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Division of Public Administration

Alumni Association Portland State University Mark O. Hatfield School of Government

Bringing alumni together for social networking, knowledge sharing, and professional development Issue 4, Spring 2012

In this Issue

Message from the Editor: Happy spring, alumni!

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Alumni Spotlight: Emilia Callero and Social Entrepreneurship

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Public Administration in Practice: Retention Across Generations

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How to Get Involved in the Alumni Association

Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining (finally), and a new wave of current students is preparing to become alumni! The Alumni Association is excited to welcome this new group. We are also looking forward to continuing to expand our efforts to facilitate connections among alumni. In this issue of the Newsletter, you will find Emilia Callero’s experience working internationally and finding her calling in the field of international entrepreneurship. Then, Amanda Lamb discusses human resource trends in the workplace, and specifically how generational differences can cause discord but can also be overcome. While we continue to offer updates on alumni activities in the professional setting and provide insights on innovations and strategies in public administration, we will expand the topics covered in the alumni newsletter. Look for requests for articles that follow particular themes, such as “Lessons Learned” or “Alumni Around the World”. We also intend to expand the number of alumni involved in setting the strategic direction of the Alumni Association. More information on all of these activities to come, so stay tuned! And, as always, just contact us if you want to get involved! Make note of our new email address –

ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER This is the PSU Public Administration Alumni Association newsletter, to be published quarterly according to PSU’s academic calendar. The topics and authors will vary, but will always be relevant to the study and practice of public administration and public health. Drawing from multiple fields of study, we look forward to bringing you additional relevant content, and are always seeking input on the newsletter (format and substance) as well as article contributions. For more information, see page 7.

Alumni Association Newsletter

Issue 4, Spring 2012

Alumni Spotlight: Emilia Callero Alumna Emilia Callero reflects on her experience working in international development and finding her calling in social entrepreneurship which led me to fall into a depression. My worldview was under attack, why didn’t things work out the way I had planned? Why was everything so hard?


n 2004 I graduated from the

University of Oregon with a newly minted bachelor’s degree and I had an idealistic agenda: I was going to change the world. I had signed a minimum two-year commitment with a development agency, the Jesuit Volunteers International and I was ready to uproot my life and move to Peru for the foreseeable future. I had two assignments: to teach English at a small social enterprise school and start a leadership program at an all girls’ school. My idealistic 22 year-old self was not equipped to encounter the experiences that laid ahead of me. What met me in Peru was not ease, motivation, or inspiration (the feelings that I strongly link to touchy feely idealism). What met me were poverty, suffering and death. What I was experiencing left me feeling out of my element--

I was unable to jump start any project, my students thought I was joke and I couldn’t make anyone’s life better, not even my own. I became homesick and after one year, with a heavy heart, I buried my desire to work internationally and to change the world. I came home. I was a failure.

Overcoming My trip to Hyderabad, India was the first time I had worked internationally on a project since leaving Peru in 2005. I can remember reading the description of the course in August and getting so excited. I thought, “Ok, if I’m this excited, let’s test the waters and see if I should get back together with international development.” After only 2 days in India I had the answer to that question: yes. I have long been attracted to social entrepreneurship for its reality. Social entrepreneurs are idealistic, but they temper their idealism with clear visioning and actions that

leads to results. They are not just critical about the systems and structures that create poverty; they work inside of capitalism to transform it. My previous experience in international development was defined by idealism, and it was concerned more about my accomplishments, and how I was judging my own actions in a foreign country. The best part of India for me was seeing social entrepreneurship in action and meeting social entrepreneurs who are applying principles of social innovation and achieving results. They are teaching me how to temper my idealistic urges with reality and they remind me that international development is hard. It requires patience and perseverance. Social entrepreneurship is teaching me about effective top-down and bottom up change and how to incorporate myself in this process, reflect on my own privileges and recognize that problems don’t always have immediate and tidy solutions. While in India, I was also able to meet Indians across the caste and class spectrum. These brief


Alumni Association Newsletter

Issue 4, Spring 2012

Continued rendezvous’ are etched into my heart. In India I created friendships that reminded me of my passion. I came home with a greater sense of myself and I left behind the old belief that I am a failure and that I don’t belong in international development.

