Small in numbers but mighty in purpose, university service organizations that provide training and resources to local and state government officials gathered in mid-April at the University of Georgia for an annual conference.
About 75 public service directors and faculty, representing about three dozen universities from across the country, attended the 2018 Consortium of University Public Service Organizations, hosted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA.
“We feel honored to bring together our fellow university-based public service and outreach leaders from across the country to UGA,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and immediate past president of CUPSO. “We’re able to gain valuable insights to enhance the impactful work we are already doing here to help Georgia’s state and local governments and to share our work with others.”
Over three days, conference participants learned about their roles in statewide issues, civic education and their role in elections. They also shared their academic work that is used to provide opportunities and address challenges in their states.
David Tanner, an associate director at the Vinson Institute, moderated a session on the role of public service institutes and centers in statewide issues. Participants in the session were from North Carolina State University, Michigan State University and Arizona State University.
“Coming together helps us understand that we are all dealing with similar issues across our states,” Tanner said. “We’re able to explore how each of our different institutes approach those problems and provide our stakeholders with information. We compare notes and share projects and data.”
This kind of assistance is invaluable to local and state government officials, said Phil Keisling, CUPSO president and director of Portland State University’s Center for Public Service.
“CUPSO members are the people that straddle the academic and the professional world,” he said.
UGA President Jere W. Morehead and University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley spoke to the group about leadership during Friday’s opening session. Wrigley previously served as director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and vice president for public service and outreach at UGA.
Organized in 1979, CUPSO supports university-based public service institutes in their efforts to assist state and local governments on a range of contemporary issues and challenges. CUPSO facilitates networking, information exchange, and collaboration among its member institutions.
UGA Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum, also a former Carl Vinson Institute of Government director, said having the meeting here spoke to the national reputation of UGA Public Service and Outreach.
“It’s fitting that UGA’s largest public service unit, the Vinson Institute, is hosting a national forum for scholarship and best practices related to government leadership,” Frum said. “We welcome faculty from some of this country’s most respected institutions to learn about our successes and share theirs with us.”
The original organization was initiated by former Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Delmer Dunn during a political science conference in 1978, and was officially founded in 1979 as the Southern Consortium of University Public Service Organizations, said Linda Hoke, who has been director of CUPSO since 1998. Dunn was elected SCUPSO’s founding president in 1980. In 2015, with interest in the organization growing nationwide, the organization dropped the “S” to become CUPSO.
“Dr. Dunn was the one who convened us and saw the value of sharing advice and knowledge,” Hoke said. “CUPSO has grown into a really diverse mix of institutes and centers, but they all share the same public service mission.”