Dr. Samuel Isaiah Williams
July 2015—Dr. Samuel Isaiah Williams ’14 was awarded Walden University’s 2015 School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) Dissertation Award for the scientific and intellectual merits of his dissertation, Engaging Citizens in Democratic Governance and the Decision-Making Process With Congressional Committees.
The PhD in Public Policy and Administration graduate chose the topic because of his lifelong interest and involvement in government affairs, starting at the age of 14 as a native of Washington, DC, when he was selected as a Supreme Court page.
“That gave me some interest in how things are done, who makes decisions, and why,” Dr. Williams says.
Dr. Williams researched the history of citizen engagement, from the theories of ancient thinkers such as Plato to the ideals of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. He also interviewed 10 citizens and 10 Congressional officials.
He specifically looked for the effects of campaign finance reform; citizen awareness; media focus; redistricting and polling; and partisanship on engagement levels. He determined that positive social change may result from increased dialogue on the subject among citizens, Congress, the private sector, and academic scholars and researchers.
“I started my research with very broad questions,” says Dr. Williams. “I cannot say enough about the importance of doctoral students taking very seriously the task of explaining their views and their thoughts to prospective members of their committees. Trust your dissertation committee. They understand what you have to go through and are there to help you.”
Dr. Williams’ dissertation committee comprised chair Dr. Robert Levasseur and committee members Dr. Ross Alexander and Dr. Wendy Andberg.
“Samuel embodies the Walden spirit,” Dr. Levasseur says. “He worked tirelessly, endeavoring to create a rigorous work of scholarship.”
Dr. Williams has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering—an unlikely starting point to end up so ingrained in the world of public policy. A mentor suggested the transition to policy, resulting in Dr. Williams’ selection for a position in the White House Office of Management and Budget.
He developed issue papers and testimony for the director and senior White House officials, with direct oversight of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“Here was this linkage from the technical side and my interest in working in policy,” Dr. Williams says.
He also worked in government affairs for Sprint Communications, working with Congress, state governors, legislators, and regulatory officials. That experience piqued his interest in the way citizens are engaged in policy making.
“We have a centralized government in Washington, DC—we have a capital, and that’s where the decisions are made. I was wondering what citizens think about that,” says Dr. Williams. “What’s the optimum kind of involvement, since people are busy with their jobs and their families? How can we improve the relationship so that Congress truly serves as representatives of the people?”
“Dr. Williams’ focus on the well-being of others and his lifelong interest in public policy and administration have resulted in an exemplary career and a legacy of which he can be proud,” says Dr. Levasseur.
About the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) Dissertation Award
The School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) Dissertation Award is bestowed upon Walden graduates whose dissertations reflect excellent and appropriate original research and outstanding application of concepts and analysis tools. The award is based on scientific merit, novelty, and significance, or intellectual merit, style, and contributions to the field.
View prior recipients of the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) Dissertation Award