Updated August 30, 5:54 p.m.
College of Professional Studies Dean Kathleen Burke will step down from her post at the end of the fall semester, assuming a new role under the vice-provost for teaching and learning at GW.
The embattled dean’s departure leaves the leadership of the underlying Graduate School of Political Management in flux, with the current – and second – acting executive director of the school holding the title temporarily amid a search for a permanent head.
Over the last year, the graduate program has undergone two search processes to find a new executive director. After the first round of candidates were deemed unfit for the job, a second search was launched in February.
Beginning in January 2012, Burke will act as senior adviser for nontraditional and distance learning.
Throughout the first search process and continuing into the second, faculty and alumni disparaged Burke for not including them in the decision-making process and failing to take their concerns for the future of the school into account.
Burke defended her attempts to reach out to stakeholders, but those involved in the search – including members of the Council on American Politics, the funding and advisory arm of the school – expressed continuous discontent with her disconnectedness.
Tension in the school reached a peak last April when the original acting director of GSPM, Chuck Cushman, abruptly resigned. Dennis Johnson, who was on leave serving as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in China at the time, was called in to fill the vacancy.
Since then, sources inside the second search said the addition of an outside firm and Burke’s doubled efforts to engage faculty, alumni and others have significantly improved the process, which hopes to name a new director by January.
A member of the Council on American Politics who asked to remain anonymous to protect his relationship with the school said the improvements show that Burke “learned [her] lesson.”
“I think she’ll be fully engaged [throughout the fall] because this now becomes a legacy issue for her,” the CAP member said. “I think she gets it at this point.”
In a message to the college announcing her departure, Burke said she “enjoyed immensely” her time as dean and intends to “remain one of its biggest fans and strongest advocates.”
“I appreciate all of the efforts and hard work that the CPS faculty, staff, and friends of the College have put into building this College and, I truly, truly believe in its mission,” Burke wrote. “During my three years as CPS dean, we have accomplished much as a close-knit team in CPS.”
With Burke at the helm, CPS initiated four new degree programs and six credit-bearing graduate certificates, expanded international programs and launched a long-term strategic plan.
In her new role, Burke will work across the University on issues related to nontraditional students and distance and online hybrid learning. She will also remain an associate professor in the College of Professional Studies.
Provost Steven Lerman, who had a hand in the GSPM search alongside Burke, announced the administrative change in a letter to faculty today.
“I am confident that she will contribute to University-wide advances for faculty, programs, administrators and students alike,” Lerman said in the letter. “I join many others in appreciation of Kathleen’s outstanding accomplishments in her years as dean of CPS. We will continue to build CPS’s programs upon the strong base established by her and the previous dean.”
Burke was not made available for comment.