Kendra B. Stewart is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston. Her research interests include South Carolina government, non-profit management, state and local government, food policy, and women and politics. She is co-editor of a book entitled The Practice of Government Public Relations. The articles she has authored have appeared in The Practice of Strategic Collaboration: From Silos to Actions, Urban Affairs Review, Public Finance and Management, Perspective in Politics, and various scholarly books. Dr. Stewart is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization chartered by Congress to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. She has conducted political analysis for a variety of print, radio and television media, including Good Morning America, Fox News Channel, the Associated Press, The New Yorker, and National Public Radio.
Prior to her current position, Professor Stewart was a faculty member at Eastern Kentucky University and worked for the state of South Carolina Budget and Control Board. In addition, she has conducted program evaluations and strategic planning assistance to a variety of public and nonprofit organizations. Kendra is very involved in the community as well, serving on the boards of several professional and non-profit organizations.
Here is a recent interview with Kendra:
I truly enjoy the opportunities I have to bridge the academic and practical worlds – and to share these opportunities with others. For me it is always fun to provide a small nonprofit with valuable research, planning or evaluation work that they otherwise could not afford that often brings them new funding to grow their programming and provide more services. Connected to that is the joy of watching faculty and students use their scholarly expertise or academic skills to solve very practical problems that enhance our community.
I went to graduate school for political science thinking I wanted to be a journalist and understand more about politics. After taking a public administration course I realized I was actually more passionate about public service than reporting on it. Once I did an internship in state government I was hooked. Having opportunities to inform legislation on higher education funding, assist local governments in securing grants for infrastructure projects and create a mentoring program for women in government reinforced that I had made the right choice.
The frustrations and the lack of financial rewards in our field are worth the great satisfaction of being able to work on programs or projects that improve the lives of others. And one of the greatest things about working in public service is all of the passionate, brilliant and hard-working people you meet along the way. There is nothing better than serving alongside other people who care about making a difference to better your community, state or country.
As a professor, over the last twenty years I have seen a definite decline in the number of young people who want to serve in government. Although there is still a tremendous interest in service by this younger generation, they see nonprofit as the answer to solving wicked problems and not the government. Although nonprofits are vital partners in problem-solving networks, we will need good people in government to help coordinate and lead efforts to continue to advance our country. I think one of our greatest Grand Challenges is this lack of understanding in the role government plays in addressing the the stickiest problems of our time. I am confident that if people understood this they would once again flock to public service and view it as a significant career choice.
When I first started my career as a state government employee I had the opportunity to serve on a committee (lots of committees in government!) that resulted in the drafting of legislation that created a state tuition prepayment program for South Carolina. Flash forward a couple of decades later after finishing my PhD and moving away for an academic position I ended up back in South Carolina teaching at the College of Charleston. It was then that I had the opportunity to teach a number of students who were going to school and using their tuition prepayment plans their parents had purchased because of this legislation. I found this out as they were discussing the fact that had they not had this plan they would not have been able to afford to attend College. I realized then how fortuitous it was of me to have ensured my future employment by guaranteeing there would be students for me to teach.
“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. A former dean of mine once explained to me that I had a mindset that could be described as abundance mentality – something I had never heard of until then. I have since realized that not only was this her way of saying that she wasn’t going to fund every one of my “great” ideas but she was also encouraging me to keep believing that the ability to accomplish great things is limitless and virtue and excellence are achievable by everyone. For the most part I haven’t stopped believing this. Also, if you are every forced to do karaoke this is a great pick because I have come to realize that just about every human on this planet knows all the words, no matter their age or nationality, so you won’t have to sing alone. And for me, singing alone is very very bad.
My first job was working at the Burger King in my brown and orange polyester uniform.
Late spring – the weather is generally perfect, everyone is excited about summer and I am almost done with my ambitious list of things I will accomplish over the summer with all the optimism that this is summer I will actually get it everything done.
August is not usually the best time to answer this question with the 108 degree heat index we are now experiencing. However, Charleston is really a beautiful and historic city with great restaurants and shopping. But I really think the best part is all of the water – beaches, rivers, marshes, etc. (except of course when it’s on the streets thanks to the new weather phenomenon known as sunny day flooding!)
Margherita - New York style (which is upsetting to my Chicago-rooted family!)
Tough question with so many great options! But, I think one really great dinner party would be with several of the Founding Fathers and Abigail Adams. I would relish the opportunity to share some spirits and spirited conversations with these guys on how Abi and I are concerned about their forgetting of the ladies (along with other important groups of people) in the drafting of our founding documents. I am certain we could shed some light on a few things that would lead them to totally change their ways.