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Government reform expert employs research in Iraq

Jan. 14, 2009

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University expert on government reform will take a break from the college classroom and put his knowledge to work by serving as an advisor to develop Iraqi local and provincial governments for the next year.

Dr. Matthew S. Mingus, WMU professor of public affairs and administration and a 2005-06 Fulbright Research Chair at the University of Ottawa's Centre on Governance, will serve as a governance advisor for the U.S. Department of State in Iraq for 2009. He leaves Jan. 21 to start mandatory training in the Washington, D.C., area and should be on the ground in Iraq by mid-February.

Mingus, a 10-year veteran of the WMU faculty and director of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, will take a yearlong unpaid leave to take a post with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team based at Camp Taji in Iraq. His fellow team members include U.S. Foreign Service officers and specialists in political affairs, governance, agricultural and economic development, education, health and the rule of law.

"I am grateful that the WMU administration is allowing me a chance to pursue this opportunity," says Mingus who expects to return to his campus teaching career in April 2010. "I'll return with a better understanding of world conflict, at the very least. I am looking forward to a break from academia and particularly the chance to put some of my research ideas on democratic reform to the real-world test."

Mingus says that his team's purpose will be to develop a strong sense of local control and to help local officials advocate for their needs at the national level, through the development of local civil society organizations and infrastructure. This team covers the areas in the Province of Baghdad that are north and west of the city of Baghdad. The team is led by a career Foreign Service Officer who has served the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan and also completed a prior tour of duty in Iraq.

Mingus was recognized last year as one of the nation's top-50 emerging scholars in his field. His research has focused on democratic reform, cross-border security, and potential convergence of the Canadian and American systems of government.

WMU's School of Public Affairs and Administration has a track record of helping to build infrastructure in Iraq. Doctoral alumnus Mark Reece is there training Iraqi police, and Kristi Gruizenga, who earned a master's degree in public administration, served there as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Embassy.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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