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The Whitburn Center for Governance and Policy Research at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has selected its first two Whitburn Fellows for the 2022-23 academic year. Alumni Chris Astrella ‘03 and ’21 MPA; and Nick Brewer ‘15 and ’18 MPA, are the inaugural members of the Whitburn Fellowship program.

The program supports the mission of the Whitburn Center in conducting nonpartisan, practical, applied research focused on evaluating and improving governance, professional management and public policy in Wisconsin and beyond.

Both Astrella and Brewer will collaborate with the Whitburn Center on a preselected topic. They will lead research, write reports and present on the project results near the end of their year tenure. They also will participate in Whitburn Center and Master of Public Administration (MPA) program events during their term.

The fellowship is a 12-month term from June 1, 2022 through May 31, 2023.

“We are so excited to welcome Chris and Nick as our inaugural Whitburn Fellows,” said Samantha Larson, deputy director for the Whitburn Center. “The fellowship allows MPA alumni to continue exploring important research topics that matter to them. The fellows will work in partnership with the Whitburn Center on projects that also will help them advance in their careers. It’s a very exciting opportunity for all of us. It serves as a bridge, allowing faculty to stay connected with our alumni and to continue serving them, beyond graduation, to keep accomplishing their professional goals.”

Chris Astrella will work with Larson on “Belonging, Equity and Engagement.” Inclusive engagement of residents and in decision-making and community-building is essential to local government success and the goal of this topic will be to evaluate best practices, strategies and tools for building trust, creating a sense of belonging and enhancing community cohesion.

Astrella is a long-time clerk and treasurer, most recently for the Town of Oakland in Jefferson County, Wis. He currently lives in Nevada and is consulting for two worldwide companies that specialize in municipal government technology.

Nick Brewer will work with Michael Ford, associate professor of public administration and Whitburn Center director on “Local Crisis and Professional Management.” The Whitburn Center works to advance the understanding of the role of professional managers in leading through a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to assess challenges experienced and provide practical guidance for navigating such barriers in the future.

Brewer is originally from Madison but has called Oshkosh home for the past 11 years. He is an Army veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2010-11. He has worked for seven years with the state in various positions, assisting students and veterans within the community with employment, outreach, recovery and sustainable living practices.

The Whitburn Fellows were selected by the Whitburn Center’s MPA Alumni Board selection committee.

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