A professor in the business school was recently appointed the new Secretary of the Department of Education in Puerto Rico.
Julia Keleher, an adjunct professor in the Project Management program, was named to the position at the end of December. She began her four-year term Jan. 2. She said she hopes her experience as secretary will bring change to both Puerto Rico and to her GW classes, and that the two responsibilities could overlap during her tenure.
“Dr. Keleher is an outstanding example of the depth and diversity of experience and expertise among GWSB’s full-time and adjunct faculty,” Linda Livingstone, the dean of the business school, said in an email.
Keleher said her background in business benefits her in the new position: A fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico has led the island to restructure its education system, particularly at the University of Puerto Rico.
She said that partnerships and exchanges between the University of Puerto Rico and continental U.S. institutions could improve the state of the economy and education.
“It’s a critical period in Puerto Rico’s history and the energy and the optimism are, from a leadership perspective, really exciting,” she said. “There’s a need for the economy and the workforce to come back, so I think creating these kinds of connections through education could benefit everybody.”
Before coming to GW in 2012, Keleher worked for the U.S. Department of Education and founded Keleher & Associates, a performance management consulting firm, in 2009. She earned a Master of Business Administration in 2013 and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Delaware, according to the project management program’s blog.
Keleher said she worked closely with the Puerto Rican government before her appointment, first in her position at the U.S. Department of Education where she was responsible for assisting Puerto Rico with the development of their educational programs, and later as a consultant, helping to create and install plans that have guided their education system for the past few years.
Keleher was chosen because of her relationship and history of working with Puerto Rico’s economic and educational leaders, she said. She is the only cabinet nominee from the continental U.S. for Puerto Rico.
“The governor had heard of the work I did in Puerto Rico and thought that with my knowledge of the system and the fiscal crisis, it would be a good idea to be designated as the secretary,” she said.
Even though Keleher has moved to Puerto Rico, she will continue teaching an online graduate class in project management.
Homayoun Khamooshi, an associate professor of decision sciences and the chair of the project management academic committee, said in an email that he interviewed and hired Keleher when she joined the faculty in 2012.
He said her term as secretary will benefit students as she brings lessons from working with the Puerto Rican government to her courses.
“As secretary of the Department of Education for Puerto Rico she can take advantage of all her skills in setting a new vision, improving the efficiency and efficacy of the department, bringing all the stakeholders on board and executing an ambitious agenda,” Khamooshi said.
Agnes Socrates, an administrative director for project management, said in an email that Keleher’s appointment distinguishes the business school from other schools in the U.S. and around the world.
“Dr. Keleher’s appointment as Secretary of Education bolsters GWSB’s efforts in offering distinctive educational experience to our students,” she said.