The Keystone State Chapter – American Society for Public Administration has awarded three alumna and one of the research initiatives of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh with awards at its recent chapter meeting. 

Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award

Marita Kelley (MPA '85) has combined a distinguished career of public service with a longstanding commitment to the Keystone State Chapter.

Her career in financial and municipal management began with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in 1983.  During the subsequent 37 years, Marita worked for various government entities — serving as a budget analyst for the City of Houston,Texas before joining the City of Harrisburg as budget director. She then served as Borough Manager and Finance Officer in Marysville, Pa. before joining the Department of Community and Economic Development.  At DCED, she held progressively more responsible positions and is currently the Central Office Regional Director. In 2017, Marita became the City of Harrisburg’s Act 47 Municipalities Financial Recovery Coordinator where she exhibited the best ASPA principles of professional and non-partisan public service in a high-profile and politically-sensitive assignment.

"Marita is a role model for lifetime learning.  After completing her MPA at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, she continued to seek further education in leadership and subject area programs," Keystone State Chapter – American Society for Public Administration board member Connie Zimmerman said. "Marita shares her extensive knowledge and experience as professional instructor for courses in auditing, tax collection, budgeting, capital budgeting and fiscal monitoring."

In 2013, Marita initiated the effort to reactivate the Keystone State Chapter.  Subsequently, she has served as chapter president and continues to contribute as a member of its board of directors. In addition to ASPA, Marita is an active member of a number of professional and community public service organizations. 

Innovative Public Service Partnership Award

The Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) has completed more than a decade of a groundbreaking public service partnership work and continues to develop innovative solutions to problems crossing local government borders.

CONNECT brings together the City of Pittsburgh and more than 30 municipalities in Allegheny County as equal partners to identify public policy challenges and advocate for collective solutions.  In addition to the engagement of elected and appointed officials from member jurisdictions, CONNECT fosters collaboration with other governmental, non-governmental, and private sector organizations to promote regional strategies.   

Voluntary monetary contributions from municipal members are supplemented by financial grants from Pittsburgh’s foundation community.  Another key partner is the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) that provides office space and resources, including accounting and IT services, at no cost. GSPIA’s Center for Metropolitan Studies offers CONNECT’s conceptual framework and engages student interns who provide administrative support, policy research and data analysis.

CONNECT staff, under the leadership of Executive Director, Lydia Morin, and Founder, Dr. David Miller, facilitates the activities of several policy making entities. These entities include CONNECT’s board of officers, leaders of member municipalities, and three cross-sector policy working groups covering Environmental & Economic Development, Infrastructure & Utilities Coordination, and Public Safety, Health, & Human Resources. 

"As a pioneer in uniting an urban core that extends beyond its center city, CONNECT is a practical model for convening regional leaders to identify and advance cross-boundary policy initiatives for the benefit of Greater Pittsburgh area residents," said David Margolis, President, Keystone State Chapter – ASPA. 

Outstanding Scholar-Practitioner Award

Jennifer Bert (PhD '20) is a scholar-practitioner whose doctoral dissertation was approved in December of 2019 at the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. While a doctoral candidate, she was featured as a “Next Generation Leader” on the Keystone State Chapter website student spotlight page.

Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts at Temple University in 2002 and a Master of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. Her doctoral dissertation was titled An Evaluation of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program in Pittsburgh Using Event History Analysis.

While furthering her education, Jennifer has worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She served as Program Analyst at the Philadelphia Regional Office and continues contributing to HUD’s mission as a Senior Management Analyst in the Office of Field Policy and Management at the Pittsburgh Field Office. 

Jennifer’s passion for public service was displayed in her participation as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica.  Pursuing her interest in public policy and administration related to housing policy and community development, Jennifer was a member of a research team at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs that studied gentrification in Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  

"The Keystone State Chapter commends Jennifer Bert on her success as a scholar-practitioner who is furthering ASPA’s pursuit of excellence in public service through her contribution to the advancement of research and practice in public administration," Margolis said. 

Outstanding Student Award

As a Master of Public Administration student at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), Emma Yourd (MPA '20) majored in Urban Affairs and Planning with a minor in Policy Research and Analysis. Emma maintained a 4.0 grade point average in her course work and recently received the GSPIA Dean’s Award.  

In addition to her coursework, Emma excelled in other public administration activities. She was a member of the Leadership Portfolio Program (LPP), which is a highly competitive program run by the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership. As an administrative intern with the Township of Upper St. Clair, Emma utilized her research skills to support union contract negotiation, stormwater management, and employee scheduling projects. In her internship with Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, she designed an evaluation tool for the City’s Adopt-A-Lot vacant lot rehabilitation program, led outreach to six peer cities regarding compensation plans, and researched district energy plans.

Understanding the value of professional organizations, Emma attended conferences conducted by the American Society for Public Administration and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). This past year, she served as president of the ICMA Student Chapter that organizes public service activities for students.

"In recognition of her excellent scholarship and academic record, her deeply involved internships, her extensive commitment to public service, and her engagement in professional associations, the Keystone State Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration is pleased to announce Emma Yourd as recipient of  an Outstanding Student Award," Zimmerman said.

About the Keystone State Chapter — ASPA

The Keystone State Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) was formed prior to 1967 to advance the mission, goals and values of ASPA in the Central Pennsylvania region. It serves the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

The purposes of the Keystone State Chapter are: To facilitate the exchange of knowledge and results of experience among persons interested or engaged in the field of public administration; to encourage the collection, compilation and dissemination of information on matters relating to public administration; to encourage the improvement of the public service; and to advance generally the science, processes and art of public administration