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Students abound at social equity conference

March 03, 2008

A recent national conference on social equity co-hosted by the School of Public Affairs drew more students this year than previous events held in other cities, organizers say.

Highlights of the seventh annual Social Equity Leadership Conference, which took place Feb. 7-9 at the Phoenix Convention Center, included keynote speeches by prominent Hispanic leaders, a session featuring ASU President Michael Crow and numerous panel discussions that focused on key regional issues, such as one titled “Criminal Justice: Should the Police Be Illegal Immigration Investigators/Enforcers?”

The conference is an offspring of the Social Equity Panel of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), which co-sponsored the event with ASU’s School of Public Affairs.

Of 170 conference participants, 70 were students, says James Svara, a lead organizer of the event, who as a NAPA fellow sits on the Social Equity panel’s executive committee.

At the College of Public Programs, Svara is director of the Center for Urban Innovation and a professor in the School of Public Affairs. He credits the rise in student attendance to a lead sponsorship by the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, which waived registration fees for students and spurred a participation surge that included the conference’s first all-student panel.

“For the first time, we had a panel of graduate students talking about what social equity means,” Svara says.

The lively exchange of perspectives included students from the ASU Downtown campus masters’ degree programs in public administration, public policy, social work, and nonprofit leadership and management, as well as a doctoral student in public administration.

The purpose of the Social Equity Leadership Conference is to stimulate discussion and awareness of the issues that affect public administration professionals, as well as students in advanced-degree programs, and how their actions can make a difference.

“Those who serve the public in government and nonprofit organizations have a special responsibility to make certain that there is ‘justice for all,’ ” Svara says. “At times, it is not clear what one can do. The conference was meaningful because speakers and panelists provided examples of creative actions that one can take to identify and remedy social equity needs. It was particularly exciting to hear students say that the conference had broadened their thinking about the importance of social equity in professional service and as a topic in social science research.”

Wendy Paulson,
(602) 496-1035
College of Public Programs