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Willow S. Jacobson

Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Administration and Government; Associate Dean for Graduate Studies; Director, UNC MPA Program

Willow Jacobson is the director of the UNC Master of Public Administration program and the Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Administration and Government.

She joined the School of Government faculty in 2003. She previously served as Director of the Leading for Results Program, which she helped create in 2011 to develop local government leaders in North Carolina. She was also involved in the 2005 inaugural session of the Public Executive Leadership Academy. Her research has appeared in Public Administration Review and Public Personnel Management. Jacobson earned a Ph.D. from Syracuse University.

Jacobson was selected as a National Academy of Public Administration Fellow in 2023. She serves as an editorial board member for the Korean Journal of Policy Studies, Public Personnel Management, and Review of Public Personnel Administration. Jacobson is a board member for The Section on Personnel Administration and Labor Relations, American Society for Public Administration.

Previously, she taught in the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Connecticut and worked on the Government Performance Project and the New Jersey Initiative at the Alan K. Campbell Institute at The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She has also assisted with strategic planning for community collaboratives in California and Oregon state government.


Selected Publications

Jacobson, Willow, and Kristina Lambright. 2018. “The Development of County HR Policies: The Perspectives of Counties in Two States.” Public Personnel Management.

Jacobson, Willow S., and Jessica E. Sowa. 2016. “Municipal Human Resource Management: Challenges and Innovative Practices in Turbulent Times,” State and Local Government Review. Vol. 48, No. 2, 121-131.

Jacobson, Willow S., Jessica Sowa, Kristina Lambright. 2014. “Do Human Resource Departments Act as Strategic Partners? Strategic Human Capital Management Adoption by County Governments” Review of Public Personnel Administration. Vol. 34, No. 3, 289-301.

Jacobson WS, Paynter SR. Verdict Pending: Understanding Leadership Role Identity for North Carolina Judges and Lawyers. Public Personnel Management. 2019;48(2):252-279.

Jacobson, Willow S., and Shannon Howle Tufts. 2013. “To Post or Not to Post: Employee Rights and Social Media,” Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol.33, No. 1, 84-107.

Brenda Bushouse, Willow S. Jacobson, Kristina Lambright, Jared Llorens, Rick Morse, and Ora-Orn Poocharoen. 2011. "Crossing the Divide: Building Bridges between Public Administration Practitioners and Scholars". Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Vol. 21, Supplement 1. pp. 99-112.

Heather Getha-Taylor, Maja Holmes, Willow S. Jacobson, Rick Morse, and Jessica Sowa. 2011. "Focusing the Public Leadership Lens: Research Propositions and Questions in the Minnowbrook Tradition". Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Vol. 21. Supplement 1. pp. 183-197.

Willow S. Jacobson, Ellen Rubin, and Amy Donahue. 2008.  “Integrating Labor Relations and Human Resource Management:  Impacts on State Workforces,International Review of Public Administration.2008.  Vol. 13, No. 2

Willow S. Jacobson and Donna Warner. 2008. “Leading and Governing: A Model for local Government Education,” Journal of Public Affairs Education. Summer 2008, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2008

Willow S. Jacobson, “Preparing for Tomorrow: A Case Study of Workforce Planning in North Carolina Municipalities,” Public Personnel Management. Forthcoming (Accepted November 2007).

Jacobson, Willow S., and Christine A Kelleher, Cynthia J. Bowling. 2010. “A Woman’s Touch? Gendered Networks in State Administration”.  Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.   Vol. 20 Issue 2.

Additional Publications

Book Chapters

Jacobson, Willow. 2009. “Chapter 12: Planning for Today and Tomorrow: Workforce Planning” in Public Personnel Administration: Prospects and Problems. Richard Kearny, Steven Hays, and Jerrell Coggburn, editors.

