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SPAA Graduate Profile: Chengxin (Michael) Xu (PhD'19)

Chengxin (Michael) Xu (PhD'19)

Name: Chengxin (Michael) Xu
Age: 31
Hometown: Shanghai, China
Degree Program: Doctor of Philosophy
Major: Public Administration

Why did you enroll at SPAA?
I was interested in doing research in public and nonprofit administration, and the founding Dean, Dr. Marc Holzer, encouraged me to pursue a PhD at SPAA. I have to say that SPAA is an ideal place for students who are interested in pursuing a PhD degree for research and teaching. The school is comprised of distinguished senior scholars and rising stars in the field of public administration. Its doctoral education embraces the diversity of research methods while still strongly holding the normative value of public administration. I would recommend SPAA to anyone interested in research and education in the field of public administration.

What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?
My goal in the PhD program was to attain the knowledge and skills necessary to study questions in the field of public administration, especially my topic of interest: growing nonprofits. I was fascinated with the strength of the nonprofit sector in society, but also realized the many challenges that nonprofit organizations confront. Scientific research is the first step for problem solving, and I hope to inform the development of the nonprofit sector.

Favorite SPAA memory?
My favorite SPAA memory is teaching; spending time with undergraduate and MPA students, online and in the classroom. I really enjoyed the discussions with students from such diverse social and cultural backgrounds. In some of courses I taught, I coordinated with my advisor, Dr. Lindsey McDougle, on the experiential philanthropy project. I will never forget students’ smiles when we made real contributions to nonprofit organizations of our choice.

Biggest challenge?
The major challenge was learning how to do research. There are so many things to learn about doing quality research, but most of them are not listed in textbooks. So, it was a time-consuming learn-by-doing process. It was frustrating, and it was exciting. It was really a challenge of my persistence and determination.

Next steps?
I am proud to say that I have achieved my goal at SPAA. In the fall, I will move to Seattle University serving as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Public Service. My next steps include: teaching courses in public administration and continuing my research in nonprofit management.

Advice to incoming students?
My major advice for incoming and current PhD students is that smart long-term and short-term planning is the key to success. Planning helps keep everything on schedule and makes sure that you are always on the right track.