WMU News

Students and alumni receive Pi Alpha Alpha awards

July 5, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Five members of Western Michigan University's chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha recently received awards from the organization.

Pi Alpha Alpha is a national public administration honor society for undergraduate and graduate students that dedicates itself to the field of public affairs and administration by encouraging and recognizing outstanding scholarship and accomplishment, promoting the advancement of education and practice within the field, and fostering integrity, professionalism and creative performance in the conduct of governmental and related public service activities. Membership in WMU's chapter is for graduate students only and requires a grade point average of 3.8 or higher and completion of at least 20 credits in WMU's Master of Public Administration Program.

Receiving awards were two students and three alumni of WMU's Master of Public Administration Program.

Mary Jo Gibbons of Kalamazoo received the George James Memorial Award, which recognizes individuals' innovative solutions to social issues. During her studies in WMU's Master of Public Administration Program, Gibbons proposed a new approach to caring for individuals in the initial stages of Alzheimer's disease, which was funded and has become a reality at Amber Way, a Heritage Community of Kalamazoo. Research has shown that recollections of current events deteriorate more quickly than those from the past, so one of Amber Way's new methods to treating Alzheimer's patients is to surround residents with memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s. The center's grounds now include a classic car from this era and a putting green for the residents. Gibbons is not finished developing innovative solutions for the care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer's. She is currently working on a proposal to assist individuals who do not have sufficient resources to pay for this kind of care on their own.

Linda Kerr of Kalamazoo received the Best Project Paper Award. Selected from more than 80 papers by students in WMU's Master of Public Administration Program in 2001, Kerr's paper, "Mobile Home Taxation and Zoning Study," examines state laws pertaining to the taxation of mobile and modular homes and local governments' authority to regulate the physical structure of modular home parks. Kerr's work, which has been the topic of news coverage in Lansing, also compared the cost of providing services to these parks with the local tax revenues generated by them.

Three members of a Lansing, Mich., family each received awards. Alan Anderson, retired deputy director for the Michigan State Police Department; his son, Todd Anderson, chief of staff for Speaker of the House of Representatives Rick Johnson; and daughter-in-law, Mary Anderson, district director for State Senator William Van Regenmorter; were all given Alumni of the Year Awards.

Before attending WMU, Alan Anderson worked for the Michigan State Police Department as a trooper. He subsequently advanced to the positions of detective sergeant and lieutenant. When he entered WMU's Master of Public Administration Program, he was the commanding officer of the career development section of the State Police training division. Following his graduation from WMU in 1985, Anderson went on to leadership positions in internal affairs and inspections, before becoming deputy director under Colonel Michael Robinson. He is currently active in Habitat for Humanity and serves as an elder in his church.

Mary Anderson was executive office aide to Lieutenant Governor Connie Binsfeld upon entering WMU's Master of Public Administration Program. After five years as Binsfeld's special projects coordinator, Anderson worked for the Michigan children's ombudsman as an investigator, proposing improvements in child welfare to Governor Engler. Anderson is also involved in Special Olympics, Hospice of Lansing and Junior League of Lansing.

Todd Anderson graduated in 1999 from WMU's Master of Public Administration Program, and began his career as a legislative analyst in the Michigan House of Representatives, moving on to become director of House caucus services, before advancing to his current position. Anderson's accomplishments include his staff work on the Michigan budget, House redistricting following the 2002 census, and generating interest in a new program that would provide a computer to every child in Michigan.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, 269 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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