Skip to main content
Center News

Thought Leader Receives Cornia Award

University of North Carolina public administration professor Leisha DeHart-Davis reconnected with longtime research colleagues—now current BYU Marriott School of Business faculty—when she spoke as award recipient of this year’s Gary C. Cornia Lecture Series.

Leisha DeHart-Davis speaks at the Gary C. Cornia Lecture Series.
Leisha DeHart-Davis speaks at the Gary C. Cornia Lecture Series.

“BYU Marriott Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics has fantastic faculty members who I’ve worked well with over the years,” DeHart-Davis says. “It was both exciting and humbling to be recognized by the Romney Institute and receive the award honoring Gary Cornia’s legacy.”

DeHart-Davis was selected to receive the award because she is a thought leader in the industry, says public service and ethics BYU Marriott associate professor David Matkin. “She is someone who thinks deeply about how to improve academic programs and then digs in to help realize those changes in the real world.”

During her lecture, DeHart-Davis spoke on the importance of engaged scholarship, a research model that encourages both academic scholarship and practical guidance. DeHart-Davis shared her experience of first offering to perform academic research for local government organizations, often offering free service for the sake of building tenure. The hard work paid off, as she is now director of the UNC Local Government Workforces Initiative, an organization which conducts academic research to improve city and county organizations.

Dehart-Davis receiving the award honoring Gary C. Cornia.
Dehart-Davis receiving the award honoring Gary C. Cornia.

To demonstrate the benefits of engaged scholarship, DeHart-Davis highlighted research findings made under the Local Government Workforces Initiative, such as the supervisor’s influential role in lowering workplace silence, the social capital in an organization, and patterns of gender incivility in the workplace. Davis has also written a book titled Creative Effective Rules in Public Sector Organizations, which outlines five attributes of effective public organization rules—what she calls “green tape”—in contrast to the focus on red tape in organizations.

DeHart-Davis emphasized the positive impact of engaged scholarship and expressed her hope for other institutions to apply the research design method. “I would love to see public administration scholars understand how rewarding engaged scholarship can be for the field as a whole,” DeHart-Davis says.

A genuine love of research and desire to serve a greater purpose are what DeHart-Davis says ultimately guided her towards working in the public administration field in the first place. “I always knew I wanted to serve something bigger than a bottom line, to make a real difference in the world,” says DeHart-Davis. “To conduct research that contributes knowledge and improves the experience of public employees is such a great reward and privilege.”

The lecture series is named in honor of Gary C. Cornia, former Romney Institute director and BYU Marriott dean and recognizes the most distinguished scholars in the field of public administration.


Writer: Brittany Salinas