Think of the very best teachers that you have had.  What made them great?  How could you emulate them? Below are some tips and suggestions compiled by Frank Benest to help practitioners engage students and connect with their audiences.

  • Select topics that really interest or energize you – we want you to share your passion
  • Know your audience and tailor your material accordingly; ask the faculty member about the profiles of the students – their interests, level of education, past work experience in public service
  • Ask in advance the faculty members to query the course students to identify key issues in respect to the topic for you to address as an “in the trenches” practitioner
  • Integrate a real-life story from your experience (or your agency’s experience) related to the topic in order to capture the interest and attention of students at the outset of the class
  • Integrate an opportunity for students to interact or get engaged with you and the topic (e.g., some questions, a brief exercise, role playing with different points of view)
  • Use a real-life case study from your agency’s practice; take the case study up to the governing board’s decision point; ask the students what they would have decided and why; and then explain what the board decided and their policy rationale as well as the politics involved
  • Complete any worksheets or action plan formats yourself before using the materials in class
  • Not only describe the problem or challenge but generalize from the case study – what were the key issues and lessons learned
  • Articulate why the challenge and your agency/community response was energizing and fulfilling (this will help us market local government careers)
  • Avoid “war stories” that focus on poor governing board members, abusive constituents and long hours with no time for family or self
  • End your presentation by briefly promoting local government careers
    • Tell some personal stories that highlight the value of local government work and the self-fulfillment that you have found
    • Cite a few demographic statistics regarding the Next Generation Challenge facing local government (see the opening chapter from ICMA’s Preparing the Next Generation-A Guide for Current and Future Local Government Managers)
    • Use a theme like "Local Government Careers – Your World Starts Here," which focuses on how local government professionals can "make a difference in their own backyard"
  • Leave time for questions
  • Create a short bio so the faculty member can easily introduce you
  • Before you develop your notes, identify some key take-away points and then build your outline around those key points
  • Learning is a two-way street; encourage participation and an exchange of ideas

Other Suggestions

  • Suggest that the university program contact person organize a meeting with the program faculty members to discuss a topic of interest to the faculty so that you can provide a practitioner’s perspective to the topic and some resources
  • If practical, engage an emerging leader from your organization in one or several presentations (it will help university students query the younger professional on the benefits and rewards of local government careers)
  • If you are interested, suggest that any faculty members call on you for periodic lectures or other assistance

For more information or to contribute to this tip sheet, contact; also see the Adjuncts Corner compendium and Managers As Teachers: A Practioners Guide to Teaching Public Administration a 25-page document providing solid guidance for the local government manager teaching a course