Ashley Nickles and Jason River's book

In April 2018, two graduates of the Department of Public Policy and Administration’s public affairs doctoral program, Ashley E. Nickels, GSC ’16, and Jason D. Rivera, GSC ’16, published an edited volume titled Community Development and Public Administration Theory: Promoting Democratic Principles to Improve Communities.  Nickels and Rivera not only edited the volume, but also wrote articles featured in the book: Nickels, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kent State University, co-authored the article “Calling for Community Control: Local Organizing and Implications for Community Development Policy;” while Rivera, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the State University of New York-Buffalo State, co-wrote “The Impact of Microfinance Programs on Political Participation: A Study of Rural Indian Women.” 


Rivera says that the idea for Community Development and Public Administration Theory bore out of the fact that “there was a severe lack of cross-fertilization of public administration and community development academic literature.  [Nickels and I] saw this as extremely problematic since many community development initiatives and programs are developed and administered by public administrators.”  This volume attempts to bridge that gap.  The book prospectus was sent to the publisher, Taylor and Francis Group, in 2015.  Over the two and a half year time period between proposal and publication, Nickels explains their job as editors included identifying authors and chapter reviewers, making editorial comments on each chapter, and meeting deadlines and other assorted obligations.

In addition to Nickels and Rivera, other Rutgers–Camden public affairs alumni and current studen


ts were also part of this book project.  Kirk Leach, GSC ’16, an assistant professor of public administration in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, wrote “Cross-Sector Community Partnerships and the Growing Importance of High-Capacity Nonprofits in Urban Governance: A Case Study of Camden, New Jersey.” 

Prentiss Dantzler, GSC ’16, an assistant professor of sociology and a Mellon Faculty Fellow at Colorado College, wrote “American Dream, Democratic Nightmare: Refocusing Governmental Approaches to Housing Policy.” Dantzler’s article addresses the preference of homeownership within U.S. housing policy, and how this negatively affects assistance for those who rent.  The article concludes with ideas on how to craft housing policy to be inclusive of both homeowners and renters.  While a student at Rutgers–Camden, Dantzler’s research was on residential mobility among public housing residents.  “Through my excellent training in Camden, I was able to look at the many ways in which housing policy shaped communities,” he says.  Additionally, Dantzler explains that the interdisciplinary focus of the program “allowed me to think, study, and practice through various viewpoints.”


Zach Wood, who earned his master of science in public affairs degree in October 2015 and is writing his dissertation, while serving as an assistant teaching professor and director of the urban studies program, wrote “Advocating against the Grain: Nonprofit Advocacy and Human Services.”  This article examines advocacy activities performed by homeless service organizations in Philadelphia and Houston and, as Wood says, “argues for a more refined definition of ‘advocacy’ in the field of human service nonprofits.”  Wood, who worked with homeless youth before his time at Rutgers–Camden, credits his colleagues and faculty with helping him turn “a practical nugget of interest… into a dynamic and complex examination that adds precision into the literature and practice of human service nonprofit organizations into their impact on public policy.”    

“Rutgers–Camden’s program in public affairs that concentrates on community development is truly unique in that it formally applies various aspects of traditional public administration and policy within the context of community development,” says Rivera, making the research of Rutgers–Camden alumni and students a natural fit for this volume.  Community Development and Public Administration Theory has received a number of endorsements from well-known and important scholars such as Janet Denhardt, clear indicators of the book’s success and value.   

Written by Julie Roncinske