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Kathleen Hale

Associate professor
Department of Political Science

Kathleen Hale joined the Department of Political Science in 2006 and is the author of the book, "How Information Matters: Networks and Public Policy Success," and numerous scholarly articles. She teaches nonprofit management and intergovernmental relations courses and coordinates the Elections Administration program with the Election Center of Houston. Hale was honored in 2012 by practitioners and academia for her book, receiving the National Media Award from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the Best Book Award in the Public and Nonprofit Division from the Academy of Management. She also was named a College of Liberal Arts Engaged Scholar, which recognizes excellence in teaching and research related to community and civic engagement. Hale said in her spare time, she is a cooking and gardening enthusiast at the strictly amateur level and enjoys learning about Alabama native plants. Whenever she can, she travels to visit her daughters in Raleigh, N.C. ,and Chicago.

1. What brought you to Auburn University?

I'm an Ohio native and started my working life in staff and legal counsel jobs within the heavy manufacturing sector. I earned my Ph.D. from Kent State University after working in private industry, government and nonprofit organizations in a variety of staff, leadership and advisory positions. I had a wide range of paid and volunteer leadership opportunities with nonprofit service and advocacy groups and with intergovernmental collaborations that brought people together across sectors, ideological divides, communities and layers of government. These experiences suggested to me that there were aspects of intergovernmental relationships, and the nonprofit sector in particular, that could be more clearly understood by scholars and practitioners. The university environment was the place to make that happen. Auburn offered me a very supportive environment for my research, the opportunity to engage in graduate teaching and the chance to develop new programming to meet student need. My goal is always to energize students to engage in possibilities and to learn skills that will allow them to participate in community organizations and other nonprofits when they leave Auburn.

2. What first led you to community involvement work?

I was bitten by the community involvement bug very early on in my professional experiences where I saw government and nonprofits working together in communities, and also because I had the good fortune to work in towns where community service was simply an expectation. Everyone was involved in arts boards, civic groups and programs that enhance education. I saw the power of community involvement firsthand as a service volunteer in several of these organizations and eventually became a board member and served as board president. At the same time, my work in local government brought me in contact with other types of nonprofits involved in community development, housing and social services. In both worlds, I had the opportunity to become involved with a wide variety of perspectives about community problems and learned that volunteer organizations are actually very influential innovators. I also learned that public administration and public policy are about so much more than government bureaucracies. This motivated me to go back to graduate school and study the role of nonprofits in innovation and how community engagement matters.

3. How did your book come to fruition and what was the process like?

"How Information Matters" tells the story of a new architecture for public-private partnerships and the critical support that nonprofit networks provide to government in meeting public need. The research experience was thoroughly energizing: an active social science research culture thrives on open access to information, and on this project the access afforded me and the interest displayed by people across the country in public offices and nonprofits were truly heartwarming. Writing a book is in many ways a solitary process, but at the same time it requires collective effort and support from the publisher; Georgetown University Press editors and reviewers provided me with excellent critical review and comment as the book took shape. I am particularly pleased that the book has been well received by both practitioners and academics because I think it is so important to make those kinds of connections in our work when we can.

4. What does your work with the Election Center of Houston entail?

For the past 20 years, the Election Center and faculty from Auburn's Political Science Department have worked in partnership to provide professional education for election officials. The center and Auburn faculty developed the program curriculum based on public administration principle, and graduates receive continuing education credit from Auburn. We cover topics specific to elections such as voter participation, election technology, election law and the history of elections. I coordinate the program and work with the center and faculty to develop new course material to meet the rapidly changing needs of these public servants. I also serve on the center's Professional Education Program board and was recently asked to join the national governing board. Interest in professional certification exploded after the 2000 election, and today the program has more than 600 graduates in offices around the country. Courses are offered by Auburn faculty six times a year at locations in the U.S., including here at Auburn each May. The program is the first of its kind and remains the only national certification program for public administration of elections in the country.

5. Why do you think community and civic engagement is important?

Community and civic organizations are important because they are accessible to every one of us. Most of us will never become elected officials, and many of us will not work in public agencies. But all of us have the opportunity to become involved in community organizations and to make a difference in our communities, whether that is through service or advocacy or both. Most everyone in the workforce also has an opportunity to become involved in professional associations related to a career or profession. These types of nonprofit organizations have tremendous influence on policy and administrative practice and they are places where "everyday people" make a huge difference.

Oct. 29, 2012