Student Spotlight: Rebecca Hopkins

Public administrators are often called to action amid emergent and disastrous circumstances. In the example of the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting, assessing the network of response can become a tool for future development. Rebecca Hopkins, College of Charleston MPA student, recently completed a Capstone Seminar built on her interest of cross-sectoral partnerships. This Student Spotlight features Rebecca’s research on the organizational response to the Emanuel AME tragedy.

In Spring 2017, Dr. Kendra Stewart approached me and asked if I would be interested in documenting the governmental response to the Emanuel AME Church shooting. To establish the scope of the project, I attended a meeting at the Charleston Police Department with the network of organizational leaders that responded to the shooting. Following the unspeakable attack on the church, there was a swift, integrated reaction by community organizations ranging from federal, state, and local agencies to nonprofits. Emanuel AME Church was also an active participant in the response, working closely with law enforcement and city, state and federal officials.

The entities that participated in the research completed a survey regarding the shooting and their organizational response. Specifically, the respondents were asked to consider how their organization or agency interacted with other organizations or agencies. I also interviewed key leaders in the network, including former Mayor, Joe Riley; former Chief of Police, Gregory Mullen; and former Chief of Fire, Karen Brack. Based on the surveys, interviews, and internal documents provided by the involved organizations, I produced a network map that details the inter-organizational linkages:Throughout my time in the MPA program at the College of Charleston, I have straddled both the government and nonprofit tracks. I am particularly interested in government and nonprofit partnerships. This project focused on both interpersonal relationships and inter-organizational linkages. The response network that existed in Charleston prior to the shooting responded to the tragedy quickly and efficiently because of the high levels of trust built over years of experience and rehearsals. The leadership conducted response and recovery operations simultaneously, dividing resources between a criminal manhunt and community healing.

While I currently work for a nonprofit, much of our programming depends on successfully creating and developing relationships with public managers and their institutions. This project put a spotlight on how creating and maintaining personal relationships can translate to expanding an organization’s capacity and creating greater public value.


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