Dr. RaJade M. Berry-James Named President of NASPAA Senior Associate Dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs to Helm Global Accreditor for Public Affairs Programs
By Tiffany Murray-Robertson
The senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University has ascended to the presidency of the world’s leading accrediting institution for public affairs education. Dr. RaJade M. Berry-James, recognized for her three decades of unwavering commitment to public administration, particularly in realms of diversity, equity, inclusion, and education, has been inaugurated as the president of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) for the 2023-24 term.
With a stellar record including over $1,130,000 in research grants tailored to support vulnerable communities, the innovation of graduate courses concentrating on social equity, and multiple accolades for pedagogy and mentorship, Dr. Berry-James is set to redefine the trajectory of NASPAA. Notably, she twice helmed the NASPAA Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (COPRA), during which she accredited the very first international programs and pioneered COPRA's first diversity policy.
In a recent interview, Dr. Berry-James highlighted her vision for NASPAA: “My objective is to meld academic research with tangible actions that effect social transformation, emphasizing on NASPAA's fundamental principles like diversity, inclusion, and social equity, making them more actionable.”
When prompted about how she plans to invigorate the member base to align with this vision, she emphasized the significance of open dialogue, assimilating diverse perspectives, and framing discussions to address ground realities. “Resilience,” she notes, “will be paramount to navigating the inevitable challenges ahead.”
Dr. Berry-James is no stranger to using education as a powerful catalyst for ushering in equity and justice in society. As she elucidates, "Education not only propels individuals upwards in society but also fosters a culture of empathy and mutual respect amongst diverse cohorts. Our mission as educators is to arm students with the arsenal of knowledge, enabling them to spearhead societal change.”
Addressing the mounting demand for diversity, equity, and inclusion in public affairs education, she intends to harness the collective potential of NASPAA's membership to confront and overhaul ingrained biases in the field. Her holistic strategy encompasses policy revamps, shifts in cultural ethos, and ongoing education.
Dr. Berry-James also has a rich history of community-engaged practice, exemplified during her tenure at the University of Akron Institute for Health and Social Policy in Ohio, where she collaborated with community partners, secured grants, and evaluated the impact of initiatives, underlining her ethos of practical action for societal reform.
Her resilience, a trait she often underscores as essential, was evident in her doctoral research, where she delved deep into affirmative action in higher education, exploring its challenges and opportunities. “Despite often being the sole woman of color in many academic settings, my unwavering dedication to racial equity and eradicating racism defines my work and leadership style,” she asserts.
With an eye on the global stage, Dr. Berry-James is ardent about promoting public service universally. "As NASPAA engaged scholars," she says, "we aim to craft practical solutions to global issues, translating path-breaking strategies into impactful global actions."
This new chapter for NASPAA under Dr. Berry-James promises innovative strategies, a reinforced commitment to global standards, and a fresh approach to public administration education.