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SPAA Receives Six National Awards In September

Friday, November 09, 2018

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Public Affairs & Administration was the winner of the Second Annual Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, in conjunction with the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) during their 2018 annual conference in Atlanta.

Shannon Portillo, assistant vice chancellor of undergraduate programs at KU Edwards Campus and a professor in the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration, presented KU’s innovative winning project, “Collaborating with Community Colleges in Pathways to Public Service,” in the pitch competition and went on to win the top prize.

“Our collaboration, the Johnson County Community College-KU Edwards Campus Public Service Community, centers the transfer student experience and brings together different sectors of higher education to reinforce and diversify the pipeline into public service,” Portillo said.“The JCCC-KUEC Public Service Community provides access to explore career pathways and engage with alumni, building not only an educational foundation but a strong network of mentors.”

The other three competition finalists were Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, and the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.

“This highly competitive competition featured four great presentations on innovative approaches to important public challenges,” said Jason Jolley, Voinovich School associate professor and MPA director. “The judges and the audience members were impressed with the quality of work and novel practices employed by each university.”

Competition entrants were scored based on seven factors, including the importance and difficulty of the issue addressed, the likely effectiveness of the solution and the innovation’s response to the unique needs of an underserved population.

“Professor Portillo has a passion for getting students interested in careers in public service,” said Rosemary O’Leary, director of the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration. “She is a tireless mentor and advocate for all students, especially first-generation college students. It’s no surprise to us her enthusiasm, commitment and energy behind finding new ways to engage students in public service was recognized and rewarded by the judges. We’re delighted and congratulate her on an innovative idea and fantastic presentation.”  

The pitch competition was created to honor the late U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who encouraged others to design and deliver practical solutions to challenging public problems, to expand higher education public-private partnerships and, most importantly, to educate, mentor and develop people engaged in public service from every sector and walk of life.

Portillo’s award capped off a banner week at the NASPAA conference. KU came home with five awards from the organization, which accredits schools of public administration around the country.  SPAA picked up the Staas Emerging Scholar Award for doctoral student Angela Park, the Duncombe Excellence in Doctoral Education Award for Professor Steven Maynard-Moody, the Leslie A. Whittington Excellence in Teaching Award to Professor Alfred Tat Kei Ho and the Alumni Spotlight Award for David Toland and his work with Thrive Allen County, a regional health collective.


Ruth DeWitt, Communications Manager
KU School of Public Affairs and Administration
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