USC Price School of Public Policy

Public Administration & Policy:

USC students represent ‘Next Generation’ of leaders

March 22, 2013

By Cristy Lytal

At the event “The Next Generation of Leadership,” a panel of USC students offered their insights to an audience of mayors, council members and city managers. Presented by the California Contract Cities Association in partnership with the USC Price School of Public Policy and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, the event at the Davidson Continuing Education Center covered topics related to politics, government and public policy earlier this month.

Moderators Frank Zerunyan, senior fellow and director of executive education at USC Price, and Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute, posed a series of thought-provoking questions to the student panelists.

Next Generation of Leadership panel

Schnur opened with a question for the panel’s two undergraduate political science majors, both of whom secured internships on Los Angeles mayoral campaigns through the Unruh Institute. He asked why the students decided to intern in government and politics.

Senior Kyle Hall, current campaign staff member and former intern in the office of Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, explained that getting involved in government is a way to influence the decisions that govern his life.

“Now I have a very different perspective on how government works,” Hall said. “Once you actually see how the sausage is made, things aren’t nearly as easy as you think. That was really the thing that most impressed me — the amount of work that’s required to make anything happen.”

Senior Luca Servodio, former intern in the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti and current intern at California Strategies, saw getting involved as a way to experience the practical side of his political science major. Serving as an intern, “you are given a lot more responsibility than you would expect,” he noted.

Zerunyan shifted the conversation by asking Master of Public Administration (MPA) student Joanna Kabat about the nonprofit sector, where she worked for several years before enrolling in graduate school.

“It’s a real danger to think about the sectors as silos,” Kabat said. “Nonprofits should be partnering with every local city in Southern California to address all the social issues that are coming up.”

MPA student Susan Ghazarian expressed how this inter-sector approach could lead to more collaborative leadership in the future.

“Our generation does really see the three sectors — private, public and nonprofit sectors — coming together,” she said. “More students are becoming multidisciplinary, and they understand that the challenges of the future do involve multidisciplinary action. There is definitely room for collaboration.”

Doctor of Policy, Planning and Development (DPPD) student John Holmes, deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles — the largest port in the United States — discussed how the port interacts and engages with its stakeholders.

According to Holmes, in years past, most of the people who lived near the port worked there as well, which meant that whatever benefited the port also benefited the surrounding community. However, this dynamic has shifted, with an influx of residents who are not port employees.

“We have progressively changed the way we do business, and it has been very interesting to be on the bus during the ride,” he said. “One of our most recent projects was an expansion of one of our large container terminals. And in order to do that, we built a 30-acre park between the expansion and the community of Wilmington. We’ve reached out to a lot of people that we traditionally wouldn’t reach out to. And that has been frankly a matter of survival for the port.”

DPPD student Peter Pirnejad, development director for the city of Palo Alto, Calif., also explored the role of collaborative governance in addressing the needs of stakeholders.

Pirnejad emphasized the importance of strengthening partnerships between local government and businesses, which are vital to job creation and economic growth.

“We’ve got to be able to invent a process that meets the requirements of the building code and our local ordinances but also is able to accommodate their schedule, their pace, their needs,” he said. “The key to success, something that we need to continue to foster, is relationships.”

Duarte Mayor Margaret Finlay, who attended the event, was impressed by the caliber of the student panelists.

“Clearly, they represent what is cutting edge in public policy,” she said, “and I learned much from the discussions.”

Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte called the event a “very enlightening and refreshing experience.”

He added, “I think that the ‘Next Generation of Leadership’ was in the room that evening and that the future is in good hands.”