Selden, Sally, and Willow Jacobson.  2007. “Chapter Four: Government’s Largest Investment—Human Resource Management in States, Cities, and Counties” in  In Pursuit of Performance: Management Systems in State and Local Government. Patricia Ingraham, editor. John Hopkins Press. Pages 82-116.

Donahue, Amy, Willow Jacobson, Mark Robbins, Ellen Rubin, and Sally Selden. 2004. “Management and Performance Outcomes in State Government” in The Art of Governance: Analyzing Management and Administration. Laurence E. Lynn, Jr. and Patricia W. Ingraham, editors Georgetown University Press. Pages 125-151.

Journal Articles

Tufts, Shannon, and Willow Jacobson. 2010. “Visions of Leadership: An Examination of How IT Professionals Prioritize Leadership Attributes” Journal of Information Technology Management.  Volume XXI, Number 1. 

Jacobson, Willow S., and Donna Warner. 2008. “Leading and Governing: A Model for Local Government Education,” Journal of Public Affairs Education. Summer 2008, Vol. 14,  No. 2, Summer 2008.

Jacobson, Willow S. “Creating a Motivated Workforce: How Organizations Can Enhance and Develop PSM,”  Public Personnel Management. Forthcoming (Accepted July 2007).

Jacobson, Willow S. “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd, and Four’s a Lot to Manage: Supervising in Today’s Intergenerational Workplace,” Popular Government.  Vol. 73, No. 1, Fall 2007. 

Jacobson, Willow S. “Workforce Planning: Who Will Be There to Serve?,”  Popular Government.  Vol. 72, No. 2, Winter 2007. 

Jacobson, Willow S. 2007. “Managing Multiple Generations” The Governing Management Letter ( 2007.

Jacobson, Willow S., Sally Selden, and Ellen Rubin. “Examining Training in Large Municipalities: Linking Individual and Organizational Training Needs,” Public Personnel Management. 2002. Vol.  31,  No.4.

Ingraham, Patricia, Sally Selden, and Willow Jacobson. “Human Resource Practice in State Governments: Findings from a National Survey,” Public Administration Review. Sept 2001. Vol. 61,  No. 5.

Selden, Sally, Salwa Ammar, Ron Wright, and Willow Jacobson. “A New Approach to Assessing Performance of State Human Resource Management Systems: A Multi-Level Fuzzy Rule-Based System,” Review of Public Personnel Administration. 2000. Vol. 20, No. 3.

Kissler, Gerald, Karmen Fore, Willow Jacobson, William Kittredge, Scott Stewart. “State Strategic Planning: Suggestions from the Oregon Experience.” Public Administration Review, July/August 1998, Vol.  58,  No. 4.


"Receptivity to Change in the Public Sector: Two Federal Case Studies."

White Papers

Sally Selden and Willow Jacobson. 2002 “Lessons Learned Human Resource Management” in Government Performance Project Final Report. Syracuse, New York: Alan K. Campbell Public Affairs Institute.

New Jersey Initiative. 2002 The New Jersey Initiative: Building Management Capacity in New Jersey Municipalities. Syracuse, New York: Alan K. Campbell Public Affairs Institute. (Contributor).

Jacobson, Willow, and Jessica Crawford. “Innovations in State Human Resource Practices: Examples from the States.” (Alan K. Campbell Institute Working Paper Series). 2001.

Selden, Sally, Willow Jacobson, and Jessica Crawford. “State Report 2001: Human Resource Management.” (Alan K. Campbell Institute Working Paper Series). 2001.

Ingraham, Patricia, Sally Selden, and Willow Jacobson. “The State of Human Resource Management in State Government.” (Alan K. Campbell Institute Working Paper Series). 2001.

Jacobson, Willow. “Searching for Synergy: Collaborative Theory vs. Practice.” Master’s Exit Project, 1998.

Fields of Expertise
Employer-Employee Relations
Human Resource Management
Leadership Development
Organizational Change and Development
Public Administration
Public Management
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