Get to know Michelle Pautz

Michelle PautzWhile the life of an academic can often be cluttered and disorganized, Dr. Michelle Pautz seems to have her desktop, office and life pretty sorted out.

Binders line the bookshelf in the back corner of her cozy, dimly lit office, labeled and forward-facing, reading "Environmental Policy," "Film and Politics" and "American Government" among others. There is also a three ring-bound timeline of the courses Michelle has taught since she first came to UD in Fall 2008. The glowing monitor of her computer sits neatly perpendicular to her postured shoulders and the blinds over the window are raised parallel to the sill.

Hailing from Elon University in North Carolina, where she got her undergraduate degree with a triple major in economics, public administration and political science (and yes, graduating in four years), Michelle continued her collegiate career at Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech) earning her Master’s in public administration and PhD from the institution. From there, after a year-long teaching position at Elon, Michelle arrived at UD.

"I grew up on the east coast," she said. "It's been an adjustment to Midwest winters." But aside from the region’s unpredictable weather patterns, this private academic institution is an exciting place for this woman who is passionate about public administration.

"I really enjoy working with our MPA (Mater of Public Administration) students," she beamed. "We have a good range in our program of [students] who are very eager to join the public service. I love watching and engaging that passion."

Michelle has always been excited about education. From a young age she knew she wanted to teach and her mother, a high school English teacher, encouraged her to pursue a career at the university level. Through her early and adult life, Michelle has managed to combine her love of social studies and marine mammals with post-graduate academia in such a way that completely avoided the trials and tribulations of the American public education system her mother had warned her about.

But life at UD isn't as cushy for everyone as the undergraduate population may lead you to believe. Reaching a difficult student by making connections and seeing the lights go on when a topic suddenly makes sense is a difficult task, especially when the student initially fails to appreciate the relevance. This success is a great source of satisfaction.

One of the biggest challenges in her career is when students ask, "Why do I need to know this," and then refuse to hear the answer. As a researcher, it is also difficult for Michelle to ensure the research is seen as important and contributes to pertinent academic conversation.

Yet, she says "I love teaching. I love helping [students] make connections. I know it's cliche, but I love those things and I love working with our MPA students who are beginning or in the middle of public service careers."

Michelle recognizes and appreciates the ways in which her passion for public service melds with the values of the University.

"I love working with publicly minded students," she continued. "That's a great thing about UD, too. The commitment to service and to the public good is so profound in all dimensions at this university."

Michelle works on a variety of things outside her office. Her first book, titled "The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation," coauthored with a colleague in upstate New York, is due out mid-December. The pair recently signed another contract for a textbook due in two years time. She was recently invited to give a keynote address at a conference in Melbourne, Australia on the work she's done comparing contemporary cinematic portrayals of government. She would like to develop a regulatory policy course to add to UD's academic catalog. Throw in her two shih-tzus, Emma and Ellie, and a husband and you begin to see what an accomplishment keeping her life organized really is.

Anyone whose bookshelves are decorated with Lego-built nameplates and recycling bins, and who aspires to integrate a love of 15th century, high seas piracy into their professional research is someone worth listening to. Ask Michelle about "going green" tips or how long she’s driven the same car; bring up Alfred Hitchcock or piano lessons; but don't discuss politics only for politicians, or environmentalism only for Al Gore.

"People in the public sector - both academics and practitioner - are committed to serving the public in a variety of capacities," Michelle said of herself and her colleagues. "I'd like to think that describes both what I do in the classroom and what I do in my own research."