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Michael Dougherty

Michael Dougherty with his dog


I do survey research and field research in communities. I just published an article on the use of playbooks to help with leadership transitions in organizations. We did a case study of NAFTA, National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals and they use these playbooks. They’re position descriptions that also include assignment lists, schedules of activities so they’ll kind of know what they’re expected to do and what is going to happen when they come into a leadership position as opposed to having to learn it by going through it. They’ll still experience those things for the first time, but they’ll know it’s coming with the playbook. 

Research is part of my outreach work. Right now I’m working with the business school and doing surveys. We’re now trying to interpret the data we got from residents in an eight county area and what they see as the assets and opportunities and challenges for the region. 

An interesting thing I have not found in my research, believe it or not, is a direct correlation between resource expenditure and communities performing better on standard indicators like employment, income, poverty rates.

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

Before I went to graduate school, I was working in newspapers. That’s probably not a profession you want to be in right now because of the changes in the environment and the ways people gather their information. 

It’s a possibility I might be a writer somewhere. When I went to graduate school, I originally thought I’d get a master’s degree, so I might be working in local government as a planner or economic developer or administrator.

Moment you knew what you wanted to study:

I always liked government and administration. Political Science was my undergraduate degree. I thought about law, but I decided I didn't want to go down that route. I don’t know if there was ever a point that I knew this was the career path I was taking. It’s really where I’ve stayed since my undergraduate. I dabbled in writing so I could help pay the bills, but my internship my freshman year of college was in local government. So I’ve always had that thought even when I was starting out after high school that that’s where I’d go. What I do now is teach planning which is a local government planning; and I work with communities through my extension appointment. It’s always been that track.

Moment you knew your current role was right for you:

My role has changed; I was originally hired as a public finance specialist in extension. You don’t know in graduate school where you’re going to end up. I just came because it was a job here, but after that period of adjustment I saw there were lots of opportunities to do lots of things. There’s room for plenty of people to do this kind of work and there’s plenty of need for it. So you’re always busy. .But in my current role, I started teaching as an adjunct. After doing it a couple times, I wanted to have my appointment changed to continue to teach.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I’ve never really thought about that. I kind of like where I'm at right now. You start getting into trade-offs and if you want to live in the mountains, you have to shovel snow to get out in the winter; if you want to live at the beach, you have to worry about storms. Would I randomly have picked the Morgantown area? Probably not. But it’s quite a nice place to be. You’ve got access to everything. Pittsburgh is 90 minutes to the north. I’ve got the mountains. I”m not much of a beach person, but it’s close. There’s so much in such a short distance. From a planning perspective, even though there’s been growth around it, it still doesn’t sprawl too much.

Favorite part of social distancing:

I really like my commute right now; it’s down the stairs and into the basement. I don’t have to worry about leaving the office at 4 p.m. so I don’t get stuck in traffic. That I don't miss. I’ve been able to start some projects around the house. I miss the interaction. I miss the people. I miss the students. I prefer to not get sick, so I’ll take the good with the bad. My dog is really happy that I’m home because she’s getting more walks and more attention.

Least favorite part of social distancing:

You can't go knock on a colleague’s door. If we want to have a “hallway meeting,” we have to get on Zoom.  What used to be spontaneous interactions have to be scheduled. There are people who I normally would have seen three times a week I haven’t seen in three months. You end up in your own little world and more secluded. I’m an introvert so I can handle that better than others, but it would be nice to be able to be there.

Just for Fun

Favorite book: The $400,000 Quarterback

Favorite movie/TV show: It’s A Wonderful Life

Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Yes

Favorite local restaurant: Oryza

Favorite local activity: Going for walks