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Respected professionals join new School of Public Affairs Advisory Board

Members represent many government levels and executive recruiting, law and public utilities fields


Portrait of Kelly Leid, chair of ASU's School of Public Affairs advisory board

Kelly Leid is chair of the newly created ASU School of Public Affairs Advisory Board, which held its first meeting Sept. 18. Courtesy photo

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October 05, 2023

One of the nation’s top 10 public affairs schools, Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs (SPA) has created an advisory board to assist with strategic direction and serve as ambassadors to the professions and communities the school serves.

The new board, which held its first meeting Sept. 18, is separate from the School of Public Affairs' existing Master of Public Administration Advisory Board. The new board’s purview encompasses all degrees the school offers: two bachelor’s, four professional master’s and one doctoral, said Professor Shannon Portillo, the school’s director.

Portillo said she was humbled and grateful to the professionals who are willing to share their time and expertise with the school.

“Our new schoolwide advisory board demonstrates the breadth of public service disciplines and career pathways available to our students and will provide important strategic guidance as our school continues to grow,” she said.

The 14-member board’s goals statement calls for members to “connect the school, faculty and students to communities of practice, sharing information about current needs and trends in the professions, encouraging experiential learning, connecting with academic or financial resources and linking and leveraging the knowledge base of SPA alumni in support of SPA goals and objectives.”

Board members hail from a variety of distinguished public service fields ranging from federal, state, county and city government to executive-level strategic planning and recruitment, to law, public utilities and higher education. Board members, who are recruited by the school to serve staggered three-year terms, meet three times per year.

The board chair is Kelly Leid, director of lifestyle operations for Denver-based Oakwood Homes, which builds homes in Arizona, Colorado and Utah. He is an School of Public Affairs alum, having earned an Master of Public Administration in 1995. He also earned a Bachelor of Science in general business from ASU in 1989.

The other board members are:

  • Michael Anderson, ASU assistant vice president for enterprise risk and resilience management.
  • Margaretha Bentley, School of Public Affairs associate director.
  • Evelyn Casuga, director of community and economic prosperity at the Center for the Future of Arizona.
  • Mary Denigan-Macauley, director of public health in the health care team, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
  • Mary Foote, executive director, Pipeline AZ, a workforce-building nonprofit.
  • Andrew Gorgey, founder of Columbia Ltd., an Arizona executive recruiting firm.
  • Gabe Levine, director, Division of Emergency Management, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA).
  • Judith Leonard, general counsel emerita, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Spiro Maroulis, School of Public Affairs associate professor and school associate director.
  • Gina Montes, Phoenix deputy city manager.
  • Jen Pokorski, Maricopa County manager.
  • Shannon Portillo, School of Public Affairs professor and school director.
  • Jeremy Rodrigues, senior director of enterprises security, Excelerate Energy, a The Woodlands, Texas-based liquid natural gas company.
  • Rick Shangraw, president of Cintana Education, a Tempe, Arizona-based higher education consulting firm.

We asked Leid, the board chair, about his decision to become involved, the areas he hopes board members will be able to best advise the school leadership on and the board’s goals for the next year. Here’s what he said.

Editor's note: Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Where in the School of Public Affairs do you hope board members’ guidance will be most effective?

Answer: First, the depth and breadth of talent represented on the new schoolwide advisory board is truly impressive across the professional spectrum. The board’s focus is on four core objectives, all of which are essential to advancing ASU’s School of Public Affairs programs and initiatives. These include: provide strategic direction for the school, serve as ambassadors to the professions and communities served by the School of Public Affairs (and) serve as trusted advisors for the leaders of the School of Public Affairs. ... Also, board members connect the school, faculty and students to communities of practice. They share information about current needs and trends in the professions, encouraging experiential learning, connecting with academic or financial resources, and linking and leveraging the knowledge base of the School of Public Affairs alumni in support of (the school's) goals and objectives.

Although we just had our inaugural board session, everyone seems very aligned on working towards building a professional network that School of Public Affairs students can tap into throughout their careers to grow within the profession of public service and to know that they are surrounded by an ASU network that stands ready to support their professional journey.

Q: What will members be doing during the board’s first few months?

A: We just held our inaugural meeting and spent a good portion of the session getting to know one another. Secondarily, the first meeting provided an important opportunity for Professor Portillo to update the board on where ASU’s School of Public Affairs is today, along with its continued improvement in the school’s rankings. She shared an enormous amount of exciting information about trajectory of the school and how the new board can support both the program and its students.

Like any successful organization, the goal is to get all board members grounded in the facts and to begin advancing board members’ ideas on how we tackle our core objectives. We’ll spend some time building consensus and prioritization of these ideas and look to help continue building the amazing momentum the School of Public Affairs already has underway.

Q: Where in the public service profession do you think School of Public Affairs graduates will be needed the most in the next five years?

A: We need talented public servants at every level of government. There are so many opportunities at the federal, state and local levels with a growing list of critical issues to solve. I would argue that these incredibly challenging times in the public sector present one of the most exciting and rewarding environments in which to pursue rewarding and socially impactful career opportunities.

The School of Public Affairs is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

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