Since joining Augusta University in 2014, Meares has been an “instrumental member” of the MPA program, according to Dr. William Hatcher, interim chair of the Department of Social Sciences in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
“Dr. Meares has a strong research record with more than 20 publications and a history of working with community partners on impactful projects,” Hatcher said. “At AU, Dr. Meares coordinated the creation of the MPA program’s Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and helped build the department’s BA in Nonprofit Leadership and Administration. Additionally, he has significant experience working with our MPA students and helping them succeed in our program and their careers.”
Dr. Kim Davies, the dean of Pamplin College, said the search committee consisting of Hatcher, Dr. Craig Albert and Dr. Christine Crookall made an excellent choice in selecting Meares. She also wanted to thank Dr. Rhucha Samudra for serving as interim MPA director during the challenging COVID-19 year.
“Dr. Meares has a strong research background related to this role, including numerous published manuscripts as well as several applied projects, both funded and unfunded,” Davies said. “The skills he has are an asset for maintaining the momentum of Augusta University’s MPA program.”
Meares, who received his PhD in urban studies and affairs at the University of Louisville in 2014, said he is honored to be named the next graduate program director.
“Everyone has been really supportive and I appreciate it,” Meares said. “I hope to continue the tradition of excellence that all the other MPA directors of this program have exhibited.”
The MPA program at Augusta University focuses on enhancing the performance of public and nonprofit organizations in the region, state and nation by preparing public service leaders to competently and ethically lead public and nonprofit organizations, Meares said.
The goals of the MPA program are to provide a broad education for individuals entering government and nonprofit organizations in administrative positions; enhance the capabilities and performance of individuals currently serving in management positions in the region; produce impactful public administration research; emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion in public service; and provide curriculum offerings and outreach that strengthen the governing capacity in the region.
“Our program is also very flexible and allows students to pursue their interest in the field of public administration,” Meares said. “Our graduates work in city and county administration, public safety, emergency management, economic development, human resources, planning and higher education, just to name a few of the different areas.”
Meares said the MPA program also has students who further their education by going into doctoral programs.
“Having a program that provides a great foundation with core competencies of public administration, but is flexible so students can pursue their interest and further their career goals, is vital to our success,” Meares said. “Also, our faculty here are amazing. They are dedicated to student success inside and outside the classroom.”
In addition, the MPA program’s Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and the department’s bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Administration are two great examples of how the Department of Social Sciences serves the community, Meares said.
“The Augusta metro area has a large concentration of nonprofit organizations and we have students that are interested in working in the nonprofit sector, and through these programs we can offer them the knowledge they need to succeed,” he said. “The graduate certificate and the BA have allowed students to match their passion, such as animal rescues, art or social services, with the skills they need to be successful in the nonprofit sector.”
Augusta University distinguishes itself from the rest of the other public colleges in Georgia by offering a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Administration, Meares said.
“We are unique in that we are the only school in the University System of Georgia that offers a BA in Nonprofit Leadership and Administration,” he said. “Other institutions do offer coursework or concentrations or certificates, but not a degree.”
Due to the large number of nonprofits in this region, many of those organizations have been highly appreciative of the efforts of Augusta University to better train and prepare some of their potential future leaders, Meares said.
“Our nonprofit community has been very receptive to our efforts and a number of organizations have partnered with us on internships,” Meares said. “The BA and the graduate certificate have an internship requirement, which is important because it gives students exposure to their field. Also, some of our classes in the MPA have assisted local nonprofits with grant writing or evaluation projects.”
Meares said he is looking forward to getting to know more local nonprofit organizations and governmental organizations in the CSRA in his new role as the graduate program director for the MPA.
“Whether it is an internship or a class project conducted for a community partner, the experiential learning experience is invaluable,” he said. “By having and maintaining good relationships with community partners, our students get to benefit through internships, conducting projects in the community and having guest speakers come to campus and share their experiences from the field.”
Meares said he’s also excited about becoming the director of the MPA program this year because the program will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall.
“We have an amazing program. I really hope to continue to maintain the momentum of the program,” he said. “Our 25th anniversary as a program is coming up and we are wanting to reach out to our alumni and students and community partners to celebrate this milestone with us.”
Meares, who is known for his dedication and willingness to mentor MPA students at Augusta University, wants to always see those students succeed in their chosen careers.
“In the academic programs I have previously been involved in, I had great mentors. That just creates an atmosphere of support and encouragement. That is what we have here at our MPA program,” Meares said. “If I did not have that support, I would have never gotten involved in research as an undergraduate and I probably would not have discovered this career path.
“I want the students to get the most out of their time here at Augusta University. I want them to succeed and do great things, and tell everyone about the program so it can continue to grow.”