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Student Spotlight: Peter Federman, PhD Student and Newland Fellow

Friday, November 20, 2015

Peter Federman joined the School in Fall 2015 as a PhD student and the School's first Chester A. Newland Doctoral Fellow. He completed his undergraduate work at Tufts University, and later pursued a master's degree in public administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

Peter is working closely this semester with Professor Jacob Fowles as a GTA for Policy Analysis and Evaluation (PUAD 853), and as a GRA with Professor Bradley Lane.

Learn more about Peter's experience and his first few months in the program by reading his interview below:

Q: You are the first recipient of the Chester A. Newland Doctoral Fellowship - a great accomplishment. To whom or what do you owe your successes?
At the top of the list is my wonderful wife, Christine, who provides constant advice and encouragement. I am also very grateful to my parents, both of whom have worked in local and state government (my mother for almost her entire career), and have supported me throughout all of my endeavors. Lastly, my mentor and friend, Nicole Elias, who pushed me to succeed and gave me some of my first opportunities to research, teach and explore the landscape of public administration.

Q: Give us a little background on your education and professional experience.
I graduated from Tufts University in 2010, and moved to New York City to work in commercial real estate. I served as the marketing director for a large title insurance company for 5 years. However, in addition to my parents, many members of my extended family have worked in public service and I have always felt a pull toward the public sector. With the hope of transitioning into a career in law enforcement or emergency management, I decided to take advantage of the fantastic public higher education in New York and pursue my MPA at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. I graduated with a concentration in Emergency Management and a certification as a FEMA Professional Continuity Practitioner.

Q: Of that experience, what do you think most prepared you for the School’s doctoral program?
The support I had from professors in the MPA program at John Jay, particularly Nicole, Leigh Graham, Ned Benton, and Marilyn Rubin was invaluable. I did not enter the program expecting to continue my education beyond a master’s degree, but with their encouragement I left eager to become a lifelong scholar of public administration. In addition, as someone with a particular interest in public safety, being at John Jay and learning with NYPD officers, FDNY firefighters and NYC Office of Emergency Management professionals was humbling and helped me better understand how my work might fit into both the academic and practical fields of public administration. The education, scholarships and opportunities that John Jay provided me are among the biggest reasons why I am here at KU. 

Q: Why did you choose the School’s doctoral program?
To begin, the stellar reputation of the program was a big draw. In fact, KU was the first school I looked at when I was applying to PhD programs. As I began the application process, my first interactions with faculty and staff from the School immediately demonstrated that the culture and focus of the program was a great fit. There are more than a few faculty and students who have similar research interests and the academic rigor and breadth of the program was appealing. After I received the offer of a fellowship, all it took was a visit to Lawrence to confirm my decision. 

Q: What have you absorbed in your first months in the doctoral program?
I have heard from many people that it’s critical in the first few months to manage your time while exploring new areas of literature and interest. I have definitely been doing the latter, and attempting to do my best with the former. I am also building my quantitative analysis skills, and I think I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to take two research methods classes my first semester. I think grounding myself in methodology will be beneficial later as I try to sort out how I want to approach my research agenda. 

Q: What faculty member at KU are you most excited to work with, and why?
One of the great things about the School is that the research of almost every faculty member can be connected at least in part to my own interests. It’s tough to pick just one, but I came to KU in part for the opportunity to work with Rosemary O’Leary, whose work was some of the first that captured my attention outside the boundaries of the classroom. I’m lucky enough to have a very small seminar class with her, and learning about the normative theories of public administration with her has been a real highlight of my first semester. I’m also excited for the opportunity to work with Chuck Epp. I think the influences of law and history can be very relevant to public administration, and those themes are well-represented in his work.

Q: What is your primary research interest while in the doctoral program?
My research agenda is mostly concerned with how police departments function as organizations. I am particularly interested in the relationship between police departments and other agencies within the municipal ecosystem. I’m also intrigued by the impact of best practices and innovative techniques on police and other public safety entities. 

Q: Do you have an idea yet of what you would like to do with your PhD in public administration?
A position as a faculty member at a large, research-oriented university would be ideal. My main career goal is to contribute in whatever way I can to improving the practice and outcomes of public safety organizations. In my view, the best way to do that is to give myself the opportunity to conduct research while working directly with students of public administration who may someday become police chiefs, city managers and politicians. 

Q: Is there anything else we should know?
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, as were both my parents, so I am a die-hard Boston fan when it comes to professional sports. However, I went to Division III schools for my undergraduate and master’s degrees so I’m excited to finally have a college team to root for. Football season has been tough, but I hear our basketball team is decent. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!


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