UGA graduate wins Leonard White award for best dissertation

Athens, Ga. – David W. Pitts, a 2005 Ph.D. graduate in public administration at UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs has been awarded the American Political Science Association’s 2006 Leonard White Award for Best Dissertation in Public Administration.

Entitled “Diversity, Representation and Performance: Evidence about Ethnicity in Public Organizations,” Pitts’ dissertation considered the impact of ethnic diversity on organizational performance outcomes. Some of the findings of his research are counter to much conventional wisdom.

The results of Pitts’ research suggest that ethnic diversity leads to lower organizational performance in environments that require a lot of employee interaction and collaboration—due in large part to the differences with which people approach problem-solving, communication and consensus-building. However, for organizational performance outcomes that do not require a lot of employee interaction and collaboration, diversity was found to increase performance. Pitts’ research found that this environment benefits from diverse ideas and viewpoints, but avoids the difficulties associated with increased collaboration and interaction.

Laurence J. O’Toole, professor and head of the department of public administration and policy at UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs, said, “David Pitts is a bright and talented scholar whose provocative study provides real insight into the link between diversity in public organizations and their performance.

“The Leonard D. White Award is one of the top honors a young researcher in public administration can achieve. It is a clear sign that his work is judged by senior scholars as first rate.”

Pitts has just finished his first year as an assistant professor of public administration & urban studies at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. He is teaching graduate courses in organization theory and public human resources management.

Pitts rose to the top of a very competitive international pool of scholars to win the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Leonard White Award. APSA is a leading professional association for some 15,000 political scientists in over 80 countries.

This is the third Leonard White Award for a Ph.D. graduate from the department of public administration and policy in the last three years. The department’s master of public administration program is the highest ranked graduate degree program at UGA and is ranked 3rd in the nation among hundreds of public affairs programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2005).