Time and time again, Susan Gaffney, Program Coordinator for undergraduate Political Science and graduate Criminal Justice, Political and Social Justice and Public Administration, has found opportunities in her life presented to her through Governors State University connections.
From alum to adjunct, from professor to program coordinator, Dr. Gaffney is a founding member of the Institute for Politics, Public Service, and Social Justice (IPPSJ) at GSU. Currently, Gaffney is spending her time organizing IPPSJ's efforts to assist communities, nonprofit organizations, and local governments to meet the needs of their constituents. The IPPSJ seeks to provide government entities and nonprofits with data-driven solutions to ensure organizational and fiscal sustainability through research, conferences, and events. These events include discussions with the communities on how to revitalize abandoned properties to create economic growth.
Looking back over her 22-year career at GSU, she finds her greatest joy in meeting students working in positions where they are carrying out the GSU mission within their profession. "There is not a spot, where GSU is not."
GSU Newsroom: What brought you to GSU?
Gaffney: I am a GSU 1992 Public Administration graduate. The education I received was outstanding. Public Administration professors encouraged me to pursue a doctorate in Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the first semester of my doctoral program, I earned all As; this was a testament to the quality of education GSU provided. After earning my doctorate, I returned to GSU six years later, serving as a Public Administration adjunct professor for three years. In 2001, a full-time assistant professor position with the Public Administration program became available. I applied for the position, 22 years later, I am serving as the program coordinator and liaison to our national accrediting body, Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).
GSU Newsroom: Why is your work with the Institute for Politics, Public Service, and Social Justice important to GSU and you personally?
Gaffney: Having a faculty centered institute enhances our commitment to assisting nonprofit organizations and government entities to improve the lives of their constituents and ensure all groups in society have the same access to public services and opportunities to achieve their goals. IPPSJ also serves as an outlet for faculty in Criminal Justice, Political and Justice Studies, and Public Administration to showcase their research and how their academic endeavors facilitate change.
GSU Newsroom: Tell me about your roles with the Cook County Ethics Commission and the Greater Chicago American Society for Public Administration.
Gaffney: The dawn of a new decade has led to a new normal; thus, requiring many of us to embrace leadership roles we did not anticipate. The Cook County Ethics Commission is committed to ensuring elected officials and those hired to serve the citizens of Cook County perform their tasks ethically and fairly. Serving on this board is an honor and privilege. Assuming the position of president for the Greater Chicago American Society for Public Administration is an opportunity to bring professionals in all levels of government, the nonprofit sector, and academia together to discuss political, economic, environmental, and societal initiatives affecting Illinois residents. Through workshops, panel discussions, and networking events, ASPA members are kept abreast of current hiring trends and the skills public sector entities are seeking.
GSU Newsroom: How do you incorporate these roles and your work with the institute into the classroom? How does this benefit your students?
Gaffney: Students are learning from professors who are academically and professionally qualified, faculty members who are associated with IPPSJ, bringing their expertise from "the real world" into the classroom. Faculty instill knowledge based on current trends, which keeps our curriculum relevant. Our students graduate with knowledge and skills that can be applied upon entering a new position or when seeking advancement within their current organization.
GSU Newsroom: What is next for you?
Gaffney: To continue motivating students to pursue careers within government, community, and nonprofit organizations. Encouraging students to become advocates and champions for those in society who are the most vulnerable.