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NEW @ THE ACADEMY

Meet our Fellows: Dr. RaJade M. Berry-James (‘19)

Dr. RaJade M. Berry-James is an associate professor of public administration and resident faculty in the Center for Genetic Engineering & Society in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) at NC State University. She is also a higher education consultant, specializing in assessment and accreditation.

Dr. Berry-James' research and teaching focus on social equity, program evaluation, and research methods. Her recent book, Why Research Methods Matter: Essential Skills in Decision Making (2018), focuses on real-world policymaking and evidence to support decision making. She has been published in a variety of books and journals including the Review of Public Personnel Administration, Journal of Black Political Research, Public Performance and Management Review, Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting, and Financial Management, and Journal of Public Management and Social Policy.  Berry-James has served on the editorial boards of the State and Local Government Review (SLGR), Journal of Public Administration Education (J-PAE), Journal of Public Management & Social Policy (PMSP) as well as the journal of Public Performance and Management Review (PPMR). At NC State, Berry-James teaches the NASPAA award-winning courses, MPA Capstone and Cultural Competence in the Public Sector, as well as elective courses in Social Equity in the Public Sector, Survey Research and Program Evaluation. Dr. Berry-James currently serves on the NC State Faculty Senate, Faculty Senate Executive Committee and is co-chair of the Faculty Senate Academic & Policy Subcommittee.

Among Berry-James' accomplishments, she currently serves on the NASPAA Executive Council and has served as a two-time chair of the NASPAA Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (COPRA) during 2012-14; as well as past co-chair of NAPA's 12th Annual Social Equity Leadership Conference  in 2013. From 2010 thru 2013, Berry-James was Director of Graduate Programs at NC State.  Prior to joining NC State, she held several faculty appointments at the University of Akron (2000-2010) where she served as Assistant Chair, Director of the PhD Program and Graduate Assistantship Coordinator; and Assistant Professor at Georgia College and State University where she served as the MPA Coordinator (1999-2000).  Prior to joining the faculty, Berry-James was an adjunct professor while holding administrative positions as Assistant to the Dean in the School of Liberal Arts (1993-1999) and Assistant Director promoted to Associate Director of Institutional Research (1987-1993) at Kean University.

Since joining the SPIA faculty, Dr. Berry-James has received recognition by NC State Outstanding Engagement Award (2019), Rutgers University - Newark Alumni Spotlight (2018), NASPAA Social Justice Curriculum Award (2017), ASPA Presidential Merit Citation (2017), COMPA National Public Service Award (2016), NC State Chancellor's Creating Community Award for Outstanding Faculty (2013), NASPAA Diversity Award (2013), and COMPA Sylvester Murray Distinguished Mentor Award (2011) for her distinguished service in the field of public policy, public administration and public affairs.

Dr. Berry-James earned a Ph.D. in Public Administration from Rutgers University (Newark), with a specialization in productive public management (1999).  She also holds the MPA from Kean University (1993), a BS in Business Administration from Rider University (1987) and a Certified Public Manager (CPM) distinction from the State of New Jersey/Rutgers University (1991).

Here is a recent interview with Dr. Berry-James:

  1. How did you get involved in public service?

My grandfather and grandmother were both public servants. My grandfather, Carnell L. Berry, was retired from the military. My grandmother, Mary L. Berry, worked in administrative services at Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital for more than 40 years.  At a very young age, I learned that mental health was as important as physical and spiritual health and well-being. Choosing a career in the public sector meant that I was following in my grandparents’ footsteps. My segue into public service was deliberate. I delivered newspaper advertisements from the age of 12 years old until I was 16 years old. I worked as a counter girl at Lou's Kosher Deli from the age of 16 years old until 20 years old. I worked as a higher education research assistant from the age of 20 years old until I graduated from undergraduate school at 22.  Because of my work experience, I was offered an awesome job as the assistant director of Institutional Research at one of the largest 4-year comprehensive public universities in New Jersey. The Office of Institutional Research was staff to the Office of the President at Kean University. It was because of our amazing team that I developed my love for creating usable knowledge and identifying meaningful strategies to promote access and opportunity for students in higher education.

  1. Which of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges resonates most with you?

Leveraging diversity and inclusion is an important first step to fostering social equity in public service.  As a NAPA Fellow, I enjoy leaning in to help "make government work, and work for all."

