Dr. Barth



Thomas Barth

Professor, Department of Public and International Affairs
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Coordinator of the Strategic Management Academy and Faculty Advisor of the Public Management Concentration

Contact Me



Email : bartht@uncw.edu

Phone : (910) 465 - 0239

Address : 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403 Leutze Hall Room 267


Dr. Barth hails from Buffalo, N.Y (despite the winters, a wonderful place with great people, chicken wings, beer, culture and sports….in no particular order of preference!).  As a good Irish Catholic, I attended the University of Notre Dame for my undergraduate study, and after a brief stint working in a social service agency, I earned a Masters in Social Welfare Policy at the University of Chicago (another great town that is definitely worth a visit to see the museums, shops and lakefront parks).

I am a “pracademic,” meaning I started out as a practicing public administrator and then made the jump to academia.  Upon earning my Masters degree, I was awarded a Presidential Management Internship and began working in the federal government in Washington, D.C. in 1981.  I served as an analyst for ten years in various offices in two departments:  Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.  I learned a great deal about how our government functions, particularly the fascinating (and at times frustrating) relationship between the art of politics and the science of administration…and how nothing of lasting importance happens in government without the mastery of both elements.

The study of government intrigued me, as did classroom instruction from my involvement in the design and delivery of management development programs at EPA.  I decided to pursue my doctorate in public administration in the mid-1980s at a satellite program offered by Virginia Tech (while continuing to work), and completed the degree in 1991.  I tested the academic job market, and was fortunate to obtain a faculty position in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) at The University of Memphis (yet another great town if you like music and barbecue). 

As a faculty member at Memphis, I was very involved as the MPA faculty coordinator, and began developing my teaching and research interests in public ethics, human resource management, public management and organization theory.  Please  check out a sampling of my work on my homepage.

After six years at Memphis, a career opportunity arose in 1997 that was too good to pass up…building an MPA program from scratch at an emerging university by the eastern coastline…UNC Wilmington!  Ten years later, I’m pleased to say we have a nationally accredited MPA program with a steady enrollment of 60+ students.  We are providing students with a quality professional education and improving the state of the government and nonprofit sectors in the Cape Fear Region and beyond by helping them enter the workforce.

Next on the agenda is an initiative with Dr. Milan Dluhy to build a Center for Civic Engagement and Policy Studies at UNCW.  Our goal is to have a center that will link faculty/student expertise and interest with community stakeholders to address pressing public policy challenges facing the region…stay tuned and drop by to chat!


PhD Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Center for Public for Public Administration and Policy '91

MA Social Policy Analysis, University of Chicago '81

BA Anthropology and Pre-Medicine, University of Notre Dame '77



PLS 101: American National Government


The course is based on the concept that American National Government is learned best by understanding both the roots of government and the present day context; in other words, how government has evolved over time.  Students will gain an understanding of the Founding Fathers’ views of government, and how the Constitution and our governing institutions have adjusted to change in the continuing effort to balance freedom, order, and equality in a society where cultural values and technology are dynamic.  The course will also help students to further define their own political ideology, whether it be liberal, conservative, libertarian, or communitarian.

The other theme of this course is that as citizens, students have a responsibility to engage political issues and learn how to actively participate in respectful dialogue.  It is only by taking sides on issues that students can learn to appreciate the competing values that underlie the often polarized debates that mark the political landscape in America today.  Furthermore, such discourse enables students to identify and challenge their own values as well as build an appreciation and respect for other students/citizens who have the right to disagree with them.

PLS 217: Ethics and Leadership in Public Life


Exploration of what it means to act responsibly and with integrity in public life in an environment of shared powers and competing values. Case studies, journals, role plays and film are used to illustrate concepts.

PLS 308: Public Administration


Introduction to public administration in the United States. Nature and scope of public administration, public interest in the administrative process, role of administrators, formal and informal organization, public personnel and financial management.

PLS 401: Senior Seminar


This is the capstone course for senior political science majors. The course examines the relationship between the study of political science and career choice and promotes critical thinking by providing students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned as a political science major to fundamental concepts of government and political issues of the day. This class also serves as the Department’s oral
competency course and will also focus on the continued development of writing skills. No political science major should graduate without sound oral presentation and writing skills.

