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SPEA students help revamp Hoosier state agencies through Indiana Leadership Seminar (ILS)

When Indiana governor Mitch Daniels gave a reception for SPEA students and faculty in the fall of 2005 and invited their involvement in state government, SPEA faculty Mike Gleeson and Greg Lindsey took him up on the offer – the Indiana Leadership Seminar (ILS), which facilitates exciting interface between SPEA students and Indiana state agencies, is the result.

ILS summaryDeveloped by Gleeson and Lindsey and currently in its first year, the ILS is a year-long course that provides SPEA honors students at IUPUI with unique professional development opportunities in the form of viable research projects with state agencies.

Lindsey, who is associate dean and Duey-Murphy Professor of Rural Land Policy, calls the program “a reincarnation” of the Indiana Leadership Program that was based in Bloomington and combined classroom work and pedagogy. “We have the capstone program for graduate students that we run in partnership with the Indianapolis mayor’s office, but we wanted to offer something meaningful for undergraduates as well,” he explains. “We decided that a year-long course would provide undergrads with the time they needed to get a meaningful result.”

Gleeson and Lindsey say that the response from the state government was enthusiastic from the start.
“Greg took our proposal to Director of the State Budget Agency Chuck Schalliol, and we were met with a wonderful response. Tony Armstrong, State Budget Agency deputy director, has been our point person and has been crucial in the development of agency projects,” says Gleeson, associate professor of public and environmental affairs. “We have consistently felt the endorsement of the governor and the OMB as we’ve worked with the state agencies. The projects they proposed were challenging and, importantly, timely.”

ILS studentsWorking with Armstrong, Gleeson and the students identified four state agencies with which they wanted to partner. These agencies submitted RFPs for seven projects and the students selected the following four group projects: revamping the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Web site, calculating recidivism rates of offenders participating in the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (Department of Corrections), traffic safety involving light trucks on Indiana’s roadways (Indiana Criminal Justice Institute), and developing a succession plan for the Indiana Department of Health.

“These are very real projects that the clients proposed for very real reasons,” Gleeson explains. “All of the students met with all of the clients – on-site and in extended meetings – before selecting the projects.”

According to Gleeson, this interaction with the clients is one important element of the program; working on real and challenging research projects is another. A third is planning and managing a large project. A fourth is encountering – and overcoming – difficulties and challenges with the projects: human subjects review, large and complicated data sets, analysis techniques that are new, and new computer software that must be learned and mastered.

Gleeson’s assessment of the value of the ILS experience is echoed by Jodi Lewis, a part-time student and 11-year Indianapolis resident, who is working, along with two other students, under the sponsorship of the Indiana Department of Corrections to determine the effect of participation in the prison industries program (PIECP) on recidivism. “Since I am already in a full-time work environment, my experience in the ILS has been research. I have gained a great deal of research experience and more experience using Access and Excel,” Lewis says.

Speaking on behalf of the state agencies who have partnered with ILS students, Tony Armstrong, who was instrumental in getting the program off the launching pad, sees the endeavor as a win-win proposition: Students get to see firsthand how state government operates, and state agencies get a leg up on recruiting bright and experienced students.

“I think the collaboration between IU-SPEA and the State Budget Agency has been terrific. We have a number of SPEA grads working for us, and we couldn’t be happier with them,” says Armstrong. “We see this program as another opportunity to engage with Indiana University and assist in IU’s mission of educating Indiana’s future leaders.”

For more information about the Indiana Leadership Seminar, contact Dr. Mike Gleeson at gleeson@iupui.edu. On the Web: http://www.spea.iupui.edu/Current_Students/ilp.asp.

– Lee Ann Sandweiss

Mike Gleeson specializes in management science and operations management and regularly teaches classes in both areas. He has also served as an urban policy specialist for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as a consultant for numerous state and local government agencies.

Greg Lindsay's expertise is primarily in environmental and water resources planning, decision-making, and management. In addition to teaching such classes Physical Systems, Infrastructure, and Development and Governing and Leading in a Global Society, Prof. Lindsay serves on the editorial boards of both the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, and the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy.