A professor of public ethics and citizenship at USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development has been elected as a fellow to the National Academy of Public Administration, a national organization that assists in Congressional research.
Professor Terry Cooper will be formally inducted into the academy on Nov. 18 in Washington, D.C.
The NAPA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that was established by a Congressional charter in 1967. The organization’s research and projects are mandated and funded primarily by Congress. It is not a government agency but rather an independent body with discretion.
“It allows Congress to have connections to people that can help with projects,” Cooper said.
With expertise from its 680 fellows, the academy provides key insight into issues of public administration and the workings of public organizations, in addition to serving an advisory role to government agencies.
The academy’s members are chosen from thousands of practitioners in fields of and related to public administration and political science.
As a fellow, Cooper will sit alongside other prominent figures, such as former and current presidential cabinet members, governors, city managers and deans of colleges and universities.
Cooper’s notoriety in the fields of ethics and civic engagement, which he considers his primary interests, earned him the credibility that contributed to his election as a fellow, said Jack Knott, dean of SPPD.
“He has written what I think is the most prominent book for public administrators. … His work is of value in both the public and private sectors,” Knott said. “It is an extremely important topic as we’ve recently learned with the Bell scandal.”
The scandal involved eight city officials from Bell, Calif., who were arrested for using public funds to inflate their own salaries.
Cooper is currently working on the sixth edition of his book, The Responsible Administrator, which is used in countless ethics courses around the world and SPPD’s own Citizenship and Public Ethics (PPD 240).
“It [became] required reading for all master of public administration programs in China in 2000. … There are now over 100 [programs there], and this book is one in a set of core readings,” Cooper said.
Cooper is also particularly well known for his work with citizen participation and the democratic process, Knott said.
“He has a reputation both nationally and internationally, having done work here in Los Angeles looking at the roles of communities and neighborhoods and also some work in China with housing and other local issues,” Knott said.
Cooper’s performance as a professor is equally impressive, said Claire Feeney, a senior majoring in urban planning who has taken two classes with Cooper.
“He basically invented [PPD 240], because he literally wrote the whole book,” she said. “He likes class discussion that’s more driven by the students. … He really [values] student input and involvement.”
Cooper said he is primarily focusing on continuing the kinds of issues around which he has already built his reputation. In his capacity as a fellow, he will be looking closely at how the federal government handles ethics.
“The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, from my point of view, is not about ethics. It’s all about laws, and I would like to see them doing more with regard to cultivating [ethical behavior among] professionals,” he said.
Cooper said he is looking forward to having the opportunity to learn from a variety of academy colleagues in a manner that he believes reflects the interdisciplinary spirit of SPPD.
“One of the advantages of being in the academy is you get pulled into projects you might not otherwise do,” he said.
After his induction in November, Cooper will participate in a discussion about future academy projects in which he might be interested in participating.
Cooper has worked with NAPA before, participating in a research panel funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Knott said he believes Cooper’s successes in academia will provide notable contributions to the national academy.
“Given the scale of news media and the size of political jurisdictions, it’s easy for neighborhoods and citizens to feel disconnected from the political process. [Cooper] has been a real leader in addressing this very issue,” Knott said.