New Faculty Friday: Q&A with Dr. Eric Zeemering

SPIA is excited to introduce Eric Zeemering.

Eric Zeemering is the MPA Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy. His research investigates local governance and intergovernmental relations, including interlocal contracting for municipal service delivery and the design and performance of networks for local environmental governance. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University in 2007.

What attracted you to UGA?

EZ: The University of Georgia has an amazing international reputation in public administration and when I was given the opportunity to take on the responsibilities of MPA director here, I was ecstatic about the opportunity. I had been looking for an opportunity to take this next career step to work with MPA students and help them realize their career goals, and I just could not have found a better place to do this type of work.

Where did you grow up?

EZ: I’m a Michigander, through and through. I grew up in West Michigan, in a small city called Rockford, just north of Grand Rapids.

What are you working on that you’re most excited about?

EZ: Through surveys and social network analysis, I am developing a better understanding of how local elected officials’ informal ties with other local officials help shape patterns of formal cooperation.

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?

EZ: I have two little boys, so I don’t really have free time. My oldest, who’s seven, plays hockey. I spend my free time driving to the ice and watching him master his hockey skills. It’s also great because the ice rink is one of the few places that’s a great temperature in Georgia at this time of year.

What is your favorite food?

EZ: A really good blueberry muffin and a cup of coffee is the greatest thing in the world.

Please tell us one fun fact about you.

EZ: I was a local elected official when I was 18. When I was in college I decided to run for city council in my hometown. I won and served a two-year term. That was a really great experience in my life because it helped me learn about local government but it also gave me a great opportunity to serve my community.

What is one goal you have for yourself for the next year?

EZ: One is to get to know UGA as well as I can. A more personal goal is to try to take a break each day and have sufficient time to appreciate what’s going on around me. I’m a firm believer that we can be so busy with the tasks at hand that we can miss some of the interesting and pleasant things around us. I’m making a point to take a short walk each day to appreciate the university’s design and architecture.

Who inspires you in your research or career?

EZ: I have two answers. My dad who passed away a number of years ago inspires the work that I do. He was an environmental site assessor; he was very passionate about figuring out new solutions to problems and about giving government officials feedback about what made sense in environmental law and what didn’t make sense.

At Indiana University, where I went to graduate school, I had a chance to spend some time learning from Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. What I really appreciated from my time with her was this sense that we’re all engaged in a conversation to better understand systems of governance. Diverse and interdisciplinary voices from around the university can contribute to a richer understanding of governance.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

EZ: I’d definitely fly. That’s the greatest thing. I don’t always enjoy the airline industry but I love the moment that a plane takes off because it’s just this amazing moment of defying gravity and leaving the ground.

What advice do you have for SPIA students?

EZ: The question I always ask students is “What does it mean to be a professional in the field you hope to work in?” By asking that question, students can build their networks and ask themselves what it means to work toward their professional goals. It also helps them reflect on the interpersonal skills they need to develop their career. Each class is important but it’s also really important to sit back and take time to think about the collective experience and how you’ll take that experience forward.