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Tonya Thornton Neaves

Research Assistant Professor, Director of Grants
Tonya Thornton Neaves



3351 Fairfax Dr., MS 3B1
Van Metre Hall – Room 677
Arlington, Virginia 22201

Fax: 703-993-8215



Dr. Tonya Thornton Neaves is the Director of Grants with George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. In this role, she works closely with faculty in developing proposals and securing contracts for the policy and administrative sciences. She is also the Director for the Schar School’s Centers on the Public service that conducts research, provides training and education, and offers thought leadership to advance the work of management officials across all sectors of government. As part of her faculty appointment, Dr. Neaves serves as an Assistant Professor in the Master of Public Administration program and is the Coordinator for its Emergency Management and Homeland Security graduate certificate and is an Advisory Council Member for the University’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth. In addition to this, she is the Director for the Virginia Certified Public Manager Program.

For nearly a decade, Dr. Neaves has been hosting a graduate study abroad seminar in Croatia in connection with the University of Zagreb and the University of Split exploring such topics as overcoming socio-political challenges and utilizing innovative methodologies for big data. She has also been working with the National School of Administration and Magistracy in Cameroon to train future governmental employees across all levels of operation, where she serves as a Visiting Professor.

Prior to joining Mason, Dr. Neaves was the Director for the Mississippi Public Safety Data Laboratory at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. During that time, she worked closely with the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. During this ten-year span, she trained law enforcement officers on how to analyze traffic records data in a timely, accurate, and consistent manner to assist the State of Mississippi in meeting its Highway Safety Performance Plan. Part of this effort was first developing said computational programs.

As a scholar, Dr. Neaves research portfolio has included securing contracts from the Sandia National Laboratories, 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. Neaves 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. Neaves is very involved in her field as well, serving on the boards of several professional and non-profit organizations. As an active member of the American Society for Public Administration, she previously served as a District Representative to its National Council and is the Treasurer for its Section on Emergency and Crisis Management. Selected by former President, Janice Lachance, Dr. Neaves was chosen as a Program Co-Chair for its 2018 annual conference, coordinating 175 sessions, 750 presenters, and 1,200 attendees. She now serves as a Viewpoint Associate Editor for its Public Administration Review, the premiere journal for public administration, which focuses on connecting scholars with communities of practice.

Dr. Neaves has a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University, where she also earned a Master of Public Policy and Administration. She has a strong planning and analysis background, with an emphasis in project management. She pursues innovative leadership, problem solving, and has been developing a model for the 3C’s (increased communication, enhanced coordination, and meaningful collaboration). And, her areas of expertise include emergency management, communal resiliency, high threats, and critical infrastructure.

Areas of Research

  • Communal Resiliency
  • Emergency Management
  • Critical Infrastructure
  • High Threats
  • Traffic Safety
  • Rural Mortality
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Performance Management
  • Research Design
  • Survey Methodology