he Vinson Institute brings to its educational program advanced instructional tools and broad expertise in order to help today’s elected and appointed government officials and administrators reach their potential for public service. In 2006, more than 21,000 individuals were able to improve their knowledge and skills through some 615 continuing education opportunities. Thousands more learned about the Institute through presentations at conferences, meetings, and seminars in Georgia and nationally.
The Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators was held December 10–12, 2006, at the university’s Georgia Center for Continuing Education. This was the 25th presentation of the program, which was first held in 1958. The National Conference of State Legislatures has ranked the Biennial as the top university-based legislative training program in the country.
The Vinson Institute plans and carries out the three-day agenda, which consists of orientation for newly elected senators and representatives as well as policy issue clinics for all legislators. Highlights of the 2006 program included a historical perspective of the Biennial by Zell Miller, who served as U.S. senator, governor, an
d lieutenant governor, and remarks by Chancellor Erroll Davis and Gov. Sonny Perdue. The comprehensive learning environment included a video developed especially for the legislative training component, more than two dozen policy panels featuring noted experts, and special presentations. The final day was devoted exclusively to state health-care concerns. There was broad participation in the Biennial by units from within the Vinson Institute and elsewhere within the University of Georgia as well as by faculty from other University System of Georgia institutions. Newly elected legislators also attended a special Orientation Day at the Capitol on November 16.
The Georgia Legislative Leadership Institute and Executive Leadership Program for top-level state agency heads and senior managers also continued in 2006, helping ensure that Georgia leaders are ready to meet the challenges of the future. The Vinson Institute’s satellite office in Atlanta continued to be a valuable base from which to coordinate state programs and offer assi
stance more rapidly.
At the local level, more than 400 newly elected city officials and some 140 newly elected county officials received basic training in their public service roles at specially designed conferences coordinated by the Vinson Institute in cooperation with the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. The training institutes, considered to be national instructional models, covered such topics as operations, finance, ethics, open records, roles and responsibilities, and working with other elected officials. For the first time, one of the conferences was held in Tifton to accommodate the large number of newly elected city officials from South Georgia.
Advanced professional development programs provided experienced officials with new knowledge and skills that could be put directly into practice in helping their communities.
The Certificate of Public Works Management Program was fine-tuned to enhance its value to supervisors and managers from communities of all sizes. Carried out in cooperation with the American Public Works Association, the program is the only one of its kind in the country directly connected with an institution of higher education.
The joint public management training program for Chinese municipal and provincial government managers saw much activity in 2006 and continued to strengthen Georgia’s con
nections with the global community. During the second quarter, the number of programs increased from two to four, with six week-long courses at training sites in Beijing, Nanchung, Xining, and Tianjin taught by faculty at the International Center for Democratic Governance and other units within the Institute and the University of Georgia and by Georgia local government practitioners.
In addition to numerous Chinese groups, delegations that were hosted included officials from Albania and Kazhakstan’s Academy of Public Administration. (This was the first visit by graduates of the Kazhakstan institution to the United States for training.) Public administration instruction continued in the Republic of Georgia, and the first networking workshop was held for representatives from a wide range of African immigrant and refugee organizations in the state. A $500,000 gift enabled the Institute to target outreach toward economic development in rural Croatia and develop an exchange program with the University of Zagreb. University students were involved in international initiatives through internships with the China program and study abroad Maymester programs in both China and Croatia and participation i
n a week-long summer camp for 27 African immigrant youth.
Civic education workshops conducted by the Vinson Institute consistently provide educators with a wealth of resources and information for teaching about Georgia and U.S. government. The 2006 seminars were no exception. In addition to the annual workshops on Georgia state and local government, a new workshop supported by the Georgia Humanities Council brought teacher-participants to Warm Springs to discuss the effect that polio had on FDR’s political career and his connection to Georgia as a place to recuperate, and to examine aspects of his enduring legacy. The Institute continued to serve as a base for other civic education instructional opportunities, with a faculty member serving as state coordinator for the national Project Citizen and Civic Mission for Schools programs.
As part of the Latino Law Education Project, Institute faculty collaborated with faculty and students at the University’s School of Law to develop PowerPoint presentations for Spanish-speaking audiences throughout the state to help them understand their legal rights and responsibilities.
The Vinson Institute cooperates with the university’s School of Public and International Affairs in offering the Master of Public Administration Program. Various Institute faculty teach courses within the MPA program. In a change from previous years, the Southeastern Conference for Public Administration, cosponsored and coordinated in 2006 by the Vinson Institute, added new professional development sessions to the traditional agenda of more academic-oriented panels.