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Letter from the Director - Fall 2011
Author: Phil Keisling
Posted: October 10, 2011

Long before I joined the academic world here at PSU as the Director of the Center for Public Service, fall’s arrival has always felt like the true start of the New Year.

It’s a chance to gear back up after a sunny Oregon summer (in most years, at least!). It’s also a good time to launch new initiatives, two of which I’d like to briefly mention: the Health Systems and Public Health Management Online Certificate, and the Mark O. Hatfield Public Service Resident Fellows Program.

The first is CPS’ first, fully online program: a certificate of completion in Health Systems and Public Health Management. Consisting of 6 graduate-level courses offered through the Division of Public Administration, the certificate is designed for health care professionals across the Northwest who desire to further their knowledge and skills in health-related fields. Courses are scheduled to begin in January, 2012.

The second initiative is an exciting addition to our decade-old Oregon Fellows program. This summer, more than 20 Fellows – from PSU, but also from graduate programs around the U.S. including the University of Michigan, Carnegie-Mellon, and University of Washington -- spent 10 weeks working with public service sponsors in the local, state, federal, and non profit sectors.  This year’s cohort of exceptionally talented and energetic young men and women was one of the strongest ever, and many of our Sponsors have asked us,“Why do you only do this during the summer?”

Well, it’s a good question – and beginning in July, 2012, we plan to have in place a “Mark O. Hatfield Public Service Resident Fellows” program, consisting of 6 and even 12 month engagements for those chosen in a highly competitive process.  In addition to working with participating Sponsors, these Fellows – as with our continuing Summer program – will spend time here on campus, meeting regularly in their cohorts, and continuing their own professional education. (Those interested in learning more should contact me directly at Keisling@pdx.edu).

These two initiatives also reflect two, intertwined themes of the Center for Public Service: the importance of providing additional leadership and management training for today’s public servants, while also helping identify and prepare the next generation of public service professionals.

Along those lines, I found a recent report from the State of Oregon an especially good illustration of the challenge ahead. It showed that almost 30% of state employees are now -- or will be  by June 30, 2015 -- eligible to retire with full benefits. One major state agency did an even more in-depth analysis of their management ranks – the work was performed by one of our Summer Fellows, actually! – that revealed their potential turn-over at closer to 45%. 

Such statistics illustrate the enormous challenge we face – but also the historic opportunity as a new generation begins their public service careers. In the months ahead, as we launch these two new initiatives (along with continuing our many others), we look forward to continuing to work with all of you to meet the many challenges ahead.