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Adam Eckerd, PhD

News Type Alumni News

Adam Eckerd is an associate professor at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Adam conducts research on organizational and individual decision making, particularly as it relates to how risk is assessed and how information is used to manage public and nonprofit programs and policies. His work investigates issues of environmental justice, public participation and program evaluation. Adam holds a PhD from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and an MA in government from Johns Hopkins University.

Adam is committed to understanding how societies manage complex policy and social challenges. His research work covers a broad range of topics with a central theme of considering how individuals and organizations simplify complex problems to the point where decisions can be made.

Sometimes this means balancing competing goals, such as in environmental policy where the balance of risk, cost, return on investment and social equity rarely offers a simple win-win solution. Other times this can relate to how we conclude if programs are working. As his previous work in the nonprofit sector taught Adam, determining the "right" measures of social outcomes is inherently difficult. Deciding what to measure, how to measure it and, perhaps even more importantly, what to not measure, is part of a political process that has implications for what tasks organizations prioritize.

Adam takes these insights outside of the classroom as well. He has worked with small nonprofit organizations, and with local governments on their efforts to assess the success of their programs, usually tying these efforts into his classes so that students are engaged in real-world complexity of public and nonprofit management and policy.

What is a standout memory of your time with the college?

The friendships that I made and the exploration of big questions about how we manage our societies really stand out. The debates in seminars with my cohort mates, Ketra Rice and Daniel Ortega-Pacheco. Sharing the fishbowl with Roy Heidelberg, Blair Russell and Jamie Levine Daniel. And having the faculty really treat me as a colleague from early on. The mentorship that I received from Anand Desai, Andy Keeler, Stephanie Moulton, Craig Boardman, Rob Greenbaum, Mary Marvel, Trevor Brown and David Landsbergen set me up for success. If I’ve done well, it’s because they put me on the path to do well. I’ve remained close with many of the folks that I met at the Glenn College and expect to throughout my career. It’s also been fun to get to know some of the doctoral students who have come along after me. There is a real community of people who have gotten their PhD at the Glenn College and I’m proud to be part of it.

What are you working on now?

I’m working a few different things, all in some way related to how the public interacts with administrators. I’m working on a book project, with Glenn College alumna Yushim Kim, to investigate the circumstances under which communities are more or less prone to gentrify if there is some sort of environmental improvement in the community. I’m working on a paper, with Glenn College alumnus Roy Heidelberg, to better understand how and why some public engagement efforts are effective and democratic while others are not. I’ve also recently become editor of the Perspectives section of the journal Administration & Society, in which we are seeking thoughtful essays intended to push the boundaries of our understanding of public administration. 

As a graduate of the college what do you hope for the Glenn College as it moves toward the century mark?

I hope that the Glenn College continues to foster its community. There is a sense of connection between everyone that has come through the college, whether as a student or a member of the faculty. There is an immediate connection even with the folks that I did not overlap with in Columbus and in my view, that’s a really distinct part of the college. I don’t see that sort of connection at other programs and it’s something that makes the Glenn College special.