Research Magazine 2006

SUPA takes public management training to the Balkans

map of the Balkans

Promoting democracy in Serbia and Montenegro is a daunting task. But a School of Urban and Public Affairs-led program has shown promising results.

Begun more than three years ago with a grant for SUPA’s Center for International Research, Education and Development, the program has produced more than 120 Balkan  officials with Certified Public Manager status.

Additionally, a network of trainers has been prepared to keep the ball rolling, and funding for the project has moved from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. State Department to the local government in Kragujevac, Serbia.

It all represents progress, but nothing has come easily.

“The goal of the program was to promote the evolution of democratic government,” said SUPA Professor Sherman Wyman. “Under (Josip Broz) Tito and (Slobodan) Milosevic, government was totally centralized in Belgrade.”

The UT Arlington school had a model in its Certified Public Manager Certificate, a program with national accreditation standards headed by Associate Professor David Tees. SUPA researchers significantly modified the CPM package for the Balkan cultures, where, for example, there were no professionals like city managers or organizations like planning associations to set ethics standards and promote training.

Only the University of Belgrade offered curriculums in public management. So the program was nested within the law faculty at the University of Kragujevac and in the University of Montenegro, where some of the senior law faculty struggled with what Wyman terms an “anti-change attitude.”

The first cohort of trainers came to UT Arlington for two months to launch the program. Several faculty members in addition to Wyman and Tees have spent two- to four-week periods in the Slavic states, teaching and coaching the trainers, who are now training additional cohorts.

“These trainers are not very well paid,” Dr. Wyman said. “They are doing this for the future of their country.”

Kragujevac Mayor Veroljub Stevanovic arranged for funding so the program could continue after the grant expired. Stevanovic heads what in the U.S. would be called a strong-mayor city administration, with politically appointed department heads representing parties in the governing coalition.

Stevanovic is also a member of Parliament and the leader of his political party. Wyman calls him a dynamic, energetic leader who has great confidence in what the Kragujevac program can accomplish.

And here in Texas, Wyman said the Serbian community has been exceedingly gracious in hosting and entertaining students and government officials who have visited UT Arlington.

— Sue Stevens