Five GSPIA students were recognized during Public Service Recognition Week by the American Society for Public Administration — Keystone State Chapter. The students' work was lauded for their commitment to community engagement and excellence in public service.

"We are eager to see the future impact that these award winners have as public administration professionals," Chapter President David L. Margolis said. 

Student Paper Award: Zoë Burch, Yingzi Liu, and Brett Stewart

GSPIA students Zoë Burch (MPA '21), Yingzi Liu (MPA '21), and Brett Stewart (MPA '21) formed a capstone project team to study challenges faced by Pennsylvania volunteer fire departments. Their paper, “Developing Collaborative Capacity to Enhance Municipal-Level Fires Services in Allegheny County,” identifies numerous challenges from declining volunteer rates to revenue shortfalls and increased fundraising demands. The first of two primary recommendations is creation of a regional office to manage administrative matters, operational standards, and strategic planning to allow local fire departments to concentrate their efforts on direct service delivery. A second primary recommendation is to build partnerships between stakeholders to develop collaborative capacity within the current structure of fire departments through resource sharing, regional training, and educational outreach. Concluding that the challenge faced by fire chiefs is ultimately in capacity building with elected officials and counterparts at the municipal level, the authors supplemented their research with a “Take Action Toolkit” that offers public outreach tools for volunteer fire providers. The Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) at GSPIA has been a partner in the research effort and is supporting implementation efforts in the Pittsburgh region.

Scholar-Practitioner Award: Kate Ellison 

The Scholar-Practitioner Award recognizes an exceptional individual who is successful in simultaneously pursuing both of these ventures.

Kate Ellison (MPPM '21) is a recent GSPIA grad, who also works full-time as the Manager of the Government Advocacy and Communications Office at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).  Kate combines a commitment to public service through community engagement in her professional position with outstanding scholarship in her graduate program where she is a straight A student. She is a passionate advocate for healthcare policy and improved practice and access to health care. She has led a number of UPMC initiatives, including a telemedicine initiative with a focus on rural broadband, as well as work to alleviate physician shortages and to increase citizen access to prescription drug treatments. She is currently researching ways the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can develop and better support a county health system.

Outstanding Student Award – Eric Raabe 

When Eric Raabe (MPA '21) arrived at GSPIA in Fall 2019, he had already been recruited by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to work with West Homestead Township to create a greenhouse gas inventory and climate action plan. At the same time, the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) at GSPIA had five other municipalities in the program.  

Despite pandemic challenges to community engagement process, Eric persisted and helped another three CONNECT member communities complete their own climate action plans. Eric then worked with CONNECT and DEP leadership to begin the CONNECT Regional Climate Action Plan and lead a GSPIA Capstone team in drafting a playbook for engagement. After recruiting another student intern, they completed a regional inventory and a personalized inventory for every member of CONNECT. Alongside CONNECT leadership, Eric has not only maximized and innovated GSPIA coursework but has helped achieve partial funding for a CONNECT Regional Climate Action Plan project manager position.