It is my pleasure to share with you the growth and development of the programming made possible through the Minnis E. Ridenour Faculty Fellowship Endowment in the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs (VT SPIA), and the exciting program developments going forward.
First, the upcoming conference on March 24th, 2017, focused on restoring trust in government. This year we combine two great traditions into one conference, the Ridenour Faculty Fellowship and the long standing High Table, hosted by our colleagues in the Center for Public Administration and Policy.
The Ridenour keynote speaker will be Dr. Marc Edwards, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and expert on water treatment and corrosion. Dr. Edwards will focus on his groundbreaking work in Flint, Michigan and the work that lies ahead to restore trust and effective government. The High Table keynote speaker will be Professor Christopher Foreman of the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution, whose work spans social and environmental justice, justice movements, public health, inequality, regulation, and governance at all levels of the U.S. federal system.
The headlines in 2016 were dominated by major political events such ‘Brexit’ and the United States presidential election that highlighted polarized and frustrated national electorates. In addition, local and state governments faced complex issues from lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply, to confrontations between police and communities across the country, to protests on the indigenous grounds of Standing Rock in North Dakota. Over the past few years, the Gallop Poll shows trust in our elected officials and public institutions at historic lows. What is next for cities and governments at home and abroad coping with a collapse in capacity to deliver services, protect citizens, and respond to economic and social crises?
The root challenges rest in the capacity to govern fairly, effectively, with transparency, and economically. SPIA faculty and students, Virginia Tech faculty, and guest scholars will tackle these questions through robust discussion and engagement.
The Ridenour Faculty Fellowship program fosters the creative advancement of faculty and students across the SPIA programs. To further this goal, SPIA initiated this annual program to catalyze understanding of social issues and possible policy solutions through the synergy of interdisciplinary engagement. The first conference took place in April 2012 and focused on distressed cities. Since then, the themes have been, Governing Possibilities and the Possibilities of Governance, Resilience, and Diversity, Inclusion, and Policy Innovation. The approach of the conference and research series is twofold. First we aim for a robust interdisciplinary exchange during the conference that builds substantive knowledge as well as a cumulative understanding of best practices for interdisciplinary work across all the conferences. Second, we aim to generate a research network between SPIA faculty and students and scholars across Virginia Tech and the globe, with the goal of producing research and discourse that results from convening.
SPIA faculty and students strive to develop outstanding scholarship that can be applied in practice to continuously inform, question, and advance knowledge in the public sphere. The Ridenour Faculty Fellowship Conference provides a forum to advance this core mission.
– Dr. Anne Khademian, January 2017