SPP Alumna Wins Herbert Simon Award

Posted January 25, 2024

School of Public Policy alumna Leisha DeHart-Davis was named the 2024 Herbert Simon Award winner. She credits her master’s and Ph.D. in Public Policy for laying the foundation for her academic research.

The Midwest Caucus on Policy Administration presents the annual Herbert Simon Award to mid-career scholars who have made “a significant contribution to the scientific study of bureaucracy.” 

The commendation committee chose DeHart-Davis’ work because it “takes seriously both the pros and cons of organizational rules and their impact on bureaucratic performance,” they wrote. “Her research does an exceptional job of portraying bureaucracy as important and effective, but also urges the field to continue examining the factors that contribute to its significance to democratic governance.” 

DeHart-Davis is a professor of public administration and government at the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill and the director of the university’s Local Government Workplaces Initiative. 

“While government rules tend to be construed as burdensome and rigid, my research focuses on how organizational rules benefit public organizations,” DeHart-Davis says. “I call effective organizational rules green tape — in contrast with red tape — and argue that good rules are indispensable for achieving public values such as equity, efficiency, transparency, and accountability.”

She is passionate about her research because rule design and implementation exert an “enormous influence” on how employees experience public sector work, DeHart-Davis says, and public employee experiences, in turn, affect public service delivery.

DeHart-Davis earned her Ph.D. from the School of Public Policy in 2000 and says the program laid the groundwork for her success.

“The rigor of both degrees, particularly around critical thinking, statistical analyses, and philosophy, allowed me to jump into academic research with both feet,” DeHart-Davis says. “I am indebted to my public policy professors, who held us all to high standards and taught me a love of scholarly research.”

DeHart-Davis will deliver the annual Simon Lecture on her work at the Midwest Political Science Association conference in April. 

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Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts