C. Robert “Bob” Stripling of Staunton, Va., professor of practice in the Center for Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, will receive the Stephen B. Sweeney Academic Award by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) at its annual conference in October. 

The award is presented to a classroom instructor who has made a significant contribution to the formal education of students pursuing careers in local government.  The award was established in name of the longtime director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government.

Working with the Virginia Local Government Management Association (VLGMA) and the center’s administration, Stripling created the Graduate Certificate in Local Government Management (GCLGM), the first program of its kind in Virginia. The four-course program exposes students to a full spectrum of local government issues and management tools. The program’s goal is to offer graduate-level training in local government management that both prepares pre-career students for capable public service at the local level and enhances the capacities of existing local government employees. Stripling serves as professor of practice and program director.

The idea for the program originated with the VLGMA and Steve Critchfield, chairman of the board for Tele-Works, Inc., a Blacksburg-based software company that provides services to local governments, in 2006.  It began as a 26-student experiment and has grown to more than 70 students. To date, 66 students have graduated from the program, and 61 of them have careers in local government management. 

The VLGMA sponsors a scholarship program for full-time local government employees who take certificate courses, which is made possible through donations from firms such as the Virginia Resource Authority, the Virginia Association of Counties’ risk management programs, and the Virginia Municipal League’s insurance programs.

Integrating real-life case studies, the curriculum explores the relationship between the political and administrative worlds that managers must understand and navigate. Students range from those who are just starting out in their career to experienced local government managers who want to enhance their skills. The course structure focuses on four critical areas of local government management: “Local Government and the Professional Manager,” “Local Economic Development Planning,” “The Context of Local Government in Virginia,” and “Human Resources, Financial, and Performance Management.”

“Bob creates an engaging, rigorous, and relevant learning environment. He repeatedly guides students back to the core principles and ethics of public service, which he reminds them, will always help form an answer to any problem encountered,” said James Ervin, town manager in Rocky Mount, Va., and one of the first graduates of the program.

Stripling retired in 2006 after more than 30 years in local government management. He is a former guest lecturer at colleges and universities across the state and served as a discussion leader with the ICMA Emerging Leaders Program. He received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and his MBA from the University of Virginia.

Founded in 1914, the ICMA advances professional local government worldwide by offering professional development to nearly 9,000 city, town, and county experts and other individuals and organizations throughout the world.

Among the numerous graduates, sponsors, and instructors of the GCLGM program are the following individuals, listed by city, town, or region.



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