Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Bob Blankenberger, an associate professor in the UIS School of Public Management and Policy. I received my Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis and Administration from St. Louis University. I was privileged to join UIS in 2012 and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to work with the wonderful students and colleagues I have met here. While at UIS I have also served as chair of the Public Administration Department for five years, and as Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education for two years. Prior to joining UIS, I was a faculty member and teacher at another institution then moved on to the Illinois Board of Higher Education for about five years. For the last half of my time at IBHE I was the Deputy Director of Academic Affairs and Student Success where I was able to work not only on oversight and regulation of higher education, but on education policy as well.
I love to teach and was thrilled to get back into the classroom after my time as an administrator with IBHE. At UIS I have taught courses at the doctoral, masters, and undergraduate levels, both online and in the traditional classroom. I teach a number of courses, but primarily the doctoral Public Policy Seminar, the Capstone Seminar, Public Policy for Managers, and the Introduction to the Profession for the Master of Public Administration. In my classes I combine theory with my experience to try to make the topics we cover relevant and impactful. But I also want students to share how they connect the two. Students need to be able to not only understand the key aspects of a theory but recognize how these apply to the work they do as public and nonprofit administrators. In public policy and administration, we cover topics such as how to analyze public policy problems, how to motivate staff, and how to evaluate the success of programs. Understanding these should make what students do in their careers more meaningful. I want students to take what they learn from our classes and not only advance their own careers, but positively impact the lives of those they serve in the public sphere.
My research interests are focused on educational policy, program evaluation, and how to improve educational attainment. In policy research we have the opportunity to study policy problems and analyze ways to address these more effectively. Policy analysts identify policy goals then seek to ascertain the most effective strategies to address these goals. For example, for years the chief goal of higher education policy has been to increase postsecondary attainment. Analyses have found that a growing percentage of jobs will require some postsecondary credential.
However, over the past few decades, states have reduced spending on higher education as they struggle to maintain balanced budget, and these challenges have only worsened with impacts of the Great Recession and COVD*. Furthermore, there is a longstanding achievement gap in education between white students and many students of color. Yet, we know that universities are significant contributors to social equity, by providing a conduit for social mobility. If we are to have a fair, productive, and equitable society, as a nation, we must improve the effectiveness of our education systems. So, one part of my research agenda is to analyze education programs and policies to determine which ones are achieving positive effects. To that end I have worked with several colleagues over the years to analyze data – from institutional to statewide – to determine which programs appear to yield the best results for students of all backgrounds. I have also authored qualitative studies with colleagues related to education policy issues. I have co-authored several publications in a variety of scholarly journals on these findings such as Educational Researcher, Educational Policy, Research in Higher Education, and others.
My current research projects reflect those lines of inquiry. I’m working with my UIS colleagues Dr. Ty Dooley and Rob Kerr on an evaluation of the Competency-Based Education pilot program for the Illinois State Board of Education. I’m also working on a follow up study of statewide dual credit program impacts with colleagues from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. In addition to my education research, I am also interested in evaluation of public programs. I am working with three UIS colleagues, Dr. Ty Dooley, Dr. Ken Kriz, and Dr. Travis Bland, on process evaluations for a group of programs funded by the State’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program administered by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. Likewise, Dr. Kofi Abaidoo and I just had a journal article accepted which analyzed the implementation Wisconsin Lean Government Initiative at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
If you are interested in this research, please take a look at my research profile on Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&user=D3xDxwcAAAAJ ) or ORCID (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5025-4880 .
* Blankenberger, B. & Williams, A. (2020). COVID and the impact on higher education: The essential role of integrity and accountability. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 42(3), 404-423.