Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement




About Us

Renewal in civic engagement has reemerged into the nation's consciousness. Public universities have been challenged to rededicate themselves to civic service by stimulating community and government involvement among their students.

The PACE House is located at 305 W. College Avenue in Salisbury, Maryland.  Click here for driving directions.  Salisbury University is committed to undergraduate involvement that enhances the conduct of public affairs.  Under the aegis of the Fulton School of Liberal Arts, PACE was conceived for the University to provide learning opportunities for its students and outreach to assist the communities of Delmarva.

PACE's Mission:

The mission of the Institute is to serve the public communities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the students and faculty of Salisbury University by enhancing our understanding of the public good, by fostering in a non-partisan way, a more informed and responsible citizenry, and by promoting ethics and good government at the local and state levels. We achieve these goals through policy and polling research, educational programs and events, sponsoring election forums and public policy lectures, and special projects in civic engagement. 

How Will This Partnership Work?
PACE acts as a resource center where local government, non-profit and public groups can easily access knowledge and information.  With the University nearby, PACE draws on the interdisciplinary expertise of the faculty, students and staff.  As a nonpartisan contributor, the Institute organizes projects and programs that are customized to fit the particular needs of the Eastern Shore community.  By providing a forum to discuss current issues and community concerns, PACE actively serves as a venue that benefits the local Eastern Shore communities.  In return, PACE students share in unique government experiences that foster further civic engagement and lifelong learning.




Mr. Robby Sheehan, Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Government and Community Relations, and Interim Managing Director of PACE

Robby SheehanRobby Sheehan has served in a variety of capacities throughout his professional career at Salisbury University. He began in 2010 as a research fellow at SU’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) before being nominated to serve as the Institute’s interim managing director. Following his service at PACE, he began working in the President’s Office as director of government relations in December 2011. In May 2013, Sheehan was promoted to deputy chief of staff and director of government and community relations. In July 2014, he again assumed the role of interim managing director of PACE in addition to his other responsibilities.

Sheehan serves as Salisbury University’s chief advocate to the federal, state and local governments, and is the primary liaison between the University and the surrounding community. Sheehan was instrumental in assisting with the University’s receipt and advancement of $107 million dollars to fund the construction of the Guerrieri Academic Commons. He has worked diligently to build and strengthen positive relationships with key elected officials across the state and beyond.

Sheehan assists the chief of staff in managing SU’s Town-Gown Council and also serves on several campus committees, including Women’s History Month, Strategic Enrollment Planning Team and Steering Committee, Strategic Planning and Budgeting, President’s Advisory Team, the Safety Task Force, and the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Work Group. He is an ex-officio member of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, co-chair of the Chamber’s Local Legislative Roundtable, and was selected to serve on the Chamber’s Education and Advocacy Subcommittees. Sheehan also serves on the Wicomico County Visioning Committee, PACE’s Board of Directors and the Chesapeake College Alumni Association.

Sheehan graduated summa cum laude from Salisbury University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in music, and he is currently pursuing a master’s of public administration degree from The University of Pennsylvania.

Sheehan and his wife Erin are both natives of the Eastern Shore and reside in Wicomico County.


Resident Scholars

Dr. Michael O'Loughlin

Michael O'Loughlin is a professor of Political Science at Salisbury University.  He has served as president of the Faculty Senate as well as Chair of the Political Science Department. He received a B.A. in political science from the University of Pittsburgh (1973) and his Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University (1984). His teaching fields are courses in American politics and government, public policy analysis, and political theory.  Dr. O’Loughlin’s research at PACE focuses on student voting. Beginning in 2001, Dr. O’Loughlin has examined low turnout of student voting, some of the reasons for it and has analyzed state laws as they affect the right of students to vote. In the most recent edition of “Democracy and Student Voting,’ Dr. O’Loughlin along with Class of 2011 PACE Presidential Citizen Scholar Chase Gordon, sharpen their focus theoretically and examine the normative policy question: Where should college students vote and, what is the likely voter eligibility rules that will maximize college student voting?    Building on both the previous studies, they lay out a view of participatory democracy that entails an argument for the maximization of college student voting as citizens of their college or university towns.  E-Mail:

 "Democracy and Student Voting" (4th Ed., February 2012)


Dr. Mark de Socio

Dr. Mark de Socio is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Geosciences at Salisbury University. He studies economic and political forces that shape, and are shaped by, the physical and social landscapes of urban and rural areas. His research focuses on networks of business and social leaders who actively shape urban and rural landscapes through economic activities, policy-making, or both. Current research projects include an exploration of business and social networks shaping the electoral geographies of state-level officeholders in the United States; the rise of universities and hospitals as engines of local and regional economic development; and the geopolitics of the federal J-1 Summer Work Travel Program in Ocean City, Maryland. He has published research in Journal of Urban Affairs, Antipode, Regional Studies, and Growth & Change. He currently serves as President of the Middle Atlantic Division of the Association of American Geographers (MAD-AAG) and on the editorial boards of The Professional Geographer and The Arab World Geographer. He received his Ph.D. (Geography) from the University of Cincinnati, M.S. (Geography) from the University of Alabama, and B.S. (Political Science) from Towson University. He previously taught at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. His teaching duties at Salisbury include Economic Geography, Political Geography, Regional Economic Development, and World Geography: Africa and the Americas.

Dr. de Socio has taught two PACE 1 credit seminars to our Presidential Citizen Scholars. In Spring 2009, Dr. de Socio led a PACE seminar in which the class mapped foreclosures on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore for calendar year 2008. Further, the class explored whether local banks foreclosed on residential properties less than regional and national banks. That project culminated in a research article which is now in the revise-and-resubmit phase at a prominent international journal of geography.  

In Spring 2012, Dr. de Socio is leading students in exploring  the community networks of philanthropy and volunteer fraternal/soronal organizations on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. Specifically, the class is seeking to explore whether such organizations comprise robust networks of interlocking memberships that collectively produce the kinds of social capital that make rural communities resilient to natural disasters, for example.



PACE History and Co-Founders

PACE was launched in 1999 to reinvigorate the idea of a state university as a place where civic and political involvement could be developed and where students' spirits of generosity and intellectual curiosity could foster engagement. PACE is a non-partisan institute committed to civic learning, engaged citizenship and community involvement that sparks interest in public affairs and civic life for the students and the communities of Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The Institute:

  • provides students with enriching learning experiences through interactive, thought-provoking seminars and classes,
  • sponsors lectures that bring public speakers to campus,
  • serves the region as a non-partisan "public square" for ideas and debate,
  • and offers hands-on student internships.
Dr. Harry Basehart, co-founder of PACE, is professor emeritus of Political Science. Dr. Basehart co-authored the book, "State and Local Government: Politics and Public Policies," which is used extensively across the country in university government courses.

During his 37-year tenure at SU, Dr. Basehart conducted over 15 voter and citizen satisfaction surveys and supervised over 300 students in governmental internships, many in the Maryland General Assembly. Within the community, he served for several years as chair of the City of Salisbury Ethics Commission. 

Dr. Francis Kane, co-founder of PACE, taught in the Philosophy Department at SU for 35 years, primarily in political philosophy, ethics and biomedical ethics. Dan Rather, CBS news anchor, praised Dr. Kane's book, "Neither Beasts Nor Gods: Civic Life and the Public Good" as "necessary to the health of any community."

Dr. Kane developed a nationally recognized policy for teaching about religion in the county school system and, in his spare time, coaches youth soccer.