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Leisha DeHart-Davis Selected as Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar

Faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis has been selected as a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar (FES), a distinction that will support her work on the Local Government Workplaces Project. Sponsored by the Carolina Center for Public Service, FES brings together faculty from across campus to engage in a two-year experiential curriculum designed to advance their engaged scholarship.


Every other year, eight to 10 faculty members are selected to participate in this program aimed at understanding and pursuing community engagement through scholarly endeavors. Scholars participate in sessions in community settings focused on exemplary University-community partnerships. While developing their own projects with community partners, scholars form a learning community with the course directors providing guidance and support.

DeHart-Davis will be expanding the Local Government Workplaces Project, which she launched in Fall 2015. The project is an employee survey resource for North Carolina local governments.

“City and county employees make an enormous difference in the lives of citizens,” said DeHart-Davis, “whether they are delivering clean water, maintaining safe sidewalks, or keeping citizens safe.” How effectively these services are delivered often depends on the morale and motivation of the local government workforce, requiring cities and counties to keep their fingers on the pulse of workplace climate. The Local Government Workplaces Project provides local government managers with a resource to help their employees weigh in on how to improve their workplaces. The project involves public organizational behavior scholars from around the world who will work with DeHart-Davis to disseminate best organizational survey practices and provide low-cost survey design and implementation. The project will also generate anonymized comparison data on workplace climate for North Carolina local government managers. 



DeHart-Davis said, "My goal is to generate knowledge that is rigorously derived, useful for improving local government workplaces, and instructive to emerging public service leaders on creating the very best public sector workplaces."



The Town of Cary and the Durham County Department of Social Services have participated in the project. The City of Concord will join in the fall and other local governments are expected to participate within 20162017. 



Through this project, the School of Government will expand its service to public officials by providing a management tool for local governments. The project will also contribute to the University of North Carolina's engaged scholarship portfolio through community-relevant research that builds social science knowledge.