Political Science Professor Receives Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award

Suzanne Leland, a core faculty member of the Public Policy Ph.D. program and professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, is the 2020 recipient of the Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award. She was honored at a special ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen.

“Dr. Leland is by far one of the best professors I had at UNC Charlotte from both an instructional perspective as well as fostering avenues for students to succeed,” said Christopher Gonyar ’05, ’07 MPA, director of Emergency Management at UNC Charlotte. “She always had time to answer questions, provide insight and even help make connections outside the Political Science and Public Administration Department for current and future opportunities.”

Leland’s research focuses on state and local government service delivery. She has published a variety of books including American Cities and the Politics of Party Conventions, with co-authors Eric Heberlig and David Swindell, and City-County Consolidation: Promises Made, Promises Kept, with co-author Kurt Thurmaier. American Cities and the Politics of Party Conventions will be featured in the Personally Speaking authors series on March 24.

In 2019, she received the Donald Stone Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society of Public Administration.

“Dr. Leland has worked with her doctoral students in UNC Charlotte’s Public Policy program, placing them on successful career trajectories and enhancing the program’s stature,” said Justin Stritch, an assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. “Her mentoring of students is a cornerstone of UNC Charlotte’s MPA and Public Policy programs and a key component to the demonstrated success of students in both programs.”

As a mentor, Leland spends considerable time educating students about publishing and co-authored 22 refereed journal articles and four book chapters with her students. She has served on 25 dissertation and thesis committees and is focused on working with both her master’s and doctoral students, helping them to become professionals in public administration. From 2012-16, she directed the Gerald G. Fox Master of Public Administration Program.

Provost Joan Lorden, Chancellor Philip Dubois, honoree Suzanne Leland and Graduate School Dean Tom Reynolds
Provost Joan Lorden, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Professor Suzanne Leland and Associate Provost and Graduate School Dean Tom Reynolds (from left) celebrate Leland’s selection as the 2020 recipient of the Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award.

“Working together with Dr. Leland taught me a lot about doing research and working collaboratively,” said Olga Smirnova ’08 Ph.D., an associate professor in the MPA program at East Carolina University. “She continues to be a source of the tacit knowledge that graduate students cannot obtain from books or from simply observing their professors.”

Leland earned a doctorate in public administration, American politics and public policy from the University of Kansas and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Minnesota State University.

The Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award honors its namesake, an exceptional teacher, brilliant scholar and researcher and devoted servant of her profession and community. The award is given annually to the faculty member whose commitment to students, research and scholarly inquiry most closely exemplifies the spirit of de Silva.

Words: Jenn Howe | Images: Wade Bruton