New College of Professional Studies dean will also head Virginia campus

A senior administrator will step into a newly combined role as the dean of both the College of Professional Studies and of the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

Ali Eskandarian, the senior associate dean for strategic initiatives and research in CPS, will replace Kathleen Burke as dean of the college beginning in January, and will immediately begin overseeing the University’s six Virginia education centers.

Eskandarian, who also serves as a professor, said he looks forward to taking up the dual responsibilities and breaking into the “untapped potential” of the college and the Virginia Campus.

“I think there’s a lot we can do to optimally utilize both our physical and intellectual capital,” he said.

The two roles make a good fit, Provost Steven Lerman said, because the combination will allow for greater coordination in the operation and academic mission of the University’s efforts across Virginia.

The majority of the college’s programs are taught off-campus or online and there is no plans to change that balance, Eskandarian said.

Before joining the University in 2002, Eskandarian worked at Computer Science Corporation, James Madison University and the National Research Council. He received both his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in physics from GW.

As head of the Virginia Campus, he wants to expand its 17 research enterprises, better utilize campus facilities and foster stronger connections with the local community as well as industry partners.

The science and technology center in Loudoun County, Va. – which also hosts the School of Nursing – celebrated its 20th anniversary last week. Under its previous structure, the chief academic operating officer of the campus coordinated research efforts, education and corporate partnerships, while a separate post in CPS oversaw other learning centers in Virginia.

At a faculty meeting Friday, Lerman said he wanted to “combine the two portfolios” as a way to streamline their functions.

The University operates programs in Alexandria, Arlington, Ashburn, Mechanicsville, Newport News and Virginia Beach. Since the first Virginia cohort was established in 1958, more than 2,000 GW students now study in the state.

Eskandarian said he plans to gather input from faculty, students and other stakeholders in the college to devise “a strategic plan that addresses the original mission of CPS” as an institution catering to adult learners and working professionals.

Burke announced in late August that she would step down from her role Dec. 31, after months of discontent voiced by faculty, students and alumni in the underlying Graduate School of Political Management. She served as dean for three years.

She will assume a new position as senior advisor for nontraditional and distance learning under one of the University’s six vice provosts.

Burke did not return a request for comment.

While Eskandarian acknowledges the breadth of his responsibilities, he strives to split his time and attention across campuses in a way that promotes the success of each program.

He added that he has been working closely with the acting director of the Graduate School of Political Management during its search for a permanent replacement and hopes to change the perception that the college’s leadership hasn’t always acted in the school’s best interests.

In making the decision to appoint Eskandarian, Lerman said he consulted members of the CPS dean’s council, students, faculty and the Council on American Politics – GSPM’s funding and advisory arm.

The provost said Eskandarian’s previous experience in a leadership role in the college and his understanding of research made him a good fit for the role.

“He also has a working style that engenders trust and confidence with those who have worked for him,” Lerman said.

As one of 15 members on the search committee looking for a new director of the graduate school centered on practical politics, Eskandarian said one of his primary goals is to make the unit thrive.

“In my mind, there is no doubt that we would have to make it excel and make it the best in the nation,” he said.

The committee recently held its first “airport interview” – a brief on-campus sit-down between candidates and stakeholders – and aims to name a new leader by January.

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