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Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge

Since 2017, the Voinovich School has encouraged public administration faculty and staff to share exciting new ideas in teaching, community engagement, research, and administration. 

The Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge is hosted by the Voinovich of Leadership and Public Service, in partnership with NASPAA (Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration). Each summer, faculty and staff are invited to submit two-page applications, describing their innovative approaches to enhancing students’ education, addressing unmet needs, advancing understanding of their field, or improving programmatic effectiveness.

The top finalists are invited to present their ideas before a panel of expert judges at the October NASPAA conference. Winners receive a financial award to support the further development and implementation of their idea.


2023 Honorees

Congratulations to the 7th Annual George V. Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge winners!

A group of 6 people stand in front of a golden brown background, smiling at the camera smiling. A man on the far right is holding an open laptop featuring a smiling woman.

First Place: Shannon Portillo, Ph.D., from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at Arizona State University

Second Place: Agatha Caraballo, Ph.D., from the Maurice A. Ferré Institute for Civic Leadership and the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University (FIU).

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Past first-place winners have included:

  • The Civic Leadership Academy (CLA), a program of the Center for Effective Government (CEG), housed at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. The academy is a six-month leadership development program intended to invest deeply in the city’s civic infrastructure and to address the leadership gap in the public sector.

  • The NextGen Leadership Program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where aspiring leaders learn specific techniques regarding collaboration and leadership through hands-on projects 

  • The O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the University of Miami for the, “COVID-19 Executive Orders Project,” a tool to examine and analyze pandemic-related executive orders adopted at state levels and present them in a dashboard for comparison.
  • The University of Maryland’s Do Good Campus, which seeks to make social impact education a core element of all students’ experiences, from orientation to graduation. Schools across campus partner to develop social impact courses, and students compete in a year-long Do Good Campus competition.
  • The University of Kansas’ Pathways to Public Service, which provides community college students with a seamless transition to a KU bachelors program through a combination of academic and financial coaching, social meet-ups, networking events, and leadership opportunities. 
  • The University of Montana’s Robotic MPA Access, which enables online students to fully participate in on-site classes via robot, including participating in live discussions, engaging with classmates, and moving around the room. 


The Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge is named in honor of Sen. George V. Voinovich (July 15, 1936 – June 12, 2016) whose nearly half century of public service was a living example of innovative leadership. He encouraged others to design and deliver practical solutions to challenging public problems and was an early proponent of public-private partnerships.

To apply, interested faculty or professional staff must:

  • Have developed an innovative program or approach that fits within the theme through enhancing student education, addressing an unmet need, and/or improving programmatic efficiency or effectiveness.
  • Create a two-page written overview, telling us what you are doing and how it works.
  • Be prepared to give a short presentation of your idea and answer questions posed by a panel of expert judges at the NASPAA Conference if you are selected for the finalist pool.

If your innovative approach to teaching, community engagement, research, or administration is selected as one of the three or four finalists, you will receive:

  • An opportunity too present your idea at the NASPAA Conference
  • A chance to win a $10,000 award to launch or further develop your innovation

To apply for the Voinovich Public Innovation Challenge, or for more information, please contact Kate Leeman, Director of Strategic Initiatives.


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