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Dr. James E. Kee
Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration
Professor James Kee was born in Waco, Texas and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. The son of an airline pilot and high school teacher, he cites a “strong educational interest among both of [his] parents” as his primary motivation to pursue a career in academia. Though Professor Kee had early designs to run for political office, he channeled his interests in policy and administration into his academic studies, first at the University of Notre Dame and later in law and public administration at New York University. Winning a prestigious spot as a Root-Tilden scholar at NYU, Kee developed his interests in public service, politics, and the law.
Beyond the classroom, Professor Kee worked as an aide to Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968, handling legal constituent requests. He also worked on Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign; coordinating a congressional district in Indiana as well as doing campaign work in the Bronx until Kennedy’s assassination in June 1968. He remembers the experience fondly, remarking, “It was a great experience, even though it ended tragically.”
Professor Kee continued working in government, first for New York State legislator and Assemblyman Andrew Stein and then as Special Counsel and Director for the New York Temporary Commission on Living Costs and the Economy. Upon meeting his wife Suzanne, a dancer with the New York City Ballet and later a principal dancer with Ballet West of Salt Lake City, Kee moved to Utah and worked in a number of administrative capacities. Looking back, Kee recalls, “I learned a lot during this period, a lot about leadership and management and [it] sparked my own interest in that field.” He first worked for the State of Utah as the State Planning Coordinator, State Budget Director, Governor's Representative, and finally as Executive Director for the Department of Administrative Services.
Professor Kee arrived at George Washington in 1985, aiming to continue his work in public administration in the nation’s capital. Teaching a series of new courses, Kee balanced his classroom responsibilities with his research interests, quickly taking up a position as Managing Editor of the Public Budgeting and Finance journal. Kee has also served as Chair of the Department of Public Administration (1992-1993), Senior Associate Dean (1993-1997), and Interim Dean of the School of Business and Public Management (1997-1998). After this stint in administration, he transitioned back into the classroom, utilizing his law and leadership training. “[My teaching style] evolved over time…I think partly because of my legal training, I use a Socratic technique in the classroom. I’m very comfortable with classroom discussion, and I enjoy that aspect of the classroom, particularly in courses like leadership, which I gradually moved into teaching. The students bring a lot of information and experience with them, and I always feel like I learn something in the course of the class. You don’t learn if you’re not open to student discussion and don’t lead in that way.”
Professor Kee’s research has greatly evolved since his initial arrival at GW, moving from budget and finance to broader management and leadership issues to public-private partnerships. Kee cites his main contributions to these fields as his recent work on transforming public and non-profit organizations. He also cites his recent work on accountability in public-private partnerships with Kathryn Newcomer and John Forrer as particularly cutting edge. “We introduced a lot of new concepts on leadership, on stewardship, and change management. I hope that will be one of my lasting contributions.” Yet, his work is versatile and wide-ranging. Professor Kee remarks, “I try to bridge the gap between the practitioner and the academic and do that through illustrations, to-do lists, and checklists for public managers. But it’s also targeted at students in the public management field.”
Professor Kee lists the Kennedy Center as one of his favorite places in DC, regularly attending performances, and he lists Giselle and Balanchine’s ballets as his favorite performances. “A strong second” favorite DC locale is the new Nationals baseball stadium. Professor Kee’s plans for the future include finishing his book as well as engaging in some non-academic historical fiction writing. Kee also intends to continue his activities in the leadership arena, possibly as a leadership coach for public and non-profit managers or as a founder of an online leadership forum.
B.A., History & Political Science, University of Notre Dame, 1966
J.D., New York University School of Law, 1969
M.P.A., State & Local Finance and Economic Planning, New York University School of Public Administration, 1977