My research focuses on how repeated policy adoption, shaped by internal institutional logic, shapes public organizations over time. In order to explore these phenomena more comprehensively, I have pursued novel ways to represent local governance systems and complexity. With these tools, I explore how public involvement, technology, democratic mechanisms, organizational structure, governance, and resilience have been affected by different dimensions of the complex governance systems in the local environment. The goal of my work is to expand the boundaries of organizational theory using insights gleaned in research since the original paradigms were advanced.
I am a computational social scientist who uses the digital footprint of public organizations to study systems and advance theory. I emphasize areas where the population of organizations is extensive enough to allow empirical flexibility. Local government units produce significant amounts of quantitative and qualitative data that can be assembled into datasets to provide a new perspective on organizational dynamics. I aim to improve the inclusiveness and sustainability of government organizations. At the same time, extending knowledge of underlying organizational logic has positive implications for researchers and practitioners who want to successfully make their organizations more resilient and less likely to collapse. I have several ongoing research streams, with planned next steps that will immediately contribute to the department's research productivity.
Integrating Policy Process and Organizational Theories Toward a Theory of Accretion (Dissertation)
I grapple with the inadvertent factors at play in the construction of public bureaucracies. I use the lens of complex adaptive systems to extend organizational and policy theories to provide greater insight into the internal dynamics of public organizations. Three studies highlight these effects: subunit (departmental) dynamics, the nuances of value-laden process implementation, and text network analysis of municipal codes. Together, the results of these studies verify the validity of accretion as a concept and theoretical lens.
Local Government Policy Database
A foundational element of my work is developing datasets that help the field better conceptualize public organizations. One way to do this is through the study of formal policy adoption in public organizations. Using regular city council agendas in 200 cities for a two-year period I am aggregating thousands of documents to produce quantitative and qualitative data. This data can be used to describe the unique quirks of all organizations and the specific details in particular contexts. This initial dataset forms both the foundation and framework of an ongoing database project whose goal is to provide a large dataset of local government policy and characteristics, such as political change. Many variables standard in policy and political analysis at the federal and state levels are unavailable for local government organizations. The project is similar in scope to the public agendas project. I plan to apply for grants to support this work and publish the datasets for use in a wide variety of research.
Civic Engagement and Budgeting
The spending and financial decisions of governments are among the most primitive tasks of public management. However, the highly standardized processes of budgeting and finance provide opportunities to study how the public is engaged with organizations over more extended periods. Along with my coauthors, I expect to continue this work. I see opportunities to continue to use these lenses to investigate how organizations have developed over time. For example, I plan to study how the traditional town hall meeting form of government, often overlooked, is related to engagement and performance factors.
Emergent Local Government Policy
In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, I joined a research team looking into economic development policy responses by local governments. This work complements my interest in the construction of public organizations by examining how organizations use their toolkits in the face of uncertain circumstances. I expect that this team will continue to collaborate on projects that provide further insight into the role of crises to reinforce and grow governance systems that increasingly behave like, and are identified as, organizations.
Technology and Data Implementation and Policy
Building on my experience in the private sector, I analyze the implementation of new technologies into public organizations. With coauthors, I look at artificial intelligence adoption in public personnel. Emerging from an analysis of a public data science program at NC State, I am preparing a project on how public administrators conceptualize data. In addition, I am undertaking a bibliometric study of transparency conceptions as compared to transparency initiatives as implemented on public websites. As part of building the local government policy dataset, I plan to write about the status of the transparency project that led many local governments to increase publicly available data.
Together, these streams extend organizational and policy theory while contributing data and frameworks so others in the field can better investigate their related questions. I am at home in an environment where different specialties and passions mix to solve problems. I embrace the role of being collegial, developing relationships with others in the department and the community of scholars. I view Georgia Tech's diverse array of research perspectives and practical grounding as an incredible opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration and theoretical development.
I am interested in how we bridge research into practice. To that end, I have investigated how public organizations process data, engage the public and implement new technology. With colleagues at NC State, I have explored how public administration scholars are taught to teach and the specific needs of nonprofit managers.
Outside of the academy, I have become a valued strategic adviser to government organizations and the groups that work with them. I have facilitated discussions, workshops, classes, and presentations with all levels of an organization. Before beginning my Ph.D. program, I developed product and consulting team strategies for several government software companies and was an urban planner.
I value community service. I am the former chair of the Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board. I have served as chair of the Central Citizens Advisory Council and on various citizen initiatives in the city including the Citizen Engagement Task Force. At NC State I have served as a peer mentor and a representative to the Graduate Student Association.