Looking to the future I just finished all of the final requirements for my Master’s in Public Administration and the burning question is, what now? How will I incorporate my reunion with international development into my future professional and personal life? Can I find a job in international development? How can this experience influence my work as a local leader, or public administrator?

I may not ever change the world, but now I know that I am without a doubt a proactive policy advocate, a New Public Administrator, a change agent.♦ Emilia is a recent graduate of the MPA Program where she specialized in Women's Global Leadership and Management. She is a program coordinator for Innovative Changes a Community Development Finance Institution in Portland, OR. She is the author of EmFemme, a blog dedicated to the topic of global feminism. To read more of her stories, you can follow her blog at

While I was frantically skimming job listings the other day looking for that perfect job, and I came across this quote by Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you.” Whatever, Mr. Campbell. Easier said than done when unemployment is only 2 weeks away, right? Wrong. The entrepreneurial spirit is not about frantically searching for a job that fits your passion. It’s about creating social value and perhaps a job, venture or opportunity that aligns with your passions and skills. If that perfect job doesn’t arise, thanks to India, I now know that I have the tools to live out my passion without waiting for the opportunity to present itself.


Alumni Association Newsletter

Issue 4, Spring 2012

Public Administration in Practice Alumna Amanda Lamb discusses employee motivation and retention by examining differences in influences and motivators across generations


o many, the economic

downturn has rendered the topic of retention virtually moot. As employees see coworkers and peers laid off from positions that were considered stable four years ago, many assume that workers are so thankful they still have a job that they will not leave their position. However, while retention may not currently seem like a pressing issue, it will be, and soon. Furthermore, the “tried and true” retention strategies that were used on the generation of professionals that are currently gearing up for retirement are highly unlikely to work on the generations that follow them. As government administrative professionals, PA alumni do not need to be sold of the virtues of effective retention strategies, and the impact a lack of attention to employee moral inevitably has on retention. The purpose of this article is not to describe a fool-proof retention strategy for employers. Instead, it is to highlight why retention strategies should be different across different generations of employees. Additionally, it is important that not only those in management positions make note of generational differences, but everyone must learn to value different career stages, life experiences, and perspectives.

of professionals working together in government and nonprofits, each with a distinct history, view of society, and professional expectations. Though employees differ, the bottom line with respect to retention and employee morale remains that employers must maintain communication with their employees and actively listen to what motivates each individual.

Overview of Generational Differences There are four different generations currently in the workplace, and each is generally molded by the norms of child rearing at that time, the national events that occurred during their childhood, and prior workplace experiences. It can be dangerous to make general assumptions of an entire demographic (in this case age group). However, with the caveat

that each individual may not have the same outlook or expectations, the knowledge of what contributed to each generation’s worldview can be very informative. In fact, knowledge of an employee’s influencers and motivators is imperative to maintaining or increasing that employee’s morale. The generational perspective provides a starting point for planning and implementing retention strategies. While the birth years for each generation vary somewhat depending on the source, the generations may be broken down in a similar way to Exhibit I. While these generalities are not without exception, there are several characteristics that are unique to each generation of workers. For instance, the Traditionalists grew up in an era of economic uncertainty and world war. Thus, Traditionalists tend to be

There are currently four generations


Alumni Association Newsletter

Issue 4, Spring 2012

Continued and improving morale. In other words, your assumptions about employees based on their generation should not replace getting to know them as individuals, and using different motivational tactics based on their individual personalities.

characterized as workers who desire security and often remain with the same organization for a long period of time. Alternately, Generation Y (or “Millennials”) grew up in an age of digital media and constant “connection” to others (think Facebook or texting). Therefore, these workers often seek constant change and a sense of community. If they do not feel connected to their coworkers or organization, they are likely to leave for another employer. Exhibit II highlights other generational differences in workplace behavior and expectations. Though it is important to explain in general terms the differences between the generations and posit some justification for those differences, it should also be noted that many of these differences have led to negative stereotypes. For instance, Baby Boomers often value spending long hours in the office, and sometimes describe Generation X and Y as “lazy” and “unwilling to

put in the time/pay their dues.” Alternately, Generation X and Y might characterize Traditionalists and Baby Boomers as “set in their ways” and lacking in technological skills. Whether or not these stereotypes are true is irrelevant to the issue of retention. The bottom line is that these generations will have to continue to work together, and employers must adapt to retain each generation accordingly.

