The History of the Wilder School
May 4, 2021
By Laura Foy
Since its inception, the Wilder School has been focused on public and community service in several forms with different degree programs at VCU.
VCU was established in 1968 through merging the Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia. The earliest existence of what our school has evolved into was the VCU School of Community Service as early as 1970.
Laurin L. Henry became the first Dean of the School of Community Services in 1978. At the time, the school had 50 faculty members and 1,200 students. The school offered graduate degrees in public administration, urban and regional planning, administration of justice, and rehabilitation counseling as well as undergraduate degrees in urban studies, recreation, rehabilitative services, and administration of justice and public safety. He retired as dean of the School of Community and Public Affairs in 1978, but continued to teach graduate-level public administration courses as a full professor.
In 2004, the VCU Board of Visitors approved naming the new school of government and public affairs in honor of Governor Wilder. The school existed within the College of Humanities and Sciences, and offered programs in criminal justice, economics, nonprofit management, political science, public administration, and urban studies and planning.
In 2013, the L. Douglas School of Government and Public Affairs became an independent school at VCU, focusing on social sciences. In April 2020, Susan Gooden, Ph.D., was appointed Dean after serving as Interim Dean since 2018.
Today, the mission of the Wilder School is to engage, teach, and inspire students and leaders to understand and solve challenges in our world, to advance research that informs public policy and decision-making to improve our communities, and to collaborate with communities through innovative partnerships to enhance quality of life.
We are proud to have over 11,000 alumni and serve approximately 1,500 students in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in public administration, public policy, urban and regional planning, criminal justice, and homeland security and emergency preparedness.
In commemoration of Public Service Recognition Week, please consider making a gift to our school in honor of a public servant and/or educator who has made a positive impact on your life and in our communities.