Feeney kicks off 2015 Applied Ethics Series with lecture on civic literacy, engagement

Week One’s theme focuses on 21st-century literacies, and no literacy might be as essential as the literacy citizens must have in the modern age of information.

Mary  K. Feeney, an associate professor and Lincoln Professor of Ethics in Public Affairs from Arizona State University, will speak at 4 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. Feeney will be the first in the Lincoln Series in Applied Ethics lectures for the season.

Feeney’s lecture, “The times are a-changin’ — What civic literacy means for modern communities,” will discuss the complexities of diversity, engagement through online forums and the messiness of a pluralistic process in the modern age.

Feeney said when people talk about civic literacy, it’s about knowledge of government and how they can use it to participate and bring change in the community to create a better society.

Unfortunately, Feeney said, the policy process in the United States makes it difficult because it is a complicated and complex process and few can understand it. So, she focuses on the role of non-government organizations.

“I’m hoping to talk a lot about how the nonprofit sector has really grown in America in the last 50 years and its influence in our civic society,” Feeney said.

One of the things Feeney said changed was the growth in the nonprofit sector and its role in providing goods and services, as well as influencing the political process. Because of the lack of trust in government, she said, the nonprofit picked up the role of what the government can’t do.

Feeney said she is excited to speak during this week, since the theme fits her studies on public management and nonprofit organizations and public policies. She said she likes working with students who are interested in public engagement and the way in which change can be made in government and society.

Feeney’s research interests include public policy and the differences between government, private and nonprofit organizations. She has written two books, Rules and Red Tape: A Prism for Public Administration Theory and Research, with Barry Bozeman, and Nonprofit Organizations & Civil Society in the United States with Kelly LeRoux.

Feeney’s current practices include researching the effects of policies aimed to increase women in STEM fields and technology use in local governments. She said she also spends a lot of time thinking about how to help idealistic, distracted citizens understand the best ways to transform their good intentions into effective actions.