Stowers touts technology for public administrators

GenieStowers

Genie Stowers, chair of San Francisco State University's Department of Public Administration, works at her desk on Wednesday, April 28, 2011. Photo by John Baker.

You hear it from pundits almost every day, since the recession began almost three years ago: “Public sector employees are overpaid and taxing taxpayers’ money.”

But Professor Genie Stowers, chair of the Public Administration Department at San Francisco State University, might hold a contrary opinion. For almost 25 years, the last 20 of those at SF State, Stowers has led efforts to educate a professional and productive non-profit and public workforce.

“(Public) adminstrators get caught up in the general distrust of institutions and of government in general,” Stowers said. “The exception is when there’s a big crisis and you see people responding favorably to firefighters or the Coast Guard.”

Political turmoil in the early 1970s inspired many. The malfeasance of the Nixon administration not only inspired would-be journalists thrilled by the exploits of Woodward and Bernstein, but also encouraged young people like Stowers to look into how the political culture might be changed from the inside.

Stowers’ studies eventually led to a doctorate in political science from Florida State University and a teaching position at SF State. The public administration program at SF State serves close to 150 graduate students and is highly competitive, only admitting about 25 percent of applicants for the Fall 2010 semester.

Technology has been a particular emphasis for Stowers,’ who has authored a number of papers about what is called “e-government” — the use of social media and other Internet pathways to communicate and deliver services to the public.

This audio interview discusses what inspired Stowers to take an interest in public policy and includes her tips on finding a professional public-sector job.

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