L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



NASPAA Conference demonstrates Wilder School expertise

The Wilder School was well-represented at NASPAA. From left to right: Myung Jin, Curtis Brown, Brie Haupt, RaJade Berry-James, Susan Gooden, Dietra Trent and Shajuana Isom-Payne
The Wilder School was well-represented at NASPAA. From left to right: Myung Jin, Curtis Brown, Brie Haupt, RaJade Berry-James, Susan Gooden, Dietra Trent and Shajuana Isom-Payne

For the first time in two years, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration returned to an in-person conference in Chicago. NASPAA is the globally recognized accreditor of master's degree programs in public policy and administration and is dedicated to providing education and training for public service and promoting the ideals of public service.

Wilder School faculty and staff hosted nearly a dozen presentations, panels, and charrettes during the conference, which was themed, “The Time is Now: A Bold and Noble Public Service for All.” Susan Gooden, dean of the Wilder School, provided her leadership as NASPAA president during the conference and for the 2021-2022 year.

“NASPAA is the premier professional association dedicated to global public service education,” Gooden said. “It was a privilege to serve as NASPAA’s president as we returned to an in-person conference. There was tremendous energy and enthusiasm in connecting and reconnecting with colleagues from across the nation and around the world.”

In attendance were faculty members Elsie Harper-Anderson, RaJade Berry-James, Curtis Brown, Susan Gooden, Brie Haupt, Myung Jin and Anthony Starke. Staff members included Shajuana Isom-Payne, assistant dean of student affairs, Katie Hunyh, events and messaging strategist, and David Slipher, director of communications and external relations. 

Advocating for educational equity

The delegation also included a keynote plenary from two-time Wilder School alumna Dietra Trent (‘95 MPA & ‘07 PPA). In February, she was appointed as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by the U.S. Department of Education.  


“We need public servants at the frontlines of society. We are in the battle for the soul of our nation.” – Dietra Trent, (‘95 MPA & ‘07 PPA)

Trent delivered a powerful speech on the need for supporting HBCUs and creating paths to secure investments to enhance educational opportunities for students of color. She tied these outcomes as essential to impact the future in a divided world. Trent then fielded questions from NASPAA president Susan Gooden. 

“We need public servants at the frontlines of society,” Trent said. “We are in the battle for the soul of our nation.”

Continuing Wilder School leadership in NASPAA

During the conference, RaJade Berry-James, senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs was unanimously voted in as the next NASPAA vice president. In this capacity, she’ll provide leadership for the executive board and will assume the NASPAA presidency for the 2023-2024 year. Berry-James brings decades of experience in social equity research, research methods and program evaluation, assessment, and accreditation.

“I am truly honored to be working on behalf of an organization that is committed to the ideals of public service education and to the vital role of public service leadership. I look forward to working with NASPAA’s executive council on advancing the network’s translational approach to interdisciplinary research, teaching and learning, and community engagement,” Berry-James said.

Assistant Professor Anthony Starke, one of the Wilder School’s newest faculty members, was named a NASPAA Next Generation Fellow. Starke participated in a leadership training program and guidance on future NASPAA professional service as part of the program.

Assistant Professor Brie Haupt was elected co-chair of the Section on Emergency Management and Homeland Security. She’ll bring her expertise to share best practices and collaborate with her colleagues to advance Emergency Management and Homeland Security programs. 

In addition to other faculty presentations, Associate Professor Elsie Harper-Anderson headed the pre-conference Doctoral Program Workshop along with other members of the Doctoral Education Committee. Harper-Anderson, who serves as the Wilder School’s Ph.D. program director, facilitated discussion across a range of topics, including, the relevancy and viability of doctoral programs in public affairs in today's world, impacts of the COVID pandemic on doctoral programs and doctoral program diversity. 

I am very proud of the level of engagement from Wilder School faculty and staff in the NASPAA conference,” Gooden said. “Our scholarly expertise and leadership roles are well-respected within the field by our peers around the world and that speaks volumes about the excellence of our colleagues.”

Recognizing student support excellence

At the conference, Shajuana Isom-Payne was recognized as the inaugural recipient of the NASPAA network’s Professional Staff Award. The award recognizes a staff person who fulfills and supports the operational and management activities of one of our member schools. Isom-Payne has devoted her career to providing advising services to meet the needs of Wilder School students. She’d been a tremendous counselor and advocate for student support. 

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the recipient of the inaugural Professional Staff award for NASPAA,” said Isom-Payne. “This award is a larger picture of all the efforts our team put in supporting our Wilder School students. What we do, who we are, and where we are going as professional staff in advocating for our students’ success and enhancing their student experience remains at the foremost of my mind.”

Under her leadership, the Wilder School’s Student Services division has redoubled its commitment to integrating both the curricular and co-curricular aspects of public affairs education. Through Isom-Paynes’ efforts, 100% of students are now seen by a dedicated advisor — expanding experiential offerings and practices that better serve the Wilder School’s approximately 

Remembering Nadia Rubaii

On Friday, Dean Gooden recognized the sudden passing of Nadia Rubaii earlier this year. Nadia was a beloved NASPAA past-president and accreditation chair, who is recognized for her unwavering commitment to high accreditation standards, excellence in public service education, a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion domestically and abroad, and removing barriers to access as public affairs programs most effectively prepare the next generation of public service professionals.

In her memory, NASPAA has established the Nadia Rubaii Distinguished Service Award, which will recognize NASPAA members who have made outstanding contributions and exhibited leadership through years of service experience. 

“Nadia was a tremendous colleague who made transformative contributions to the international public service community,” said Gooden. “We salute and celebrate her as the entire NASPAA community continues to advance the legacy of her work.”