Political Science Now

Alan Zarychta– 2017 Leonard D. White Award Recipient

The Leonard D. White prize is awarded annually for the best dissertation successfully defended during the previous two years in the field of public administration. The award is supported by the University of Chicago. It carries a prize of $750.

Alan Zarychta is an Assistant Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. His research focuses on the politics of social services in Central and South America, especially in the areas of public health and environmental policy. Most broadly, he investigates the sources and effects of institutional reforms aiming to improve local service delivery—how public sector reforms are targeted, the contextual conditions that shape their effectiveness, and whether such reforms can fundamentally alter local governance systems.

Professor Zarychta is currently part of an interdisciplinary team working in collaboration with the Honduran Ministry of Health to study the effects of decentralized governance on the performance of local health systems in that country. He is also beginning related projects on health sector reform in Guatemala and Nicaragua. This work benefits from the generous support of the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council.

At the University of Chicago, Professor Zarychta is also a Fellow at the Center for Health Administration Studies (CHAS) and a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS). Prior to joining SSA, he supported numerous US federal government agencies on issues of environmental policy while employed by IEc and was Director of Health Information Systems for the non-governmental organization Hombro a Hombro in Honduras.

Professor Zarychta earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Colorado Boulder. He also holds a MA in Public Policy from the University of Colorado Boulder and a BS in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

We are delighted to present the 2017 Leonard D. White Award to Dr. Alan Zarychta, Ph.D., for his dissertation, “It Takes More Than a Village: Governance and Public Services in Developing Countries.” In his dissertation, Dr. Zarychta analyzes data from two developing nations – Honduras and India – to understand the causes and consequences of public policy decentralization. Focusing on health centers and maternity care, the manuscript asks why developing nations decentralize public policy, why such moves succeed or fail, and how decentralization might impact citizens’ civic behavior. In answering these questions, Dr. Zarychta creates a valuable piece of interdisciplinary, multimethod research: the literature review knits together important scholarship from political science, public administration, and policy studies, the fieldwork and data collection are impressive, and the analytic framework is robust and well executed. In sum, the dissertation makes important theoretical contributions about the relationship between politics, policy, and administration and nuanced policy recommendations for administrators and policymakers in developing nations. The dissertation was written while Dr. Zarychta was a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder; his dissertation committee was chaired by Dr. Krister Andersson. We congratulate Dr. Zarychta on a job well done.

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