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Pi Alpha Alpha honors Texas State graduate student papers

Date released: 10/25/04

SAN MARCOS – Julie Lorea and Amy Jones, two students in the MPA program at Texas State University-San Marcos, have been honored by the Pi Alpha Alpha national honor society for public affairs and administration for outstanding manuscripts exploring societal issues.

Pi Alpha Alpha sponsors two annual awards for the best student manuscript in public administration: one for best Masters level paper and one for best Doctoral candidate paper. Entries were judged on the basis of relevance of the topic, appropriate use of methodology, quality of presentation, originality, innovativeness, clarity and academic quality. Additionally, Pi Alpha Alpha is celebrating its 30-year anniversary by publishing a monograph of the winning papers plus a selected finalist. Lorea’s manuscript earned the Masters award, and Jones’ paper was selected for publication as outstanding finalist.

“We’ve had five national award winners since 1998. That’s pretty exciting, really. It’s not an accident why we’re winning so many awards,” said Pat Shields, Director of the Master’s in Public Administration program. “It really is a fantastic rate of success. I’m blessed with extremely talented students.”

Lorea’s paper examined the issue of food supply during emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attack. She found that disaster reaction plans currently in place didn’t provide guidance for people on the ground when dealing with food supply emergencies, so developed a framework of questions so emergency responders can develop their own standard operating procedures on the spot, adaptable to any situation. Lorea’s approach was so innovative and effective that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has adopted it, with other agencies across the country expected to follow suit.

Jones’ paper researched the “digital divide” in public school systems today, and how that impacts education. Surveying a wide variety of schools on four different areas regarding their areas of readiness for technology, Jones compiled extensive data on technology availability in urban versus rural school districts and different socio-economics environments, as well as other factors. For the first time, a comprehensive study looked at education to determine what technology gaps existed, and if so, in what areas.

“If it weren’t for Julie’s paper and its ‘outside the box’ approach, Amy’s could’ve won because it was fairly sophisticated in the way it dealt with important policy issues,” Shields said. “We have, unambiguously, a very good process here. These projects are looked upon as project management issues, and the students develop project management skills while working on them which they can apply in their careers.”