ASPA recognizes MPA program director, alumnus as outstanding contributors to public personnel field

At the 2024 American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Conference, two UNC Master of Public Administration leaders took home honors for their leadership in the public personnel field.

MPA Program Director Willow S. Jacobson and alumnus Fagan Stackhouse won awards from ASPA's Section on Personnel and Labor Relations (SPALR) for their outstanding contributions to the field of public personnel administration.  Jacobson was honored with the Jonathan P. West Outstanding Scholar Award and Stackhouse won the Outstanding Practitioner Award.

Jacobson was recognized for her prolific and significant scholarly contributions to the public human resource management (HRM) field, which span more than two decades and includes journal articles, book chapters, and professional reports.

Nominated by a group of her scholarly peers in public administration who represent schools across the nation, the group sought to celebrate Jacobson’s academic contributions to the public personnel field—scholarly pursuits they view as distinctive, informative, and practical for tangible implementation.

“Professor Jacobson’s work is notable for several reasons,” they wrote in their nomination.

“First, her scholarship examines HRM issues at the local level, which is an essential but often neglected context. Second, she utilizes mixed methodological approaches to best address questions of interest. Third, she effectively connects enduring ideas with contemporary realizes to critically analyze HRM developments. Fourth, her work seamlessly bridges the theory-practice divide.”

Jacobson’s academic record in the field, the group said, exemplifies the scholarly ideals the award seeks to elevate. 

“We believe that Professor Jacobson embodies the spirit of this award’s namesake. Professor West was a supportive and kind colleague whose work elevated the study and practice of public HRM. Like West, Jacobson is known for the excellence, professionalism, and humanity of her work.”

Fagan Stackhouse, Outstanding Practitioner Award winner, has led a public service career that spans nearly five decades and across many states. He served in a variety of public administration positions in multiple local government units, mostly in the human resources field. Stackhouse served as the human resources director for the cities of Raleigh and Virginia Beach, deputy city HR director for Milwaukee, assistant to the county manager and chief HR officer for Charleston County, South Carolina, and interim city manager in Michigan and other public administration positions in Michigan and North Carolina. He served as president of IPMA-HR and as an instructor and guest lecturer at universities across the nation.  Stackhouse currently works as a manager for Evergreen Solutions, LLC.

His skillsets within the human resources field include talent acquisition; workforce development; employee engagement; equity and diversity development; classification and compensation; talent development and management; employee relations; benefits administration; well-being initiatives; and strategic visioning and implementation. 

In recognition of his honor, Stackhouse expressed gratitude for his predecessors who helped pave the way for his ability to effect lasting change in the public human resources sector.

“The ASPA SPALR award is a tremendously significant capstone for me. It represents many collective efforts of leader support, spousal support, excellent mentors, community advocates, and a deep caring for the workforce,” he said.

“This—coupled with fundamentally knowing that quality employees equate to successful organizational outcomes—means one of the highest priorities for public sector organization leaders should be its employees,” he said. “This is effectively demonstrated by creating trust and unwavering commitment to them.”

Jacobson nominated Stackhouse for the award with the assistance of Ruffin Hall. Like Stackhouse, Hall is a UNC MPA alumnus and former public servant for the City of Raleigh, where he served as manager. The two jointly celebrated his dedication to strengthening public organizations. His development of creative strategies and best practices ensures improved employee experiences and is a model public personnel professionals should aim to emulate, they said. 

“Fagan is the epitome of outstanding contribution to the field of public personnel administration throughout this long and distinguished career,” Jacobson wrote in her nomination. “In each position he has served, he demonstrated calm, thoughtful, effective thinking to solve difficult human resource and organizational problems.  In short, Mr. Stackhouse is an excellent example of the best of our profession and deserves recognition.”

Fagan Stackhouse is the recipient of several other public service awards including the Warner Stockberger Achievement Award, Swain Award, and Trailblazer awards.  He earned a master’s degree in public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.  Stackhouse maintains certifications in IPMA-SCP and SHRM-SCP.