Center for Public and Nonprofit Management former directors Naim Kapucu and Thomas Bryer with current director Deborah Carroll.
In 2008, the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management was established as the research extension of the UCF School of Public Administration. Now, in 2018, the center is celebrating 10 years of policy-changing research, 10 years of working with local nonprofit agencies and 10 years of providing support to the community at large through community engagement initiatives. The center supports UCF’s emergence as a preeminent research university. “The culture towards research has shifted. As the focus of UCF as an institution has shifted to more prominence in research, the center reinforces this mission by providing the necessary support to faculty to research in the public service fields,” said Professor Naim Kapucu, founding director of the center and director of the school. The center hosts the annual Public Administration Research Conference, which brings together students and faculty across the world to engage in important discussions about the advancement and development of the public service field. “The center is important because it engages in and applies research related to public policies that affect our communities through government and nonprofit organizations,” said Deborah Carroll, an associate professor of public administration and director of the center.
Since its inception, the center has provided capacity building seminars for small community-based nonprofit organizations. These seminars benefit organizations through trainings and technical assistance on topics such as grantwriting, leadership and operations, and volunteer management. Nearly 200 nonprofits have participated in capacity building seminars to increase their ability to service communities. In faculty-led delivery teams, students provide support as researchers and technical assistants with opportunities to apply concepts and strategies discussed in their courses. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the center its largest grant to date of $1,000,000 to deliver capacity building services in support of distressed areas including South Lake, South Sumter and West Orange counties. Through this funding, 82 nonprofit organizations participated in 19 half-day training workshops to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
The center’s involvement in the community does not stop at capacity building seminars. The center has been an integral part of implementing public service initiatives. Through the Homeless Education AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) project, the center placed 39 full-time volunteers in Central Florida school districts and nonprofits to support the development of capacity building to address the needs of homeless students and families from 2012 to 2016. The project raised over $60,000 in cash and in-kind donations, recruited over 150 volunteers and reached over 4,000 youth. “We knew this problem in the community existed and still exists. Our thought was that if we have any inclination to help break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, then we should develop a program focused on homeless youth education – build capacity, build sustainability, help solve the problem,” said Thomas Bryer, a professor of public administration and former center director. Homelessness on campus was assessed in partnership with the UCF Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities through a campus-wide survey and hosting the annual National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in November.
The Walking School Bus program gained local and national attention. Through this program, elementary school students could walk to school with trained adult volunteers, providing a healthy travel alternative, increasing positive interaction among students and reducing traffic issues at the schools. From 2013 to 2015, the center partnered with 10 local schools to bring the program to Central Florida. Nearly 140 volunteers escorted over 850 youth throughout the course of the program.
In its 10-year history, the center supported six grants from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on areas such as relief distribution after significant hurricanes, public safety communications and building resilience and sustainability in rural communities. Through these and several other research grants, policies can be implemented and changed to better service the global community. Bryer, along with Staci Zavattaro, an associate professor of public administration and research associate with the center, and doctoral students Esteban Santis and Sofia Prysmakova-Rivera conducted a study on the public service response to the Pulse nightclub shooting. The research team presented the findings at the American Society for Public Administration conference to provide insight on potential strategies of response to other city and government officials who may face similar tragedies. “What we have demonstrated over the years is that, through the center, we are able to translate the rigor of academic research to the daily needs of organizations and citizens in the community,” said Bryer. The center continues to build a reputation as a part of the solution for the challenges the community faces by applying academic research to visible services and initiatives.
As a part of the School of Public Administration, the center is relocating to UCF Downtown in fall 2019. “The move to downtown Orlando will create opportunities for the center to operate as a bridge between the community and the university,” said Carroll. The location, a transportation hub to regional partners and in the heart of the Orlando community, provides more opportunities for interactions with community partners and nonprofit organizations served by the work of the center. Through research and services within the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management, real lives change.
At the UCF Center for Public and Nonprofit Management, our goal is to support the research interests of faculty and students, as well as the research needs of the community. Our sponsored research focuses on policy and management, but our faculty expertise is rich and varied. We also lead public service projects and offer unique, holistic training and technical assistance projects to build nonprofit organizational capacity. Through research and community engagement, our center improves policy and governance in partnership with communities from Central Florida and worldwide.