  1. Reflecting on your career thus far, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

When I finished my doctoral program at Rutgers University - Newark, I adopted the Ethiopian mantra, "She who learns, teaches."  For the last 20 years, I have learned so many valuable lessons as a scholar who is engaged in evaluation research, particularly initiatives that supported by federal and state agencies. Currently, I work with an incredible team of dedicated researchers and extension professionals in the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).  Funded by the Kellogg Foundation, our North Carolina Farm to Early Care and Education (Farm to ECE) initiative is working to advance racial equity in the food system using a breakthrough collaborative approach. Farm to ECE focuses on the interplay between local food system conditions and community food environments to address social disparities and bring about sustainable change by integrating local fresh and healthy foods into meals served to vulnerable children.

  1. What advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in public service?

I had two very important part-time work experiences while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in undergraduate school.  First, I worked at the psychiatric hospital as a communications intern in the business office. The first summer, I worked swing shift as a switchboard operator.  My job was to ensure all calls coming into the hospital reached the appropriate housing units (i.e., cottages) and mental health professionals. The next summer, I worked with the business office manager to install a new telephone system at the psychiatric hospital.  In two summers, I learned about hospital protocol and best practices for project management. On my second work experience, I worked as a research assistant with the New Jersey Department of Higher Education in the Educational Opportunity Fund Program. There, I helped to evaluate a state-supported initiative for economically and educationally disadvantaged students as well as analyze data on black student enrollment.  In just two years, I learned why research methods matter. I'm thankful for the dedicated public servants who offered me a paid internship as well as provided meaningful work experiences. My internship experiences and research assistantship led me to an awesome career in higher education.

  1. What was the best trip you’ve ever taken?

My husband is a hard-working health professional. While I enjoy traveling to share research, attend conferences and fulfill service commitments, he stays behind to take care of our children while providing treatment and advice for those who need it. On the rare opportunity for a family vacation, he arranged a trip to Costa Rica.  He wanted to relax at the hotel, I wanted to ride horses on the beach and the children wanted to go zip lining across the scenic jungle I insisted that we prioritize our children's desires on our family vacation. Almost as high as the heavens, we walked across suspended bridges and then glided through the trees on our first vacation day. With our safety helmets, harnesses, gloves and goggles secure, he let me go first – I will never forget it!

  1. What was the last book you read or one that you would recommend?

The last book that I read was, "Getting Things Done with Courage and Conviction: Principles in Public Management" by Dwight Ink and Kurt Thurmaier (2018).  For graduate students, young professionals and seasoned public servants, “Getting Things Done” captured lessons learned to illustrate professional competence and a critical approach to public management.  In the final chapter, Getting Things Done ...Today!, Ink and Thurmaier assert, "Public confidence in the capacity of the federal government to handle major problems seems to be at an all-time low" (327).  Paying attention to lessons learned presented as case studies helps me to see the forest, in spite of all the trees.

On another note, I recommend "Managing Public and Nonprofit Organizations: Stories of Success and Failure" by Charlie Coe (2018).  Charlie was professor emeritus at NC State. He always had a way with words and his stories kept us glued to our seats! Charlie was a great colleague and friend.

  1. Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?

Social Media is among my favorite media these days. My favorite social media sites are Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Instagram for social networking and to #StayConnected while we practice social distancing. With the stroke of a key, I can send "News You Can Use" to over 30,000 people in my professional and personal network.  Given our current reality, I think it is incredibly important and particularly valuable to share timely news, current research, valuable information, and document real-time experiences. Using social media responsibly to share usable knowledge across many platforms helps to break down institutional, physical, cultural, interpersonal, and linguistic barriers to engage citizens.

  1. What do you work toward in your free time?

With my free time, I intentionally share my time and talent with my beloved sorority and in my community.  I'm an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Our motto, "To be of service to all mankind," is one that I take very seriously.  I joined my sorority while in undergraduate school and I continue to remain an active graduate member. Along with 250-plus members of the sensational Sigma Tau Omega chapter in Cary, North Carolina, I help implement AKA international service programs and support fundraising to benefit local organizations and student scholarships. Currently, I work to get the word out about the United States 2020 Census as well as general election activities.  In addition to my AKA service, I am the precinct chair in an organized precinct. With a dynamic group of elected officers, we work together to ensure a well-functioning democracy by supporting the right to vote in my district. In servicing my community, my daughters get to see how we work together to protect our democracy.

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