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New Watson senior fellow to teach Master of Public Affairs seminar

Angela Blanchard brings experience as social entrepreneur to role as senior fellow

Angela Blanchard, recently named senior fellow at the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, will teach a Master of Public Affairs seminar this spring titled MPA 2772: “Disaster, Displacement and Response: A Practitioner, People-Focused Lens on Urban Policy & Practice,” according to a University press release.

Blanchard is president emerita of the community development organization BakerRipley and previously worked with the University as a Taubman Fellow and as Swearer Center Social Entrepreneur in Residence. The Swearer Center program “brings an experienced social change leader to campus for a semester as an educator, advisor and convener within Brown’s social innovation community,” according to a University press release.

While her appointment as a social entrepreneur in residence only lasted a semester, the senior fellow position is a long term commitment, she said.

Blanchard’s role as “one of the nation’s leading social entrepreneurs … brings a wealth of wisdom, knowledge and expertise to (the) MPA, Watson and Brown,” said Erik Patashnik, director of the Master of Public Affairs program.

Her experience in the Swearer Center and as a Taubman Fellow, as well as previous leadership roles at BakerRipley, enhance her abilities to “make decisions under stress, … motivate people, organize, triage, problem solve and develop an effective response even when needed human capital and financial resources are missing,” Patashnik added. Blanchard’s global view of individual and organizational leadership “creates the space for people from different backgrounds to feel comfortable sharing their dreams, aspirations, fears and (to look) for ways to work together.”

Blanchard’s course, which she taught previously in a different iteration, will meet twice a week for three hours each session and should allow “students to study a specific upheaval and evaluate the community’s functional response,” according to the press release.

Taught through case studies, the seminar will give students the opportunity to compare and evaluate global disasters and the responses to them, Blanchard said. This includes examples such as the floodings in Brisbane and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, she added.

Through this class, Blanchard will challenge students to look “at different cities that receive inflows of people and (look) at what works” to respond to the displacement. By critiquing disaster responses, students can begin to reveal “new truths” and study the ways in which effective practices can be amplified, she added. These disasters “contain great human suffering but also show what humans are like when they’re at their most extraordinary creativeness — at their most generous.”

In the seminar, Blanchard will emphasize “appreciative inquiry,” a way of evaluating and reshaping organizations to find their points of strength and resilience, Patashnik said. The course teaches students about the ways that “the government, NGO sector, private sector and individuals can all collaborate in building resilience,” he said. “These are some of the most important issues of the 21st century.”

For Chamika Wanigatunga GS, a master’s student in public affairs, Blanchard is “one of the main reasons why (I) pursued this program over the others,” he said. Blanchard’s “energy” and “the way that she accepts and delivers stories” as an experienced nonprofit professional is what draws him to her course, he added. He hopes that this class will teach him “nonprofit management skills, the politics of disasters and … general industry expertise.”

Similarly, Malysa Kettavong GS, a master’s student in public affairs, is “excited to see (Blanchard) show the sides of policy where it works and where it doesn’t, and how to change that,” she said. Through the class, Kettavong hopes to learn “how to intertwine disaster displacement with climate change.”

Blanchard hopes her students will learn to “work collaboratively, look across boundaries and craft a way forward — to do what you can with what you have,” she said.


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