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About 25 countries, encompassing nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, have federal constitutions, and all have elected officials and citizens seeking ways to improve their governments as well as their relationships with other federal nations.

John Kincaid, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service and director of Lafayette’s Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government, is working to help promote such reform and communication.

Kincaid is senior editor for a series of volumes on comparative federalism, and served as co-editor of the first book, Constitutional Origins, Structure, and Change in Federal Countries, published in 2005. A second volume, Distribution of Powers and Responsibilities in Federal Countries, came out this month.

Kincaid says that these and future books, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, are outgrowths of the Global Dialogue on Federalism, co-sponsored by the Forum of Federations, based in Ottawa, Canada, and the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies.

“The main audiences are practitioners in federal countries as well as college and university teachers and students,” he says. “In that respect, we’re trying to build intellectual capital for the study and understanding of federalism around the world as a form of democratic government able to accommodate human diversity.”

Kincaid says each volume in the series is the result of roundtable meetings in about a dozen countries, plus an international conference.

“At this point, more than 1,000 people have been involved in the project around the world,” he says. “It’s not just getting authors to write chapters for a book. It’s a process involving practitioners – everyone from presidents to street-level appointed officials – as well as scholars and students.”

Project participants include Brandon Benjamin ’06 (Towanda, Pa.), a double major in government & law and economics and business, who attended an international federalism conference in Belgium and sent book chapters to external reviewers. He also is one of a number of Lafayette students whom Kincaid has mentored in research projects.

“Dr. Kincaid is a brilliant man,” says Benjamin, who interacted with 18 Fulbright Scholars from all parts of the world at a Meyner Center institute directed by Kincaid. “He’s also extremely easy to work with. I would describe our relationship as a very comfortable teacher-student bond.”

Another project participant is Alexandria Kenney ’06 (Springfield, Va.), a double major in history and economics and business, who served as a student representative at a roundtable meeting in Washington, D.C., hosted by the U.S. Council of State Governments.

“We are building a community of people from the 25 federal countries, to communicate and share ideas,” Kincaid says. “The process is as important as the product.”

He also has helped build that community through six Fulbright grants from the U.S. Department of State, which have brought together leaders and professors from around the world at the Meyner Center, where Kincaid has run summer institutes enabling them to learn about, debate, and discuss federalism, republicanism, democracy, constitutions, and other governmental issues. Many of the participants have been from Third World countries struggling with these issues.

“The participants take something back to their country so as to contribute to their academic institution and their society as a whole,” he says. Among those attending past institutes were groups from Cyprus and Indonesia. “I hope in the long run that we can play some role in building reconciliation and ending hostilities.”

Kincaid also directed an education program on federalism for Marina Spiliotopoulou, counsel of the republic in the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus.

He was named Distinguished Federalism Scholar in 2001 by the American Political Science Association, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the study of federalism and intergovernmental relations. The association is the major professional society for American political scientists.

President of the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies from 1998-2005, Kincaid has lectured and consulted on issues of federalism, intergovernmental relations, constitutionalism, and regional and local governance in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

He is the author of various works on federalism and intergovernmental relations, served as editor of Publius: The Journal of Federalism from 1981-2005 – a quarterly scholarly journal with a worldwide readership – and editor of a 50-book series, Governments and Politics of the American States.

Kincaid served as executive director of the bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations in Washington, D.C., from 1987-94, when he joined the Lafayette faculty. He is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

He is a recipient of the Donald Stone Distinguished Scholar Award from the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management of the American Society of Public Administration; coeditor of The Covenant Connection: From Federal Theology to Modern Federalism (2000); coeditor of Competition Among States and Local Governments: Efficiency and Equity in American Federalism (1991); editor of Political Culture, Public Policy and the American States (1982); and author of other scholarly works.

In summer 2004, he used a $153,060 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to hold “History, Diversity, and Democracy in America’s State Constitutions,” an institute on state constitutions for 20 high school teachers from around the United States, which built on his highly successful 2002 NEH summer institute.

Kincaid holds a Ph.D. in political science from Temple University. He was associate professor of political science at the University of North Texas from 1979-94 and has also taught at Arizona State University, Seton Hall University, and St. Peter’s College.

Categorized in: Academic News