President's Report Masthead
September 30, 2013
Fulbright Scholar promotes effective government

Jonathan Cohen
Nadia Rubaii, associate professor of public administration, received a Fulbright grant to conduct research at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. She will begin her work there in January.

Fulbright Scholar promotes effective government

A Binghamton researcher who hopes to improve the quality of public administration around the world will travel to Latin America as a Fulbright Scholar.

Nadia Rubaii, associate professor of public administration, received a Fulbright grant to conduct research beginning in January at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. She will study how accreditation of public administration schools can improve graduate education and, ultimately, build more effective governments.

Rubaii hopes to examine to what extent U.S. standards can be used in other countries, based on whether they make sense culturally, politically and economically. “What it’s forcing us to do is to learn from each other,” she said, “and to recognize that our way of doing things, which might be good, isn’t necessarily the only way or the best way.”

Rubaii believes that better public administration education will lead to more effective government institutions. “The real end goal,” she said, “is for governments all around the world to have sufficient capacities to engage in sustainable economic development, to promote improved health, education and security and to reduce crime, inequality, discrimination and poverty among their populations.”

An intermediate step is to improve the professionalization of government. She hopes that societies around the world will value people who have training in public administration as having something to contribute to government.

Schools can seek public administration accreditation in the United States, and now internationally, through the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Rubaii oversaw NASPAA as its president and chaired its accreditation board for two years.

Accrediting bodies evaluate curriculum quality, faculty credentials, student experience, placement record, admission standards and what knowledge and skills students have after graduating. Rubaii’s research focuses on how those standards differ internationally.

“Accreditation now from this organization is available to programs outside the United States, but the standards for accreditation are based on how we think about quality in the U.S.,” she said. “Those are not necessarily universal values.”

Sebastian Lippez De Castro, a graduate of Binghamton’s public administration program and member of the faculty at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, worked with Rubaii on the possibility of applying NASPAA standards to graduate public service programs in Latin America.

“She was always genuinely interested in listening, on both our experiences with Colombia’s higher education system and what we were able to learn about other Latin American countries’ systems,” De Castro said. “Her leadership style includes her cultural sensitivity.”

De Castro said he and other faculty members at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana look forward to working with Rubaii. “We not only expect to learn from her knowledge and experience regarding specific public administration topics,” he said, “but also expect her research will help or graduate public service programs improve their quality.”