The 2019 Deil Wright Lecture: Professor Donald Kettl

Here on the blog I’ve talked a lot about the opportunities MPA students have to work and learn from fellow students across platforms, faculty, alumni, and various public service professionals. The Carolina MPA Program also provides students a yearly opportunity to interact with distinguished scholars in the field of Public Administration. The Deil S. Wright Lecture, started by alumni in 2002, invites a prominent voice in the field handpicked by faculty to come speak at the School of Government.

This year’s speaker was Professor Don Kettl, from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Volcker Alliance, the Brookings Institution and the Partnership for Public Service. Prof Kettl is well known and loved by UNC MPA students as someone who literally wrote the book on Public Administration – his Politics of the Administrative Process IS the textbook we use for our survey course in Institutions and Values. Before the lecture, MPA students took Prof Kettl to the North Carolina Basketball museum and posed for a photo with our tea kettle (affectionately dubbed by students as the “the Don Kettl”). His lecture discussed the current state of Federalism and pointed to the role of Intergovernmental Relations that underlies many of our country’s more pressing political issues such as immigration and health care.  

Above: Don Kettl’s signature on my textbook!

Below: Don Kettl poses with MPA Students holding a tea kettle named in his honor.

In addition to hearing Prof Kettl speak about Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations, I also enjoyed the chance to learn more about who Deil Wright was as a person. We extensively studied his work in my Intergovernmental Relations course. After the lecture, I was speaking with Dr. Wright’s children who told me how every night in his study he would spend an hour calling past students to check on their personal and professional lives and offer his advice and help them make connection to other alumni working in similar fields or on similar issues.

The lecture was a great experience for me to both connect with a scholar whose work I admired and a chance to learn a little more about the history of a figure who was so important in the development of the MPA program.