Campus News

Planning to help: Carl Vinson Institute expert aids communities in US, abroad

Public Service Associate Malik R. Watkins of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government has been selected twice to work abroad-in Liberia and Panama City-with the Fulbright Specialist Program.

Malik R. Watkins, a planning and development expert with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, has built his career on a commitment to service both in the U.S. and in struggling countries around the globe.

This commitment has helped to mold his ideas about how to turn knowledge into action, and it informs his outreach work though the university and personally.

“My research at the Institute of Government is about making a difference,” Watkins said. “When Vinson faculty use the word ‘work,’ it is about the work of making a difference in communities.”

Watkins joined the institute in August 2007 as a public service associate, after serving as the head of Savannah State University’s Survey Research Center for five years. He continues to live and work in Savannah-and to integrate service into his work with the institute by providing technical assistance and applied research to governments large and small.

His dedication to service motivates Watkins’ efforts to translate classroom knowledge into real-world action that makes a difference in people’s lives.

“I didn’t spend all this time going to school to sit around talking to somebody about an idea,” he said. “Let’s take this idea out into the community and see how it works.”

Watkins employs those ideas with the institute’s local government services program in Georgia and abroad, aiding local governments with program development and evaluation, project management and strategic planning.

He recently finished helping the Georgia Council for the Arts craft a five-year plan to guide the agency’s community growth efforts and now is assisting Lilburn city officials in converting economic development ideas into on-the-ground action. He helped develop implementation strategies for Healthy Savannah, a community health initiative.

Watkins moved to Georgia in 2002, when he joined Savannah State University’s urban studies program. He immersed himself in the community, helping to found Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Coastal Empire and joining other boards and initiatives like Healthy Savannah. Watkins soon found himself working with Institute of Government faculty on applied research projects and joined the institute because he was attracted to its focus on public service work.

As a public service associate at the Institute of Government, Watkins has been selected twice to work abroad with the Fulbright Specialist Program. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the program promotes partnerships between American experts and academicians at host institutions overseas.

His first Fulbright assignment took Watkins to West Africa to work on public policy issues with the Liberia Institute of Public Administration. Last year, he joined officials in the Central American municipality of Panama City.

Working for the Institute of Government is an opportunity to work with a variety of people and governments around the state, according to Watkins.

“It’s not just the focus on public service, but the chance to work with people who are very much focused on making a difference,” he said.