The American public sector encompasses numerous critical aspects and services that impact daily lives across multiple levels of context. At the heart of the public sector is a need to have accessible, useful, and innovative research and evaluation to help drive best practices and decision making. This type of information is important not only for those serving in the public sector, but also as part of the accountability process of the public who is being served. The Center for State Policy and Leadership’s research agenda focuses on developing and disseminating works aimed at contributing to effective public sector policy across America for the benefit of the public sector and American people. As part of this agenda, the research goals of the CSPL are to:

1) Provide comprehensive research and evaluation services spanning the project cycle (design, collection, analysis, and beyond) for external partners and our own internal work

2) Conduct high-quality research and evaluation with CSPL staff, faculty, and partners on a variety of topics applicable to timely issues facing the American public sector

3) Disseminate our work in a variety of formats, making findings as accessible and useful to the widest audiences as possible.

To accomplish these goals and the broader agenda, our faculty and staff research topics in a variety of topics that broadly fall into the following buckets.


The Center faculty and staff conduct research and evaluation on issues related to public budgeting and financial management. We strive to do research that will help state and local governments manage fiscal resources and produce desired outcomes. This includes studies on topics such as budget policies and procedures, capital and debt management, pension, and the analysis of the financial condition of governments. Past studies have focused on state and local governments in Illinois, as well as broader perspectives. Center faculty also serve as the editorial team for the Illinois Municipal Policy Journal, which is prepared in partnership with the Illinois Municipal League.

Examples of budgeting academic works

“Green Bonds as an Option for Illinois State and Local Governments” with Robert P. Strauss. (2021). Illinois Municipal Policy Journal, 6 (1): 65-84.

“The Impact of the Pandemic on State and Local Government Budgets” (2022). The Illinois Public Employee Relations Report, 39(1): 2-18.

Witmer, A. P., Wuebbles, D. J., Jain, A., Morles, E. C., Rigsbee, C., Byrnes, P., & Dall’Erba, S. (2021, November). Community-Scale Response To Climate Change Impacts On Rural Agricultural Economies. In 2021 IEEE International Symposium on Technologies for Homeland Security (HST) (pp. 1-8). IEEE.

Examples of budgeting non-academic works:

“The $195 Billion Challenge: Facing State Fiscal Cliff After COVID-19 Aid Expires,” (2022). Prepared for the Volcker Alliance

Social Equity

The CSPL is committed to advancing social equity research and policy change. Achieving social equity requires promoting fairness for all. At CSPL, we work on these issues in two broad ways. First, we engage with public, non-private, and private sector partners to diagnose the causes and effects of inequities and injustices within and across policy and administrative domains, especially the causes and effects of bias, prejudice, and discrimination against racial identity, ethnicity, color, gender identity, sexuality, geographic origin, religion, socio-economic class, and the many intersections between these and more. Second, we work with these partners to formulate, propose, and help enact actionable, meaningful, diverse, equitable, and inclusive solutions.

Examples of social equity academic articles:

McCandless, S., & Blessett, B. (2022). Dismantling racism and white supremacy in public service institutions and society: contextualizing the discussion and introducing the symposium. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 44(2), 91-104.

Berry-James, R., Blessett, B., Emas, R., McCandless, S.A., Nickels, A., Norman-Major, K., & Vinzant, P. (2021). Stepping up to the plate: Making social equity a priority in public administration’s troubled times. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 27(1), 5-15.

McCandless, S.A., & Elias, N. (2021). Popular culture informing public administration: Messages and prospects for social equity. Public Integrity, 23(3), 220-234.

Bishu, S., McCandless, S., & Elias, N. (2020). Gender in emergency services: Foundations for greater equity in professional codes of ethics. Public Integrity [OnlineFirst release].

McCandless, S.A., & Ronquillo, J. (2020). Social equity in professional codes of ethics. Public Integrity, 22(5), 470-484.

Public Safety

Public safety is at the heart of much of the actions and decision making for the public sector, playing a role in a wide variety of areas of daily life. When someone hears the words “public safety,” what immediately comes to mind might be law enforcement, firefighters, or paramedics but this also includes those that work in transportation, public health, education, and many other areas. Public safety is about the public sector’s work to protect people, whether that be from physical or emotional harm, fires, unsafe roads, viruses, wild animals, and a whole host of other threats. The CSPL has a long history of work in the area of public safety, with work in some of our units going back decades and often being based on strong partners in the public sector. Some of the more general questions our work focuses on include what factors make our roads unsafe for cars, pedestrians, or pedalcylists, what factors influence the behavior of the general public towards unsafe behavior, and how we can better prepare those public servants who work in public safety for those efforts.

Examples of public safety academic articles

Edwards, M. and Leonard, D., 2022. Effects of large vehicles on pedestrian and pedal-cyclist injury severity. Journal of Safety Research.

Examples of public safety non-academic works

“Recommendations for Revisions: Part-Time to Full-Time 80-Hour Transition Course and Law for Police” Prepared for the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board.

“Task Analysis Report: Basic Correction and Court Security Officer 2022 Update” Prepared for the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board.

“Effects of Large Vehicles on Pedestrian and Pedal-Cyclist Injury Severity” Prepared for the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

“Are pedestrian injuries under-reported in disadvantaged communities?” Prepared for the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

Illinois Statewide Memorial Day 2022 Weekend Enforcement and Media Campaign Surveys

Public Servants

Regardless of whether someone is elected, appointed, or hired, those who work in the public sector are servants of the American people. There is a need then to understand a multitude of factors related to the selection, performance, and outcomes of these public servants. Some general questions we're interested in about public servants are how public servants come to be in their positions, what drives their behavior and decision making, and the consequences of their decisions. We also seek to understand public attitudes about public servants, their decisions, and their performance.

Examples of public servant academic articles

Simmons, A.J., Gutierrez, M. and Transue, J.E., 2022. Ranked-Choice Voting and the Potential for Improved Electoral Performance of Third-Party Candidates in America. American Politics Research, 50(3), pp.366-378.

Gutierrez, M., Simmons, A.J., and Transue, J.E., 2022. Ranked-Choice Voting and Satisfaction with Democracy. (Forthcoming)

Simmons, A.J. and Gutierrez, M., 2021. Understanding Resident Attitudes Towards Moving Out of Illinois. Illinois Municipal Policy Journal, 6 (1), 94-110.

Examples of public servant non-academic works

Petrow, G, Gutierrez, M, and Transue, J.E., 2022. “How do you persuade Trump supporters to oppose the ‘big lie’?” Published by the Washington Post.

Illinois State Library (ISL) Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grants to States Implementation Evaluation FY2018 to FY2022