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Inclusion is Hard and We Must Do Better | APPAM Leadership Blog Series

January 17, 2018 06:57 AM

Introducing a brand new series from APPAM Leadership! Each month you will hear from our Executive Director, President or President-Elect, providing APPAM membership a behind-the-scenes look at how APPAM operates and how you can be more involved. Our authors will introduce new initiatives, discuss current policy topics and share resources they value. 

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Tara Sheehanby Tara Sheehan, APPAM Executive Director

2018??!? I don’t have a clue how we got here already but alas, we’re here! It’s natural to think about goals and how to achieve those goals as the calendar turns over to a new year and it’s no different at APPAM. We don’t change our goals each year (we have a 5 year strategic plan that runs through 2020, you can review it here) but the means by which we achieve these broad goals are updated through the APPAM committees each year. 

Increasingly, activities that focus on inclusion are becoming more and more important. Of our three broad strategic goals, one of them is focused entirely on diversity—so it’s not as though it was an afterthought—but as I’m sure you’ve experienced at your university or research organization: getting to the how is hard. We all know about the why. Having a membership/staff/faculty/student body/leadership that reflects everybody in the larger group and represents all perspectives in decision making is vital. We learn from one another. There’s no question that we need and want to engage in as many diversity activities as possible.

The how is the hard part. How do you do it? It’s like asking someone to list out the steps to being successful, or being a good person, etc. There are thousands of ways to do it and none are more valid than the other. I have been part of so many meetings with brilliant people who have all pondered how to achieve our diversity goals at APPAM and have had so many great discussions—yet I’ve left most of these meetings with no tangible steps and no clear thoughts on exactly what we should be focusing on to be more inclusive.

We started an Equity and Inclusion Fellowship in 2016 for diverse graduate students to attend the APPAM Fall Research Conference; 25 students (35 in 2017) had their expenses covered to attend the conference.  We created a Public Policy Camp in 2017 to introduce the field of public policy to diverse undergraduates and increase the pipeline of diverse undergraduates into APPAM institutional member schools.  These are two great programs and I’m very proud of them. Both will be continued in 2018; the Equity and Inclusion Fellowship will be increased to accommodate 40 students this year. And we’re working on a special “40 for 40” fellowship program for the 40th anniversary of the Fall Research Conference that will help new professionals with funding to attend the conference (more on that soon). But what next? Encourage diversity within the membership? Help our institutional members achieve diversity in their student bodies? In their faculty? And if so, how?

The 2018 Policy Council Election just concluded.  The membership elected a great cohort of new Policy Council members and leaders. We asked for feedback on the process of voting and there were comments from members that indicate we need to do better in this area.  And we do—it’s no secret that our leadership lacks diversity. But how? Again, the how.

Like most things worth doing, it takes time. And energy. And resources. And a plan. It won’t happen overnight, that’s for certain. We all need to do it. And by all, I'm asking you too. You, reading this blog. Nominate people to the leadership of APPAM. Nominate people to the Policy Council. We need to reach out to as many people as possible and ask them to consider their networks and nominate leaders that reflect our membership. Let's allow the Board to represent everybody.

If I know one thing about you, APPAM member, you are a planner. Plan to reach out to me, anytime, with a nomination. An idea of someone who should be more involved in our activities. A name of someone I should reach out to—not just right before the election but throughout the year. We have many opportunities for member involvement. We can do this.   

Happy New Year, friends. May 2018 be the best year yet for you and for APPAM! 


Tara Sheehan, APPAM Executive Director

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