Alumni spotlight: ASU PhD grad receives tenure, recalls ‘transformative’ years at SPA
Evgenia Gorina, who received her PhD in public administration and policy in 2013 from ASU’s School of Public Affairs (SPA), was recently promoted from assistant professor to associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
She conducts research in government finance and teaches courses in government finance, statistics, public administration theory and nonprofit financial management.
Read on to learn about Professor Gorina, her work and how her time at SPA, which is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, helped prepare her for her successful career:
Q. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
A. I came to ASU to get my PhD in public administration and policy from Russia in 2007. Most of my family still lives in Russia, either in Moscow or in Nizhny Novgorod, an old city at the confluence of two big rivers about 250 miles away from Moscow. After graduating from ASU in 2013, I got my first job as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Over the past seven years, I have lived in Dallas but I have also spent lot of time in Arizona on weekends and holidays because my partner works for Intel and lives in Chandler.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. Since 2013, I have worked hard to get tenure and I have just been promoted to associate professor.
Q How did your time in the PhD program at SPA and Watts College prepare you for life afterward? Was there anything you gained from the experience you weren’t expecting?
My years at the School of Public Affairs were transformative. I often took 18 credit hours a semester and I just could not get enough. It took me years to unpack what I had learned and I became even more appreciative of my ASU experiences when I started teaching. I also think that interactions with other students from all over the world and with professors at the School of Public Affairs made me a more thoughtful and more caring person. One of my unexpectedly powerful experiences at ASU was to observe a swift organizational and cultural change at our school in my last few years of the program. It made me realize that change is not easy and that it requires a solid vision and a sustained commitment of a leader to energize others to partake in the transformation.
Q. What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
A. When I ran statistical models for my first research project and the coefficients aligned with the theoretical expectations and prior literature. I still experience that thrill when doing research.
Q. Why did you choose ASU?
A. I looked at the School of Public Affairs at ASU because a friend recommended it. After I met with a few professors and learned more about the program and the courses, I realized that ASU would provide me with a rich academic experience and great human interactions. I still keep in touch with most of my cohort through social networks.
Q. Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? Are you still in touch with him/her/them?
A. I owe a lot of my success to my professors, so it is impossible to do justice to them in a short write up. Some were particularly important to me professionally and all of them taught me something valuable as humans. There is no single most important lesson, really. I have benefitted from a full range of my experiences.
- My dissertation advisor, Jeffrey Chapman, introduced me to academic conferences and initiated me in the government finance research community. He always inspired me to read more and taught me that a good academic paper should be built around a research question that is interesting, regardless of the answer.
- Chris Herbst was very patient with our wild cohort of stats novices when he taught us how to approach statistical modelling responsibly. I benefitted tremendously from Chris’ classes and an informal research seminar series he organized for us one summer.
- Elizabeth Corley was my strong female professor role model who taught me the importance of positivity in professional communication with colleagues and students.
- Joanna Lucio showed me that one can be truly kind and supportive while being rigorous and demanding at the same time.
- Melissa Kovacs was extremely generous with her time and resources when she shared her teaching principles and tools with me. I still teach one of Melissa’s classes at UT Dallas and I keep thinking of her more often than she knows!
- Tom Catlaw has had a vast influence on me, and a lot of it after I graduated. His classroom was courageously innovative. Tom showed us how we all co-create our communities through authentic interactions with each other.
I try to see Dr. Chapman, who is now retired, at least once a year and I am connected with many other professors on Twitter, LinkedIn and on Facebook. Sometimes, we meet at academic conferences.
Q. What’s your proudest academic or professional accomplishment to date?
A. At this point, tenure and placing one of my students on a tenure-track job last year.
Q. Tell us about a “golden teachable moment,” when all the stars seemed to align and you were able to reach students’ minds in an unforgettable way?
A. In spring 2020, I covered monetary policy in one of my classes, right after the Federal Reserve had announced a close-to-zero federal funds rate, removed the legal reserve requirement and began aggressively buying Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. The students were all ears – seemingly dry textbook material suddenly came to life for them. I wish I could create the same level of engagement in all of my classes in normal times.
Q. If you could clone yourself, what other career would you pursue?
A. Ha! I would probably make a good doctor, maybe a surgeon or a psychotherapist who works with adolescents. The idea of being useful to society by helping people regain health and happiness is appealing.
Q. What is something you think would surprise people to learn about you?
A. Perhaps, that I windsurf, like cooking vegan food and that I have just written a short story for my niece. We’ll see if we can make it into a sequel.
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A. I like reading social psychology research, being in nature, doing yoga and catching up with my family and friends on weekends.
Q. What is your life motto in one sentence?
A “Tilt the playing field toward social good.”
I think that the times when academics could be comfortable as by-standers of the political and social developments in this country are over. The cost of public confusion about the role of government in society is too high. As academics, we have a responsibility to take a more active stance on social, political, economic and environmental issues that reflects our values and professional knowledge.
Mark J. Scarp is media relations officer for the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.