Who we are
In 2020, SUNY Buffalo State College (BSC) changed our department’s name from Department of Political Science to Department of Political Science and Public Administration (PSPD). This name change recognized our department’s longstanding commitment that began in the late 1960s to combine both liberal arts and professional training for current and future government administrators, lawyers, and nonprofit managers. From its inception as a free-standing department, we have offered a minor in public administration and our faculty and alumni led the effort to establish the Buffalo-Niagara Chapter of the American Association for Public Administration (ASPA) (a commitment that continues to this day). Further evidence of our department’s commitment to state-of-the art professional education was admission to the Network of Public Administration and Public Affairs (NASPAA) in 2011, which complemented our department’s long-standing institutional membership in the American Political Science Association. Much of the credit for the department’s early efforts in teaching public administration goes to Dr. Keith Henderson who created our several undergraduate public administration courses and oversaw the minor for over 40 years until he passed away in an automobile accident in 2014.
Our degree-granting curricula, which began with a BA in Political Science in the 1960s, has expanded to meet the educational demands of New Yorkers to include a BA in International Relations, an MPA, a Graduate Certificate in Public Management, and minors in public administration, international relations, and housing an interdisciplinary minor in legal studies. BSC is the only public university on the Niagara Frontier offering the MPA and the BA in International Relations.
Since our inception as a free-standing department in 1967, our faculty have been guided by our mission to serve the City of Buffalo, Western New York and the State of New York by training civic and community-engaged leaders for the legal profession, government service, nonprofit agencies, and the business sector. Our alumni have served from the White House to village hall, from banking to industry, to small and large law firms, as legal counsel to civil society organizations, from large, well-founded nonprofits to storefront neighborhood voluntary associations, and higher education. Several of our undergraduate and graduate students have been recognized with SUNY-wide awards (Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence) and the President’s award for Student Excellence. Our alumni have been similarly honored by BSC for their outstanding accomplishments – most recently the Honorable Mayor Byron Brown (BA ’80), the Honorable Congressman Brian Higgins (BA ’82), and Mo Sumbundu, Assistant Director, Empire State Development Corporation (BA ‘13 and MPA ’15). Among our many notable alumni are Jeremy Zellner (Erie County Democratic Party Chair & Election Commissioner), Sam Hoyt (former NYS assemblyman), Laura Krolczyk (former Roswell Park Vice President), Jeannine Johnson (Bronx Criminal Court Judge), Ulysees O. Wingo (City of Buffalo, Common Council), Naima Yancey (Diversity Officer, NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities), Joseph Gramaglia (Deputy Police Commissioner, City of Buffalo), John Figueroa (Regional Executive Director, Southwest Key Programs), Jordan Then (Mid-Atlantic Manager, US Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection), and Donna Estrich (Commissioner of the Budget & Urban Affairs, City of Buffalo).
We nurture alumni-student interactions by inviting our alumni to campus to share their expertise with students and faculty, such as City of Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown who co-created our NYS Government & Budget class (MPA) and supervises MPA projects; serving on our MPA advisory board; serving as panel chairs and discussants in our annual Public Service Recognition Week; supervising undergraduate and graduate internships; acting as judges in our hosting of the annual Great Lakes Region Competition of the American Mock Trial Association; and, overseeing MPA project research at their government and nonprofit agencies.
Unique combination of undergraduate political science and graduate public administration
We are the only department in the entire SUNY system (comprehensive colleges, university centers, technical colleges) which combines political science and graduate public administration in a single department, enabling Buffalo State students and faculty to simultaneously consider politics, governance, and administration in our two undergraduate degree programs, our MPA, our graduate certificate in public management, and our undergraduate minors. Resisting the temptation to artificially separate “politics” from “administration,” we recognize that agenda-setting and policy formulation are intimately connected to policy implementation, policy evaluation, and legislative oversight of administrative agencies. New York State government has recognized our leadership in training public administrators by including our department in the Excelsior Service Fellowship Program, which has accepted a number of our MPA graduates for two-year, full-time fellowships in NYS government agencies and state authorities.
A diverse and inclusive faculty
Our department has been a leader in SUNY with respect to hiring and mentoring a diverse faculty that reflects diversity in NYS and the United States. Unusually in SUNY political science departments, we have been led by two women department chairs with the PhD in Political Science or Public Administration/Affairs (Dr. Buonanno, 2006-2012, Dr. Ceesay 2020-present), African American faculty (Dr. Neal, 1998-2006, Dr. Ceesay), and Asian Americans (Drs. El-Behairy and Raoof). We also have a long and proud history of not only inclusive hiring, but tenuring faculty from diverse ethnicities and religion. Our faculty have come from Egypt, The Gambia, Iran, India, Iraq, and South Korea. Professors Baek, El-Behairy, Desai, Raoof, and Park brought their experience as permanent residents and naturalized American citizens from Middle East and Asian countries); women (Professors Baek, Buonanno, Ceesay, and Slavin); African American (Professors Ceesay and Neal) and Latinx (Professor Rivera). Our faculty have come from diverse geographical locations in the U.S. to teach at Buffalo State, including Georgia, New York, Tennessee, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and South Carolina. Notable adjunct professors have included Dr. Uhuru Watson (Medaille College); Dr. Kevin Hardwick (Canisius College & Erie County Legislator); Terrence McKelvey, Esquire, John Maggiore (Senior Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo; and Dr. Greg Rabb (Jamestown Community College, SUNY, Rockefeller Institute Fellow, and the first openly gay man to run for and win elected office in Western New York).
