The April issue of Research & Creative Activity was devoted to the activities of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), on the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary.
Universities have long had special schools focused on preparation for particular professions--law, medicine, business, and education are well-known examples. "Public and environmental affairs" is a latecomer to this category. It is not new for university graduates to be active participants in public life--even professional participants--but separate academic units to prepare them and to concentrate on scholarly research in this area have appeared in the United States, and in other countries, only in the last few decades.
The Council on Graduate Education in Public Administration, which became the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, was formed at a meeting of representatives of about twenty universities, held in Bloomington in 1958, more than a dozen years before SPEA was officially begun. The association now includes about 240 institutional members. It recognizes fifty-two of these as "comprehensive schools"; only two of these fifty-two are in Big Ten institutions and only two (Harvard and Princeton) in Ivy League universities.
There was less than unanimous enthusiasm among IU faculty members when SPEA was authorized. To some, "public and environmental affairs" included too much, overlapped too much with basic disciplines, or with business or law.
But the faculty, the trustees, and the newly established Commission on Higher Education did authorize it, and it has developed remarkably. It is now the largest school of its kind in the United States, and probably in the world, and it is among the most highly regarded. The array of scholarly activities described in the April issue of Research & Creative Activity is impressive both in its scope and in its relevance to modern society.
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
and of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University Bloomington
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