PLS 500: Managing Public and Nonprofit Organizations


Effective public administration is as much an art as it is a science. Theory informs practice while practice contributes to the development of theory. This course is designed to give you a greater appreciation for the breadth and scope of public administration theory in order to improve your ability to effectively manage public and nonprofit organizations. Specifically, the course objectives are to:

  • Improve your understanding of public and nonprofit organizations and the context within which these organizations operate

  • Introduce you to the theories, concepts, tools and techniques associated with managing public and nonprofit organizations
  • Develop your appreciation for the complexity of issues, problems and challenges associated with effective management of public and nonprofit organizations
  • Enhance your skills and ability to think, act and communicate more effectively in today’s public and nonprofit organizations.

These objectives will be met by exposing you to a variety of theories and conceptual frameworks as well as the practical management tools and techniques that are derived from these theories. The course will develop your critical thinking abilities by analyzing cases and using the theories in this course to analyze an organization. Your oral communication skills will be developed through class presentations while the preparation of case memos and the organizational analysis project will improve your ability to communicate your ideas and arguments in written form.

PLS 502: Public Human Resource Management


Regardless of the organizational setting or function, an essential aspect of any leadership position is managing human resources – both the people and the systems that support them. In fact, managers will state that this area is one of the most challenging and time consuming parts of their job (particularly if they make poor hiring decisions or there is a bad fit between employees and job assignments). This course will better equip managers in the public or nonprofit sectors to address the human resource challenge in the following ways:

  • Develop knowledge of the major components and emerging issues in human resource management (e.g., recruitment and selection, job design, compensation, performance appraisal, training and development, equal employment opportunity).
  • Become familiar with basic tools and techniques used in the practice of human resource management, including sources of information such as the internet and professional publications.
  • Understand the differences between traditional “personnel management” and the current strategic view of “human resource” management. Clarify the unique aspects of human resource management in the public and nonprofit sectors. Apply theoretical concepts in exercises, simulations and case studies.

PLS 507: Public Management Tools


This course is designed to expose students to practical tools that will enable them to effectively deal with the challenges of managing in the public and nonprofit environment.  The course is built around a series of modules that are not exhaustive, but certainly hit on challenges that a public administrator must address on a regular basis.  These include:

  • Dealing with the media.
  • Relating to citizens.
  • Relating to elected officials and/or political appointees.
  • Managing meetings.
  • Measuring performance.
  • Customer Service


PLS 508: Ethics and Leadership in Public Life


A strong democracy requires public officials with the ability to lead in an ethical manner. Although the media focuses public attention on ethics violations and failures in leadership at the highest and most visible levels of government and nonprofit organizations, the effectiveness of the vast majority of public and nonprofit sector activity relies on the responsible exercise of discretion by public administrators at every organizational level and setting. Another premise of this course is that ethical leadership is the responsibility of not just elected or formally appointed public leaders, but every public servant and citizen. Examining your own ethical dilemmas can raise awareness of the challenges of being an ethical public servant.

Students will receive a firm grounding in general ethics and relevant leadership theory, but will also study more specifically how these theories apply to government and nonprofit settings. Specifically, ethical leadership in government and nonprofit
agencies requires an understanding of the shared nature of power and the multiple sources of responsibility in the public arena. Case studies, biographies of exemplary public administrators, film, and personal reflection will be used to build awareness and understanding.

PLS 595: Capstone Seminar in Public Administration


The definition of the word capstone is “crowning point” or “acme – the highest point or peak.” Designed to be taken in the last semester by graduating MPA students, the purpose of a capstone seminar in a professional degree program is to top off the student’s education with a course that integrates or synthesizes what has been covered in the curriculum. In the past, this purpose has been addressed by writing a thesis or passing comprehensive written or oral exams. Increasingly, professional graduate degree programs are evolving to the capstone seminar approach, where students convene for an entire semester to discuss unifying themes in the field, professional expectations and
career development, and complete an applied research project. This capstone experience will focus on the following areas:
• Professional development, including reflection upon models for success in the field of public affairs and major issues facing public and nonprofit managers today.
• Career development, including self-assessment, career planning and design of a portfolio.
• Exposure to cross-cutting themes in the field of public affairs such as ethics, leadership and diversity.
• Design and completion of an applied, community-based research project that examines a public management or policy issue using the knowledge and skills learned through the curriculum.