We also have worked together as a faculty to continue to attract and mentor assistant professors (untenured) from diverse backgrounds, having applied on four occasions for SUNY diversity fellowships to enable us to inclusively hire smart, young assistant professors. Further to this support for mentoring, Dr. Soni received the prestigious Nulla Drescher award, which provides a pre-tenure sabbatical for women faculty members to focus exclusively on research. Such diversity among our faculty has enabled our department to offer a wide-range of courses dealing with the politics of ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and cultural pluralism, including African American Political Culture; Women in American Politics; Urban Ethnic Politics; GLBTQ Politics; Race, Sex and Politics of Myth and Story; The Italian American Experience; The Aging Network; and, Discrimination and the U.S. Constitution.
Five of our faculty have been recognized with system-level/college-wide awards: Buonanno (Chancellor’s – Teaching), Ceesay (President’s – Teaching), Pendleton (Chancellor’s – Service), Lines (President's Award for Excellence in Service), and Rivera (Chancellor’s – Scholarship). Our faculty have authored and edited numerous books, journal articles, chapters, and technical studies. They have been awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the European Union, and many local foundations and agencies. Two of our department chairs - Steve Pendleton and Larry Flood - served the United University Professions on our campus and in statewide positions. Dr. Flood served for several years as dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences (SNSS). Professor McGovern served as assistant director of the SNSS Dean's Honors Program. Dr. Neal served as coordinator of the interdisciplinary African American Studies Program. Both Professors McGovern and Yacobucci have served as campus coordinator of the American Democracy Project. Dr. Buonanno has served as director of the SUNY-wide Institute for European Union Studies at SUNY.
Serving the community and the profession
Our faculty endeavor to serve both the Western New York community and their professions. Recent examples include Dr. Ceesay and Dr. Rivera elected to leadership positions as interest section officers in the American Society for Public Administration and Dr. Buonanno serving ed as co-chair of the Public Policy interest section of the European Union Studies Association and a board member of the Italian American Studies Association. Faculty have also served on various government commissions and committees - such as the Erie County Citizen Salary Commission and the City of Buffalo Green Code Commission - lending their expertise in governance and administration to the community.
Our department faculty have long valued the importance of experiential education for our students by giving of their time, expertise, and energy to organize and maintain several programs: Model United Nations, SUNY Model European Union, NASPAA Batten Public Policy Simulation, Mock Trial, Washington Semester, NYS Senate Internship, NYS Assembly Internship, local internships (with law offices, government offices, nonprofits, and the offices of elected officials), undergraduate participation in the New York State Political Science Association annual meeting and MPA participation in the ASPA’s annual conference. Our department sponsors two chapters of honor societies (Pi Sigma Alpha - political science and Pi Alpha Alpha - public administration). Our department faculty have organized and led study missions in India (NGOs) and Europe (European Union institutions), with an additional planned (post-Covid) for West Africa (public administration in the Gambia). Our department faculty regularly teach service-learning courses and honor seminars. We are the only MPA program in SUNY that commemorates Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) on an annual basis with a day-long conference focusing on contemporary issues facing public administration and nonprofit management capped off with dinner and awards, an event made possible by generous funding from Dr. Ronald J. Peters. The family of Dr. Keith Henderson endowed a scholarship in his name, which is awarded each year to an outstanding MPA student at the PSRW ceremony. Research by our MPA students has produced assessments and program evaluations for municipal, county, and state agencies as well as nonprofit corporations and voluntary associations.
What does the future hold as we commemorate Buffalo State’s 150th Anniversary?
SUNY System Administration is currently evaluating three programs approved by BSC administration and faculty: BA in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management, Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, and a Graduate Certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management. In September 2020, NASPAA approved our MPA’s pre-accreditation application. We plan to devote our 150th anniversary year to preparing our application for NASPAA accreditation of our MPA program. Achieving NASPAA accreditation will be the culmination of 50 years of incremental effort to transform BSC’s offering of undergraduate political science courses to a degree-granting department that maintains the highest standards in liberal arts and professional degree programs. Our department will continue to prepare graduates to contribute their knowledge and skills in governance and administration to better the lives of Western New Yorkers, New Yorkers, Americans, and the global community.
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