Call for Proposals: Chicago NASPAA 2020

Chicago #NASPAA2020 Call For Proposals

Building the New Civic Square

Deadline: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at Midnight EST


The agoras of ancient Greece were the heart of public life — quite literally ‘gathering places’ where citizens came together to discuss and debate the issues. These civic squares changed the course of human history, giving birth to democracy and systems of governance that exist across the world to this day, and setting the standard for what it means to be engaged in public life.


Yet in 2020, the civic squares in the United States and around the world are spaces of extreme contestation that endanger the very democratic and participatory essence upon which they were built. Belief in the value and credibility of democratic institutions is at historic lows. Discourse, whether political or otherwise, is weaponized to inflame rather than construct. The very notion of truth is challenged, and facts dismissed as irrelevant. People doubt that governments and governance systems can and will serve their interests and the public interest. The rise of nationalist, authoritarian, and populist movements is raising the question whether the liberal democratic order, and the principles for which they stand, can survive.


2020 in the United States raises the specter of increased polarization, division, and destruction of democratic norms. Independent of the U.S. election and the global impacts it will have, similar dynamics are playing out in places around the world in which our programs operate. These developments strike to the very heart of programs of public policy and public administration. The intransigence of views and the seeming intractability of problems is creating skepticism as to whether practitioners and the field of public affairs and administration are up to the task. In this context, NASPAA member programs must address these issues for the greater good of the communities and the societies in which we live, but also for the very relevance of our programs so that we may thrive. As schools and programs dedicated to public service education, the health and functioning of our civic squares – wherever they may be – is fundamental to what we do.


No civic square has ever been fully inclusive of all people within the society. Our challenge today is not to recreate a civic square of old, but rather to build a new, more inclusive, and resilient civic square.


Our annual meeting will take place in Chicago scarcely three weeks before the U.S. election. At the same time, it takes place on the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement which provides evidence that fundamental changes can be made to political and social systems to advance the public good.


This conference welcomes panels that will delve into how we can and should build a new civic square, and what the role of our programs in that process is.


Track 1: Research and teaching: What is the new civic education?


The highly contested nature of civic space today presents particular challenges and opportunities for programs of public policy and public administration. While the very relevance of our field is being questioned by some, there is little doubt that the skills and knowledge our programs provide is more needed than ever.

·     How do we conduct research and teach in a fashion that builds common ground and diminishes polarization and division?

·     How do we reclaim a fundamental role for facts and dispassionate analysis at a time when these fundamental building blocks of public policy are questioned by many?

·     What are our programs’ approaches to researching and teaching civic knowledge and civic skills?

·     What are our programs’ approaches to teaching civic values and norms?


Track 2: Impact and Engagement: What are programs and NASPAA doing in this space?


Our programs’ contribution to the civic square is not limited to the classroom or to publications. In fact, many of our programs have civic engagement programming for students, faculty and staff. Likewise, NASPAA itself has taken on initiatives with the support of our members to collectively try to address some of the central questions around elections.

·     How do we further involve students in civic engagement activities, including supporting them to be innovators in the civic sphere?

·     How do our programs develop our students’ proficiency to ensure they are prepared to engage diverse constituencies and advance a more inclusive civic square?

·     How do scholars and our programs measure civic engagement? Do our scholars and our programs advance or participate in civic health indices in their states and communities?

·     In addition to voter registration and election initiatives, are there other topics that NASPAA should address?

·     What should a NASPAA badge in civic engagement look like?


Track 3: Inclusion in a New Civic Square


For many, gaining a space and voice in the old civic square was hard fought. Many more – women, people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized communities – have never been welcomed into the square, intentionally and often forcibly excluded from participating and holding power in the governing processes that affect them. A new civic square, and one that enables and advances good governance, cannot be built on exclusionary foundations. To meet the current challenges, the new civic square must be more inclusive than what we have seen to date.

·     How do we ensure that women, who have been excluded from equal participation in most civic squares, gain their rightful place in the crafting and leadership of the new civic square?

·     In the U.S., how do we ensure that racial minorities that have suffered historic and ongoing discrimination and marginalization, have equal opportunity not only to participate in, but lead, the new civic square?

·     How do we include a range of political and ideological beliefs in the classroom and in our programs in such polarized times?


Track 4: The new civic square globally: What it means around the world


Our schools and programs are situated in communities and countries with very different histories and political contexts. The very definition of civic square is quite different around the world.

·     What are some of the common challenges faced by our students and programs around the world, and what are different challenges they face from which we might learn?

·     Have programs utilized SDG16 – which calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels – in building a new civic square? If so, what can others learn from these experiences that could be applied in different contexts?

·     What can we do to enrich state and local civic squares at a time when national civic squares are highly contested and divisive? Are there models globally that provide policy and practice lessons?

·     Around the world, how do other ethnic, religious, and other minority groups participate in their civic squares and what can we learn from these varied experiences?



Undergraduate Education


In addition to the four tracks on building the new civic square, the 2020 Annual Meeting will provide the opportunity for a significant number of panels on the issue of undergraduate education. Many programs have undergraduate offerings, more are adding them day-by-day, and we seek to accelerate cross-learning about what is working, what the challenges in undergraduate education are, and what NASPAA can do to facilitate the conversation around undergraduate education and undergraduate education itself.

·     What are the key components of a successful undergraduate program, and how do such programs differ from graduate programs?

·     What are strategies for proposing and launching undergraduate programs?

·     Core competencies in undergraduate programs – what to include, what not to include, and the relationship between undergraduate and graduate professional programs in the same unit (e.g. 3-2/4-1 programs)?

·     What is the role of experiential education for undergraduate students?





