RUNC: Obed Pasha

Obed Pasha believes good governance can transform lives.

Obed Pashaphoto by Megan Mendenhall
March 27th, 2024

Obed Pasha is the Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Term Associate Professor of Public Management and director of the North Carolina Benchmarking Project within the UNC School of Government. He studies the adoption, implementation, and effects of management systems that track progress toward goals and leverage data-driven insights to enhance performance within local governments.

Q: How did you discover your specific field of study?

A: From my early days in Pakistan, I was intrigued by the workings of the government. I saw its potential to bring about positive change, but also witnessed its misuse for oppression. This got me thinking: There has to be a better way to run things. Then, during my graduate studies in France, I was fortunate to witness a government that truly served its people. It was a refreshing and inspiring experience that solidified my interest in pursuing a career in public administration. The U.S. was the only place in the world that would admit me into a PhD program in public administration despite my background in electrical engineering and project management.

Q: Academics are problem-solvers. Describe a research challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.

A: The project that I am most proud of, and thoroughly enjoyed working on, was a study examining the impact of CompStat systems on social equity. Widely used by police agencies for crime analysis, these systems were adopted by various police departments in our dataset at different times. This variation in adoption years posed a challenge for analysis, preventing us from robustly estimating the outcomes of these systems. In our search for a solution, we came across a recently published study that examined the impact of democracy adoption at different times on national economic growth. I learned and adapted their methodology for our study. Our findings revealed that the implementation of CompStat systems led to an increase in the arrest rate of Black individuals.

Q: Describe your research in five words.

A: Good governance can transform lives.

Q: Who or what inspires you? Why?

A: My students are my pride and joy! In Fall 2023, I had the privilege of teaching “Foundations of Public Administration,” and the students in my class were an enthusiastic and engaged bunch, the likes of which I had never seen before. They posed thought-provoking questions and were not hesitant to voice their disagreements with me.

In addition to this, I also instruct local government practitioners in North Carolina. Their unwavering commitment to public service, even under challenging circumstances such as the recent pandemic, never ceases to amaze me.

Q: If you could pursue any other career, what would it be and why?

A: If not public administration, you’d likely find me unraveling the mysteries of DNA as a geneticist or digging into the secrets of ancient civilizations as an archaeologist. And if not engaged with academia, I’d be running a cozy bed and breakfast in Ballon D’Alsace, France.

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