Photo of Tonya T. NeavesManaging Director, Centers on the Public Service
Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

(703) 993-9377

Dr. Tonya E. Thornton (formerly Neaves) is the Managing Director for the Centers on the Public Service with George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government. In this role, Dr. Thornton maintains oversight of its day-to-day administrative operations as well as secures new research and development contracts and established a series of executive education programs. Other major activities include serving as a faculty member in the Masters of Public Administration program and Coordinator for its Emergency Management and Homeland Security certificate. She also serves as the Director of the Virginia Certified Public Manager® Program. Prior to joining Mason, Dr. Thornton was the Director for the Mississippi Public Safety Data Laboratory at the Social Science Research Center of Mississippi State University, where she is still a Research Fellow.

As a scholar, Dr. Thornton’s research portfolio has included securing contracts from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Transportation Security Administration, and Federal Emergency Management Agency. To date, her total research funding approximates $6 million. Dr. Thornton has also published her efforts in the Review of Policy Research, Journal of Emergency Management, Review of Public Personnel Management, and the American Journal of Public Health. She has also co-authored book chapters in The Future of Disaster Management in the U.S.: Rethinking Legislation, Policy, and Finance, New Voices in the Old South: How Women and Minorities Influence Southern Politics. She was also an editor for the National Academy of Public Administration and American Society for Public Administration’s Memos to National Leaders.

Dr. Thornton holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State, where she also earned her Master’s in Public Policy and Administration. She has also participated in the University of Zagreb’s (Croatia) Center for Advanced Academic Studies, University of Michigan’s Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research, Duke University’s Dynamic Management and Leadership Programs, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Management and Innovation Program.

As an active member of the American Society for Public Administration, Dr. Thornton recently served as District Representative to National Council, 2014-2017 and was the Conference Coordinator for the Northeast Conference on Public Administration, 2015. She is also the Treasurer for the Section on Emergency and Crisis Management and Program Co-Chair for the 2018 annual conference. She is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Urban Management and is a board member for Public Personnel Management.

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