DGSS: 50 years of improving quality of life in the Northwest
When Seattle officials needed to know if the city’s civilian-run Office of Professional Accountability was effective in investigating police misconduct complaints, they turned to the Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS) at WSU for help.
When regional planners for Thurston County, Wash., needed citizen input for a long-range sustainability project and expert assistance with area employers to minimize job commutes, DGSS provided public outreach, data management, telework know-how, and other support that helped them succeed.
And when WSU needed a reliable, responsible organization to provide professional emergency management, DGSS stepped forward to deliver hazard protection and prevention, response support, mitigation, and recovery services University-wide.
Jointly supported by CAS and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, DGSS provides research and outreach services to a variety of partners in government and private industry across the Northwest. This year marks 50 years since the division began helping public organizations achieve their policy- and program-development goals through expert assessment, research, consulting, and training.
“It’s a rare privilege to celebrate five decades of commitment and contribution to improving people’s quality of life,” said DGSS director Michael Gaffney. “Since 1964, DGSS has linked WSU resources to citizens across the state and beyond by providing high-quality social science services.”
DGSS faculty, staff, and students partner with public, private, academic, tribal, and law enforcement agencies in myriad ways to advance public information, administration, and safety. They conduct specially tailored workshops and personnel training, and assist with design and implementation of surveys, focus groups, and other proven and innovative assessment tools.
“Amazing power can be brought to bear on thorny issues of public policy and governance when the capacity of Washington’s land-grant university is applied through engagement of faculty and students,” Gaffney said.
Affiliated with DGSS for the past 17 years, Gaffney became director in 2010 following emeritus professor of political science Nick Lovrich’s retirement after 34 years at the helm. The division now has three clinical faculty and four staff positions, and it routinely recruits faculty and students from across the University to assist with specific projects.
DGSS faculty teach both undergraduate and graduate classes, primarily through the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology (DCJC), and the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. They also serve regularly on the committees of PhD and MA candidates in criminal justice, political science, and other disciplines.
Housed on the third floor of Bryan Hall, WSU Pullman, DGSS hosts undergraduate interns, graduate student volunteers, funded graduate research assistants, and paid student employees. Each year DGSS offers students unique opportunities for hands-on experience in applied social science research. In the past 50 years, the division has connected hundreds of students with external projects resulting in dozens of theses, dissertations, and peer-reviewed publications.
Working closely with DCJC faculty and staff, DGSS administers the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice. It also co-coordinates the Law Enforcement Mountain Operations School, which provides law officers in northern environments with basic knowledge and skills to safely perform routine operations in wilderness settings.
Celebrating a milestone of education and service
A variety of public events are being planned for fall through spring to commemorate DGSS’s half-century of service. Activities will be held on the WSU Pullman campus and at conferences of the American Society of Criminology in San Francisco and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in Orlando. Details will be posted on the DGSS website and CAS Calendar as event dates draw near.