design, organizational effectiveness, early childhood education, welfare reform, and research methodology. She has also worked as a case manager for the AIDS Care Connection in Detroit, as a program assistant at the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., and as an assistant professor of public administration at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. She worked as a consultant with national and state-wide foundations, think-tanks, and other nonprofit human service organizations. She has provided leadership coaching, executive development, and organizational development services to nonprofit, philanthropic, and public organizations. Sandfort received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Laura R. Peck is a Principal Scientist at Abt Associates and is the second practitioner serving in this Policy Council cohort. Peck is a leading research authority on social welfare and employment policies and programs. Previously, she was an Associate Professor at Arizona State University (ASU) School of Public Affairs. She was also the Founding Associate Dean of Barrett, the Honors College at ASU's Phoenix campus.
Peck has co-authored a public policy text book and numerous articles in respected journals, including the Evaluation Review, the American Journal of Evaluation, the Policy Studies Journal, and JPAM. She is the recipient of a number of honors for excellence in teaching including the Centennial Professor Award from ASU. Peck received her Ph.D., M.A., and M.P.A. from New York University.
Both Council members took a moment from their busy schedules to answer a few questions for the Association’s membership:
What do you see as APPAM’s biggest strength?
Sandfort: The Association brings together policy educators and policy analysts & managers in one organization, enabling us to learn with and from each other. That two-way communication strengthens the field and our relevance to policy makers.
Peck: APPAM brings together researchers—from both the academic and applied research worlds—with government and nonprofit practitioners to focus on important public policy and management questions. I am always struck by the very high quality of the discussions that take place at the APPAM Fall Research Conference: they are evidence-based and action-focused. APPAM is a haven of civil discourse on contentious issues and should serve as a role model forum for policy debates.
How can that strength be leveraged in the coming year?
Sandfort: I hope the annual conference can be shaped to enable real dialogue around advances in policy education and research. I also support our new symposium on timely issues.
Peck: Two opportunities are obvious: the Fall Conference can be a forum for that continued engagement; the APPAM-institutional representative forums can become a new venue for those high caliber conversations.
What priorities do you have for the Policy Council in your coming term?
Sandfort: I am enjoying getting to know members and deepening my commitment to the association. I want to capitalize on the regular national gatherings and deepen the feeling of community among people doing rigorous and relevant policy and management research.
Peck: As a member of the Committee on Policy Relevance, my priority is to be thoughtful about how we, as an association, can provide the support to our membership and take advantage of their diverse expertise to be more influential in policy decision-making circles. Thankfully, we have a strong foundation to work from.
In your opinion, what are the two biggest issues facing the association today?
Sandfort: Managing growth and deepening members' engagement with the Association.
Peck: Our financials are solid, our membership is committed and enthusiastic, our journal is top-notch, our conferences are high quality. Perhaps, then, one challenge we face is how to continue this excellence. Further, it seems we often struggle with issues of balance: across substantive and methodological areas, between research and practitioner issues, with representation of diverse voices within our community.
Do you have a plan/ideas on how to tackle those issues?
Sandfort: I’ve only attended a couple meetings so far, so I’m in the process of developing a plan.
Peck: As far as improvements at the 95th percentile, people who understand regression artifacts will know what a challenge this is. If I knew how to successfully deal regression artifacts in nonexperimental evaluations, then perhaps I could devise a plan for how APPAM might advance from our already-high standing. As far as balance issues, I think the best approach is to acknowledge the struggle, discuss it openly and often, ensuring that we have our many diverse voices contributing along the way.
What excites you about the coming year?
Sandfort: I'm impressed with the new shape and ambition of the Fall Conference and look forward to gathering with everyone in November.
Peck: I am excited about the Fall Conference. That is an understatement—I am jumping-out-of-my-skin excited about the Fall Conference! From my position as Co-Chair of the Methods and Empirical Design area, we have some truly exceptional panels that have the potential to push the field in new and favorable directions. We are not simply reporting on the latest findings from this evaluation or that but really pushing the methodological envelope. The implications are better and more policy-relevant research in the years to come.
How do you think members can best leverage their APPAM membership?
Peck: Submit proposals to every Fall Conference, attend and engage in every Fall Conference, be sure your organization has an Institutional Membership, read and love JPAM, let your interests be heard!