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Two Powell School Professors Honored for Journal Articles

Dr. Maria C. Binz-Scharf, associate professor of management, Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership
Dr. Katherine K. Chen, assistant professor of sociology, Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Two Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership faculty members were recognized this summer for excellence in research, receiving awards for articles published in scholarly journals during 2012. Both reports provide new insight into the workings of organizations in unconventional settings.

An article co-authored by Dr. Maria C. Binz-Scharf, associate professor of management, was selected as the American Review of Public Administration Best Article for 2012. Dr. Katherine K. Chen, assistant professor of sociology, received the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2013 Outstanding Author Contribution Award.

Professor Binz-Scharf’s article, “Searching for Answers: Networks of Practice Among Public Administrators,” was written in collaboration with David Lazer of Northeastern University and Harvard University, and Ines Mergel of Syracuse University. The team examined how and when public administrators, in this case managers of DNA forensics laboratories, reach across organizational boundaries to find answers to the problems they confront at work.

The article contends that the emergence of informal interpersonal networks plays an important role in providing access to necessary expertise within highly decentralized systems. It is one of the first scholarly papers in the public administration field to discuss informal networking among public managers, and it urges public agencies to invest in the creation and maintenance of networks of practice. The award was presented at the American Political Science Association annual conference, held August 29 – September 1 in Chicago.

Professor Chen was honored for her article, “Laboring for the Man: Augmenting Authority in a Voluntary Association,” published in the journal “Research in the Sociology of Organizations.” The award was presented to her at the American Sociological Association annual meeting held in New York in August.

She applied French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and capital to show how disparate experiences and “dispositions” shaped the development of different departments in the organization that produces the annual weeklong Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

For example, the crew responsible for the set-up and takedown of the event’s physical infrastructure prided itself in their endurance and craftsmanship and ‘‘ownership’’ of the desert site. However, the technology team drew on multiple practices, including hierarchical practices from the corporate sector and the collective democratic practices of technology groups, to coordinate programming efforts.

“At Burning Man, some people used symbolic capital based on expertise, professionalism or how many years they had attended Burning Man to convince others of their authority to lead or coordinate efforts,” Professor Chen said in an email.

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Ellis Simon
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