L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Wooldridge, Leighty and Gooden honored with ASPA career awards

ASPA 2022 Recipients Susan Gooden, Blue Wooldridge and Bill Leighty.
ASPA 2022 Recipients Susan Gooden, Blue Wooldridge and Bill Leighty.

Three faculty members from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University received national career awards at the annual American Society for Public Administration conference held in Jacksonville, Fl. March 18-22. 

Blue Wooldridge, Ph.D., a distinguished career professor and professor emeritus, received the Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award. The distinction recognizes lifetime achievement and effort in the cause of social equity.

William ‘Bill’ Leighty, a senior strategic advisor to the dean and former chief of staff to two governors, received the National Public Service Award (NPSA). The NPSA honors individuals who have, on a sustained basis, made a profound difference in improving the quality and efficacy of government. 

Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., dean of the Wilder School, whose award notice remained under embargo until the conference, received the Gwendolyn Bullock-Smith Public Service Award, presented by the Conference on Minority Public Administrators, a section of ASPA. The award is COMPA’s highest honor and recognizes an academic or practitioner with an exemplary public service career.

All three recipients were honored during separate ceremonies held at the Jacksonville Hyatt. 

“We are delighted to join ASPA in honoring our faculty members who have earned enormous distinction and whose work in performance management and social equity have contributed in major ways to the Wilder School’s continued excellence in the areas of public administration and social policy,” Dean Gooden said in a notice to faculty and staff sent prior to the conference.  

Wooldridge, who retired in 2019 after 31 years of distinguished service to the university, remains an engaged member of the Wilder School community presenting regularly at national conferences and symposia.

“For nearly half a century, Blue has been a trailblazer in the field of public administration and a tireless champion for social equity,” said Gooden. “His contributions include scholarly writings, training of academic administrators and an unparalleled commitment to professional service. Within ASPA and numerous associations, Blue has been the visionary force behind programs and initiatives that will have a positive impact on the diversity of our profession for years to come.”

Bill Leighty, a faculty member and senior strategic advisor at the Wilder School whose previous posts include service as the chief of staff to two governors and the former executive director of the Virginia Retirement System, will be presented with the National Public Service Award for a career that spans more than 30 years and includes an extensive consultation practice in performance management and performance review. 

“I can think of no other individual in Virginia besides Bill who has held such a wide variety of executive positions, performed so exceptionally in each of them, and done as much to advance the efficiency, readiness and mission of our state,” Gooden said. “His expertise in performance review is well respected and has been sought after by countries all over the world.”


A highly respected scholar in the area of social equity, Gooden  is the author of four books, numerous chapters, refereed journal articles and peer-reviewed publications. Her 2014 publication, “Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government,” received the 2020 Herbert Simon Book Award presented by the American Political Science Association and has been hailed as a seminal contribution to the field of public administration. 

Gooden’s career achievements are numerous and include election as a Fellow in the National Academy of Public Administration, a Fulbright Specialist Award to Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, current service as president of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), the global accrediting body for schools of its kind, and prior service as the president of ASPA. Additionally, Gooden is the  founder of the Wilder School’s Research Institute for Social Equity , an organization that shapes public decision-making around social and racial equity by providing government, nonprofits, and public and private organizations evidence-based research, training, tools and resources. In addition to her extensive engagement in professional associations, Gooden serves on the Virginia Retirement System Board, a role she was appointed to by former Governor Ralph Northam. She served previously on the board of the Virginia Community College System. 

“Susan is an outstanding public servant whose contributions to theory, policy and praxis of public administration/management is beyond measure,” wrote longtime colleagues and professors James Agbodzakey and Blue Wooldridge in their letter of nomination. Agbodzakey is an associate professor at the University North Texas Dallas and immediate past president of COMPA. 


Blue Wooldridge is an internationally recognized leader who has been actively engaged in enhancing the Practice and study of public administration, both through scholarship and service,  for over five decades. His research examines the role of administrators, systems and policies in promoting the equitable distribution of benefits and services in a variety of contexts and has been published in the International Review of Administrative Sciences, the Journal of Public Affairs Education and the Journal of Budgeting Accounting and Financial Management.

Wooldridge’s contributions to the discipline’s leading professional associations is deep and far-reaching. He has held positions on either the board of directors or national council of the American Society for Public Administration, the National Academy of Public Administration, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, and the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (NASPAA) among others. Within each of these organizations,  Dr. Wooldridge has used his leadership as a platform to strengthen the focus of equity in public administration scholarship and practice. His contributions include the creation of programs and initiatives on behalf of NASPAA, the global accrediting body for schools of its kind, and the National Academy of Public Administration, where he serves as an elected Fellow. As co-chair of NASPAA's Diversity and Social Equity Committee, Wooldridge was integrally involved in the generation of the Ph.D. Pathways Initiative, a paid internship program that provides a pipeline for under-represented minorities who wish to pursue a doctoral degree in public policy and administration. He was also an advocate for the network’s Minority Serving Institutions’ Initiative which offers voluntary technical support to minority-serving institutions undergoing the accreditation process.


A true veteran in state government and the United States Marine Corps, William H. “Bill” Leighty serves as the Senior Strategic Advisor to the Dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Leighty, also elected a National Academy of Public Administration's (NAPA) Fellow in 2006, teaches public administration courses and assists senior leadership on special projects of significance to the Wilder School.

Prior to retirement and joining the Wilder School in 2018, Leighty served as Chief of Staff to Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia. As Chief of Staff, Bill essentially served as Chief Operating Officer of the Commonwealth of Virginia where he instituted a statewide performance management system for all agencies. 

In 2014, Leighty completed a manual for the National Governors Association for newly elected governors on how to transition into power. Leighty was also asked to co-chair the transition committee for the newly elected mayor of the City of Richmond in 2016.

Leighty’s current work includes advising the Performance Management Group (PMG) at Virginia Commonwealth University on a statewide Workforce Opportunity Investment Act (WIOA) strategic plan for the Office of the Governor.  In addition, with Leighty’s advising, PMG recently completed a comprehensive review of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) in response to an audit by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).