L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Wilder School stands out with recognition at the American Society for Public Administration conference

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

Three Wilder School faculty members achieved important senior career distinctions by earning prestigious awards at the annual American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Conference held in Jacksonville, Fla. March 18-22. The honorees include: Wilder School Dean Susan T. Gooden, recipient of the Gwendolyn Bullock-Smith Public Service Award; Blue Wooldridge, recipient of the Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award; and Bill Leighty, recipient of the National Public Service Award. 

LaShae Lambert (MPA ’20), a certificate student in the gender violence intervention program, received an academic scholarship from ASPA’s Section on Women in Public Administration. Whitney Brown, a second-year graduate student in public administration, was also recognized as a 2022 ASPA Founders Fellow. The fellowship is a highly competitive program that connects outstanding students with myriad professional development opportunities throughout the conference and the student’s fellowship year. 

The nation’s preeminent association of public management professionals, ASPA’s membership includes more than 8,000 students, academics and practitioners who represent all levels of government and include substantive specialty areas within the public and non-profit sectors.

“The high visibility of these awards and our strategic investments at ASPA signals that the Wilder School is committed to making a research impact nationally and globally,” said Dean Susan T. Gooden. 

Achieving this kind of awards sweep in a single year is a unique accomplishment for the Wilder School, which now lists eight past winners. Collectively, ten Wilder School research, faculty, and project collaborators were present at the national showcase. Participants presented on a range of topics from the threat of populism to workforce trends and crisis management. 

“We are grateful for the contributions of all of our presenters and most especially our colleagues, Blue Wooldridge and Bill Leighty, who have demonstrated outstanding achievement through a record of sustained excellence in scholarship, teaching, and service," said Gooden. 

Stakeholders Janice Underwood, Virginia’s inaugural director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Curtis Brown ('11 HSEP), immediate past agency head for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, also joined the proceedings to discuss the state’s historic partnership with the Wilder School Research Institute for Social Equity (RISE) to promote vaccine equity.

For many years, the Wilder School has been actively engaged within ASPA, developing curated events within its social equity track such as the 2021 Anti-Racist Lecture featuring noted author and scholar Ibram Kendi. For 2022, the Wilder School served as a founding sponsor and organizer of a reception commemorating the launch of the Journal on Social Equity in Public Administration (JSEPA). 

JSEPA, the creation of Dean Gooden and University of San Francisco colleague Richard Gregory III, is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal supported by ASPA’s Section on Democracy and Social Justice. Editions of the journal will be published twice a year beginning in 2023.

In addition to the Wilder faculty and students recognized at this year’s conference, two recipients of the Wilder School’s Excellence in Virginia Government Awards (EVGA) were also recognized with national distinctions. 

Joe Vass, a recipient of the 2019 EVGA Unsung Hero Award, was named the recipient of 2022 Rossyln Kleeman Keeper of the Flame Award. Vass, who at age 93 continues to work part-time for the Virginia Division of Capitol Police, has an unprecedented 75-plus years of public service, including service in four branches of the U.S. military. 

The Sacred Heart Center, a Latino community center serving the Greater Richmond area and the 2022 recipient of the EVGA Community Enhancement Award, was presented with ASPA’s Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Exemplary Practice Award. The honor was presented for the center’s deployment of a series of innovative interventions that helped advocates and local governments to fill resource gaps that were systematically discouraging COVID-19 vaccinations among the state’s Latino population. 

Read more to learn about our 2022 ASPA faculty award recipients