Arts and Sciences faculty member named ‘Rising Star’

KINGSTON, R.I. [April 24, 2023] — Karen Sweeting, an assistant professor of political science at URI, is the winner of the 2023 Rising Star Award from the American Society for Public Administration’s Section for Women in Public Administration. The award honors individuals who demonstrate outstanding potential, growth, and commitment to advancing the field of public administration.

“This national recognition is very well-deserved because it affirms what our faculty and students already know about Professor Sweeting: That she is a leading teacher and researcher engaging in cutting edge, high-impact scholarship that will enrich our communities by preparing our students to lead and manage in public service,” said Aaron Ley, an associate professor of political science and director of URI’s master of public administration program. “It also recognizes that her potential is unmatched by her peers as she explores new frontiers on topics relating to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

Sweeting joined the URI faculty in 2021, after completing her Ph.D. in public administration at Florida Atlantic University. Her research on social equity and racial justice in public administration interrogates widely held assumptions and systemic structures, with the goal of better understanding how policy initiatives, practices, and norms affect vulnerable and marginalized populations.

“I like to encourage students to think about their positionality by exploring their identity markers and how they inform a person’s perspective,” Sweeting said. “That consciousness is so crucial to recognizing the biases and realizing that people with different backgrounds and perspectives are affected by policies and systems in different ways.”

She also works to elevate the voices of underrepresented people in her field.

“The dominant voice in the discipline is that of white men,” Sweeting said. “We need to challenge those dominant structures to say: ‘Hey, there are other voices and experiences out here. Don’t forget about us; we have a perspective too.’”

Before completing her Ph.D., Sweeting had extensive experience as a human resource administrator and consultant in Broward County, FL. Informed by that hands-on experience, Sweeting works with her students to draw connections between theory and practice.

“Much of what I do is trying to make sense of the world in practical ways,” she said. “I have over 20 years of experience as a practitioner before transitioning to academia. That background helps to connect the theoretical aspects of my research with how things work in practice, and that’s what I try to emphasize in the classroom.”

Sweeting says she’s grateful and humbled to be recognized by her peers, particularly an organization like Section for Women in Public Administration.

“A network of women supporting women is so instrumental to our discipline,” she said. “We know for a fact that women are often overlooked for leadership positions and their voices are not deemed as valuable. So to be honored this way by a group of women intent on uplifting other women—especially an immigrant and woman of color like me—is very meaningful.”