Welcome Teaching Public Affairs Conference (TPAC)


NASPAA is pleased to be co-locating this year with the Section on Public Administration Education (SPAE) of American Society for Public Administration (ASPA)’s Teaching Public Administration Conference (TPAC). We look forward to SPAE members collaborating with NASPAA on issues related to research and teaching, especially in the context of civic engagement and inclusive societies.


Proposal Submission Details


Panel sessions will occur during the main conference on Thursday, Oct. 15 and Friday, Oct. 16. A fully-formed panel consists of a convener, 3-4 confirmed speakers, and a well-developed topic of discussion. When submitting a panel for consideration, you should explore the implications of the track themes and what they mean for public service education. Panel proposals are welcome in any format, including, but not limited to, conventional presentations, roundtable discussions, a presentation with respondents, and panel discussions.Conference sessions will be one hour in duration and should ideally have no more than four presenters to allow for the audience to engage in a thoughtful and meaningful discussion of the topic.


Before proposing a panel, you are encouraged to contact peers at other institutions and examine carefully how these ideas are being developed in the classroom, in program administration, in community relations and in research. Reaching out to relevant NASPAA committees and/or sections for input and formal endorsement is also encouraged, but not required.


While the basis for your panel proposal may be a published paper, your proposal should examine the implications of your research and include discussion of opposing viewpoints. Conference panel proposals should not be manuscript abstracts. Proposals should present an idea and describe how all sides of the idea will be discussed. Proposals that present variety across types, sizes, foci, or geographic location of programs will receive preference. Proposals should include presenters from at least 2 different institutions. Please note, in order to accept as many presenters as possible, the conference planning committee may ask you to be flexible in your presenters, or they may suggest substitute presenters.


Submitting “an orphan proposal” without a full slate of presenters is discouraged. The committee will try to match an individual to a panel, but most often accepted panels are already full or there is no topical match. If you need help finding a potential panelist in your research or desired topic area, please reach out to NASPAA ( or at least a week before the deadline and we will to our best to help connect you with NASPAA colleagues.


If you would like NASPAA to send out a survey to gather information from NASPAA members for your panel, please indicate that in your proposal. A limited number of surveys will be sent to NASPAA members and requests for surveys will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis. NASPAA will schedule surveys shortly following panels notification of acceptance. Surveys should be ready to be sent, this includes having IRB approval if necessary. NASPAA has a limited window in which to schedule surveys and will not hold survey spots open for surveys still awaiting IRB approval. Researchers collecting primary data and seeking to use the data for a JPAE or other journal submission should secure IRB approval at their home institution prior to starting the data collection.


Panel proposals require clear and concise titles, succinct and persuasive descriptions, ideally links to at least one conference track and/or the overall conference theme, and well-thought-out learning objectives.


Panel Logistics:


·     Panels are one hour in length; the full length of presentations should take no more than 45 minutes, with at least 15 minutes reserved for a question and answer period.

·     Each panel should consist of a convener, up to four presenters, and up to one respondent (optional).

·     The panel convener will manage the panel development process, and then at conference session, the convener will open the panel by framing the discussion and moderate the Q&A period.

·     If the convener would like to make a presentation, he/she should only invite three additional presenters.

·     Each presenter will have no more than 10 minutes to share ideas and commentary. It is essential for the panel convener to manage presentations to ensure ample time for discussion at the end of the presentations.

·     If a respondent is added to the panel, he/she will not make a presentation but will instead offer summary comments on the panelists’ presentations. The respondent’s comments should be within the 45 minutes to allow at least 15 minutes for questions from the audience.

·     All presentation rooms will be set up theater style with PowerPoint presentation technology. A limited number of rooms will be available with audio capability; please indicate in your proposal if you will need audio technology (i.e. showing a video clip).

·     Panelists should consider alternatives to the usual presentation/response format, including moderated roundtables and other forms of presentation that encourage lively discussion and debate.


Presenter Limits:


To maximize the overall number of presenters, the Conference Planning Committee will continue the NASPAA practice of following the Rule of Two: limiting presenter participation to two sessions during the main conference. This includes roles as convener, presenter, and/or respondent, but each session only counts once. This rule does not apply to the following types of sessions: meetings, plenaries, workshops, and the Accreditation Institute.


Proposal Selection: 


NASPAA typically receives more than 200 excellent proposal submissions for each Annual Conference, so please understand that selecting panels is a difficult and highly selective process. As such, quality rather than quantity is always best when submitting proposals. We much prefer to receive your best ideas rather than every idea you might have. Preference will be given to panels that address the theme of Building the New Civic Square and which:

·     Address at least one of the conference tracks;

·     Include panel participants which represent the diversity of NASPAA institutions;

·     Will allow for discussion and analysis of current topics;

·     Have representation from at least two schools, and ideally, from two or more countries;

·     Involve practitioners, students, or other stakeholders;

·     Include a full slate of presenters;

·     Report on experiences with collaborative work across programs, stakeholders, and/or countries;

·     Are nonpartisan and examine multiple viewpoints of an issue;

·     Encompass an appropriate volume of information to present in one hour, which will facilitate a thoughtful and meaningful discussion;

·     Represent interests of and/or have the explicit endorsement of a NASPAA committee or section; and

·     Reflect originality and relevance.


The conference selection committee will review all submissions and NASPAA will notify the convener of the final status in June 2020.



Submitting Your Proposal:


Submissions are made through our online form. Preview the application questions (Word document) before you begin the online submission process.


All proposals must be submitted by the session convener by Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at Midnight EST.






Re: your proposal, please contact Leigh Anne Elliott at

Re: technical items with the online submission process, contact Monchaya Wanna at