Retention Across Generations The first step to successfully retaining multiple generations of employees is to acknowledge the differences between generations. What motivates a Baby Boomer is unlikely to motivate a Generation Xer, and vice versa. This is not to suggest employers should stereotype based on the age of an employee. Adapting retention strategies to different generational norms is not about judgment, but about acknowledging the value of diverse perspectives and ensuring the sustainability of your workforce

The next steps are to stop begrudging these differences, realize the value of diverse generations, and create a retention strategy. Instead of bemoaning how “high maintenance” your Generation Y employees are, work to acknowledge their unique contribution to the organization. As opposed to annoyance with a Baby Boomer’s supposed unwillingness adapt to change, let that employee know how much you value their years of experience and institutional knowledge. These are morale boosters that have much less impact on your budget than hiring a new employee will. Exhibit III provides some example retention strategies specific to each generation of employee. While each suggestion must be adapted per individual, these strategies take into account the cultural and professional mores of each generation. Most mechanisms of overcoming generational differences have little impact on the organization’s budget. For instance, it is often the case that Traditionalists and Baby Boomers clash with Generation Xers because neither believes the other values their contribution to the organization. A simple solution to this common problem is creating a mentorship program that provides a forum for communication, an opportunity for the more seasoned generation to impart their


Alumni Association Newsletter

Issue 4, Spring 2012

Continued knowledge on the new generation, and for younger employees to gain a greater sense of collaboration and community. This leads to another delicate point that must be made. Part of the adaptation that must take place is to understand that the new generation of employees typically will not share the same sense of loyalty to one organization as generations that preceded them. This is not to say those generations will not be an ethical and loyal employee in the sense that they wish to contribute to the organization. However, a Generation X or Y employee typically does not view loyalty as an obligation to remain with a single organization throughout their entire career. Switching jobs as many as a dozen times in a professional career is not viewed disloyalty by these generations. Rather, it is seen as a necessity to keep skills and goals evolving in a

rapidly changing (and/or highly competitive) professional environment. While the purpose of this article is to encourage more strategic retention practices, it is also meant to inform administrators of what to realistically expect from employees. Employing the strategies mentioned in Exhibit III will improve retention, but turnover is still inevitable. Maintaining open communication with employees will not only help to cater retention strategies for each individual, but also help management have clear expectations.

Conclusion Retention issues have many causes, including a competitive job market, employee morale, and work environment. Creating a retention strategy is therefore not just about competing for qualified employees (which, currently, may not be an issue for employers), but also about creating an environment that fosters

employee growth and positive morale. It might be true that the economic downturn has made retention less critical, but it is equally true that generational differences are currently creating tension in the workplace that necessitates implementing retention strategies now. Instead of dwelling on those generational clashes, public administrators should cultivate a positive and collaborative work environment that taps into the skills and strengths of each generation. Indeed, workplace change is inevitable, and the public sector is in a unique position to set an example and influence positive change. ♌ Amanda Lamb graduated in 2010 with an MPA, specializing in policy analysis. She currently works as a Performance Auditor at the Office of the City Auditor in San Diego, CA. Her previous work experience includes human resource policy analysis, including extensive research work on potential impacts of generational differences in the workplace and how to bring employees at different career stages together.


Alumni Association Newsletter

Issue 4, Spring 2012

The Alumni Association is expanding! There are now many ways to get involved, including: •

Attend alumni events: Watch for communication of time/location for monthly gatherings and other events! All are welcome!

Join our group on LinkedIn or the listserv: The Alumni Association LinkedIn and Facebook pages allow you to connect with hundreds of alumni, remain informed of upcoming events, and receive the newsletter.

Provide feedback: This Alumni Association is OURS. We can build it the way we want. Make sure your voice is heard.

The Alumni Association will continue to grow, and your participation is the key to our success. Thank you for your support!

For more information, to join the listserv, or to provide feedback, email

We are now soliciting contributions for the summer edition of the newsletter. Want to contribute to the content? Email

Alumni Association Newsletter - Spring 2012  

In this issue, read articles on international development and social entrepreneurship, as well as employee generational differences and impa...

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