AU appoints new SPA dean

Barbara Romzek will become the new dean of School of Public Affairs on July 1. She will succeed William LeoGrande, who has been the dean of the SPA since 2003.

Romzek currently works as a professor and administrator at the University of Kansas. She is nationally recognized as an expert in public management and accountability, according to a March 26 memo from Provost Scott Bass about Romzek’s appointment.

“I am very much looking forward to coming and being a part of the leadership team at AU,” Romzek said. “Higher education is going through dramatic changes, and it is a very exciting time.”

Romzek said she was drawn in by the quality of the SPA program and the “comprehensive application process” that she experienced while applying for dean.

During her two visits to AU, Romzek said she witnessed talented faculty working on issues including power, policy and justice through research, all of which she views as necessary for having an informed national dialogue.

“In a new job, you want there to be some movement, not just maintaining,” she said. “When I came to see AU, I saw really talented people doing good and important things.”

Romzek said she had no changes planned for SPA during the 2012-2013 academic year and instead will be focusing on learning and getting to know AU.

However, she does hope to facilitate dialogue between faculty and the University, SPA and other schools within AU. She also hopes AU can create bonds with other D.C.-area universities next year, Romzek said.

“There is an urban legend among some faculty that the deans are constantly at war with one another for scarce resources,” LeoGrande said in an email. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Romzek is looking forward to getting to know AU faculty, staff and students next year, she said.

“Being a dean is really about facilitating the success of students and faculty, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in solving problems that are blocking people’s progress,” LeoGrande said.

However, Romzek will miss the members of the University of Kansas community who she has made strong attachments with, she said.

Romzek received her B.A. from Oakland University, M.A. from Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Texas at Austin, according to the memo.

Finding the right fit

A special committee elected Romzek to her new position. The dean search started in fall 2011, according to Robert Durant, the search committee chair and an SPA professor. The committee was composed of 15 AU community members and had the help of search firm Isaackson Miller.

“[The committee] narrowed the pool to three outstanding individuals for intensive interviews on campus during February and made [their] final recommendations to the Provost at that time,” Durant said in an email. “As is customary, the provost has the final responsibility for the selection of a new dean at AU.”

Durant said the committee found Romzek had the qualities they were looking for in an SPA Dean:

• Someone with a national and international reputation as a leader in her field of scholarship and who would be an intellectual leader in SPA

• A person with experience in high-level leadership positions in universities who would be prepared immediately to lead SPA

• A person has very strong and respected ties to the professional audiences that matter most to SPA’s future development

“Already one of the top-ranked public affairs schools in the nation under Dean William LeoGrande’s leadership, we sought someone who could build on that strong foundation and who had a vision, set of skills and collaborative leadership style that could move our school to even higher stature in the world of public affairs,” Durant said. “We look forward to a very bright and exciting future under [Romzek’s] leadership.”

LeoGrande will return to his faculty position after taking a sabbatical during the 2012-2013 academic year.

LeoGrande said he will miss working with the other deans.

“I have had the good fortune to work with deans in the other schools who are exceptionally collegial, mutually supportive and have the best interests of whole university at heart,” he said. “One of the things I will miss most is working closely with all of them.”

He said he impressed with the caliber of students’ work in SPA.

“Today, we are attracting students, both graduate and undergraduate, who come with truly impressive academic backgrounds,” he said. “I’m constantly impressed by the things they’ve already achieved so early in their lives.”

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