The Graduate School of Political Management has selected a former three-term congressman as its next leader, ending an 18-month search marked with debate.
Mark Kennedy, a politician, businessman and academic, will take the helm of the program for applied politics Jan. 23 in the culmination of a drawn-out hunt that shook up the leadership surrounding the school.
With a strong record of bipartisanship established during his six years representing Minnesota’s 2nd and 6th districts as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kennedy brings to the position an emphasis on shared solutions to political gridlock – a problem he thinks GSPM can help solve.
“The biggest challenges facing the world today are, ‘How do you solve the politics of reaching agreement?’ ” he said. “We’re going to work on something that will have a very meaningful impact on our future as the leading school in that field.”
Kennedy started his career in the business arena in 1983, holding financial leadership positions at the then-Pillsbury Company and the department store conglomerate that now owns Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. In his post-congressional years, Kennedy co-founded the Economic Club of Minnesota, a speech venue for business and political leaders that shows Kennedy’s knack for fundraising.
Kennedy also has taught courses on business and politics in France and Turkey. Last semester, he led a course on business in the political age at the University of Maryland’s business school.
Paulo Prochno, associate chair of the Department of Management and Organization at UMD’s business school, told The Hatchet in November that Kennedy was “much more interactive” than the average adjunct professor.
Provost Steven Lerman, who consulted with University President Steven Knapp in making the decision, said Kennedy’s “unique combination of experience in public service, academia and business make him ideally suited to raise the profile of GSPM and position its programs for future growth and success.”
In his new role, Kennedy plans to bolster the reputation of the graduate school, which was the first of its kind, by adding full-time faculty to supplement its adjunct core, engaging in more research, improving the quality of programs and students and expanding internationally.
“I’m intending to be in a heavy-intake listening mode for the first several months to try to help craft and prioritize that list [of goals] and sequence it out and perhaps add to it or subtract from it,” he said.
Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, said Kennedy stood out as a leader who “wants to get his hands dirty.”
“He is somebody who seemed to connect very well with the GSPM constituency and I think that was very important to us,” Maltzman said. “He is somebody who wants to listen and make a really good program thrive even more.”
Since its founding director stepped down in July 2010, the graduate school underwent two searches to find a permanent replacement. Throughout the process, faculty, students, alumni and other stakeholders publicly appealed to then-College of Professional Studies Dean Kathleen Burke for more opportunities to voice their opinions on the direction of the program.
Burke stepped down as dean of the college at the end of December, moving to a position under one of the University’s three vice provosts.
Reflecting on the friction leading up to his hiring, Kennedy called the transition in leadership “an ideal time to explore alternatives,” explaining that he would focus on crafting a collective plan for the future of the school.
As he settles into his new role, Kennedy said he wants to gather ideas for creating a framework to interact with the GSPM community.
“I understand that Steve [Lerman] already does pancakes,” he said in a nod to the provost’s monthly cooking sessions from his home. “But I want to have a regular time that is put aside for gaining the input of each of the main constituencies of the Graduate School of Political Management, not just in the next 60 to 90 days, but on an ongoing basis.”