ICMA PSU Chapter: A Public Sector Startup

Today we highlight the good works of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Portland State University (PSU) chapter which was founded this year. The chapter is another sign that professional local government management is in safe hands for years to come. While Portland is becoming known for start up companies in the private sector, ELGL and ICMA-PSU demonstrate that the public sector is also dedicated to exploring new ways of “doing business” and new ways of networking.

We turned to Mark Grabow, PSU MPA student to learn more about the origins of the ICMA PSU chapter and the motivations behind it.  The ICMA student chapter at PSU is the first in the Pacific Northwest. Wouldn’t a future ICMA Conference in Portland be a great way to celebrate the initiative shown by PSU students.

ICMA Student Chapter at Portland State University

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An Interview with Mark Grabow

MPA Candidate, Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University

Give us three reasons for starting an ICMA chapter at PSU.

The first and second reasons for starting the chapter coincide — The public administration program at Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government is excellent, and this chapter was created to enhance that excellent program by adding a structured, student-run group geared toward professional development and bridging the gap between the classroom and the ‘real world’. So, the first two reasons overlap: on one side, the reason for creating the chapter was to build in a professional group to enhance the students’ experience both academically and professionally; on the other side, a reason for starting the chapter was to make the MPA program even better than it already is, something that the professors and staff of the Hatfield School strive to actively do on a daily basis.

More personally, I was fortunate enough to have my days opened up because of a generous scholarship from Governor Barbara Roberts when this idea was first conceived; so for me, I wanted to do something tangible within the MPA program while in grad school, and my schedule allowed taking on a fun and challenging endeavor like the creation of an ICMA Student Chapter.

What has been the response from fellow students? Local government professionals? ICMA?

The response from other students is one of intrigue and excitement. The chance to obtain a cohesive, student-run chapter that is connected to a larger organization has put effervescence in the air regarding the potential opportunities.

Local government professionals have been very supportive and enthusiastic to aide in the development of this chapter. People working in local government around the state have reached out to offer their support and guidance. We’ve been quite impressed with the reaction among a number of local government professionals.

ICMA themselves have recognized that this is a great opportunity for our region, as there are currently no other ICMA Student Chapters in the Pacific Northwest.

(Complete the sentence) The future of government is……

…… full of change and opportunity.

Who are your mentors?

On a more grandiose level, I have always looked up to old philosophers, such as Socrates. Living more recently, I consider the works of social agents of change such as Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela to have provided mentoring through their dedicated lives of public service. Coming to the present, Jim Hough, the former City Manager of Banks, Oregon, gave me my first opportunity in local government and was/is a great mentor to me. Also, Dr. Phillip Cooper, Public Administration professor at Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government, has been a great professional mentor to me through my studies. Those two gentlemen are excellent resources to young professionals in the field of public administration.

How will you measure whether the ICMA PSU chapter is successful?

download (2)After the first year, we hope to have built in an annual field trip to the OCCMA conference in Bend, Oregon; we plan to have recurring monthly meetings with multiple students in attendance and a variety of public service professionals as guest speakers; and we plan to provide students with field trips into various organizations and other professional development opportunities. Above all, these activities need to be built into the public administration program so that future students will have the same structured group to rely on for these opportunities. Without the infrastructure, we will not have been successful, no matter what great opportunities we take part in during this inaugural year.

What’s your ideal Sunday morning?

Ha! As so many of my Sunday mornings are met with homework, it seems like “ideal” is a carrot at the end of the stick! I love waking up before the sun comes up, doing my early morning meditation and thanksgivings and enjoying a cup of coffee as I read the news on the internet or watch it on TV. Going for a run after a health shake is also a pretty ideal Sunday morning for me.

If we need to collect money from you or need an autograph, where will we find you in five years?

Working diligently in public service. Most likely for a city or county, and preferably here in Oregon.

Your toughest class in the PSU MPA program. Favorite class.

download (3)As students of the public administration program know, any class that has “Cooper” in the “instructor” field on the class schedule is a tough class. With that, his classes are very rewarding. I feel similarly about Dr. Marcus Ingle’s class, “Managing Public Programs and Projects,” very challenging but very rewarding. Also, the Public Finance and the Public Budgeting courses are led by very experienced and enjoyable practitioners-turned-professors.

Help us out in planning the ELGL annual conference, name three speakers or topics that we should consider adding to the lineup.

That’s a tough one. Hard to give a well thought suggestion when I don’t know what ELGL wants to gear their annual conference toward… If it has components on professional development opportunities built in, then I might suggest having a panel of experts from various fields within local government, providing a kind of ‘one-stop-shop’ of informational experts who can provide advice to specific persons based on their desired area of focus within local government.

Can government be fun?

I believe the work of government is a very serious topic and requires a serious and cautious approach. That being said, I believe people in government can have fun while taking their work seriously.

(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to….

… have lived up to what I see in my mind’s eye as the ideal “warrior servant.” Also, I want to learn more languages and travel the world.

Finally, give us your ideal playlist for getting pumped about MPA coursework.

Love classical and opera. Pretty much any classical out of the Romantic Period. Love the voice of Miss Renee Fleming… beautiful voice. If you haven’t heard her sing, it’s enough to make the clouds part.

ICMA PSU Meets ELGL on Thursday, March 21 

ICMA Student Chapter Meeting with Kirsten and Kent Wyatt from ELGL is this Thursday at 6:30pm! All students interested in local government are encouraged to attend. We are very pleased to be hosting Kirsten and Kent Wyatt, the leading professionals of the Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) network at this month’s PSU-ICMA Student Chapter meeting.

Kent Wyatt is the Senior Policy Analyst for the City of Tigard, and Kirsten Wyatt is the Assistant City Manager for the City of West Linn. One of them individually would be a great resource as a guest speaker for the Chapter, so we are very pleased that they have both agreed to a tandem presentation.

Topic of the March 21st meeting: “ELGL: Who They Are, What They Do, and General Tips/Tricks for Emerging Public Administration Professionals”.

The PSU-ICMA Student Chapter meeting for March will take place at 6:30 – 8:00pm in room 611 of the Urban building on March 21 (Thursday).

Related Links

On Campus with the Portland State MPA Program

ICMA Student Chapter Program

PSU Master of Public Administration