New Faculty Friday: Q&A with Dr. Michelle Lofton

Michelle Lofton received her PhD in Public Administration from Syracuse University. She is also an alumna of UGA’s MPA program. Her research interests broadly explore the intersection of public finance and public management by investigating financial tools and techniques to better inform management, strategy, and policy decisions. Lofton is teaching Public Management and Public Financial Administration this fall.

What attracted you to UGA?

ML: I had a really positive experience here as a graduate student. I saw that the faculty members were very collegial and it was a good environment to teach in. The students were very bright and articulate and the professors were prominent scholars in their fields but also knew how to break down concepts so that they were digestible by students. I really wanted to come back to be a professor in this type of atmosphere.

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

ML: One of my dissertation chapters is focused on decision-making of financial managers around short-term resources. I’m interested in what local managers do when they have periods where they might not have the cash to sustain the government. I surveyed local government managers in the state of New York and I asked them about their decision-making during these periods where they might be running low on cash and what sort of financial tools they use in these challenging times.

What was your favorite part of your college experience?

ML: During my undergrad at Trinity University I was a Student Ambassador, which was a really amazing experience because I got to meet with policy makers both in the business realm and political realm which inspired me to purse the field of public affairs. I got to meet Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Brit Hume, Erin Burnett, and Joseph Stiglitz, through the different lectures offered. I also got to go to presidential dinners to engage with donors and friends of the University.

Please tell us about your research interests.

ML: My research interest focus on public finance and public management by investigating financial tools and techniques to better inform management, strategy, and policy decisions. Much of my research experience focuses on local government financial management in the United States in respect to working capital management, fiscal constraints, and budgeting.

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

ML: I like to play trivia and watch movies. I enjoy going to local festivals, farmers markets, and community events because you get to interact with people you wouldn’t normally have met and learn about the culture of the different areas where you live.

What is your favorite food?

ML: I grew up in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, so seafood. I grew up with a lot of shrimp, fish and crawfish which I enjoy eating.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

ML: Athens has changed a lot in the last five or six years since I lived here, so I want to experience the new changes that have occurred around Athens.

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

ML: In terms of my research, get more work in the pipeline! I have a lot of projects I’m working on, including an article about the effect of recessions on school district funding and the impact of recessions on states’ ability to save in rainy day funds. Teaching-wise, I want to see what the students get out of my class and what they find valuable and build on from their feedback.

Who inspires you in your research or career?

ML: My motivation for public service derives from a passion to serve the public. My dad works NASA and has his entire professional career. My mom is a doctor and has worked for the county clinic, which offered treatment to low-income individuals that received social assistance. Their dedication to serve the public inspired me to work in public service.

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

ML: The ability to fly so I could travel to many locations across the world quickly.