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ASU names Debra Friedman College of Public Programs dean

Visionary, entrepreneur from the University of Washington brings wealth of experience in academic administration

Debra Friedman, a senior administrator at the University of Washington, has been named dean of the Arizona State University College of Public Programs. Friedman will lead the college’s effort to enhance its academic excellence and achieve far-reaching social relevance, ASU President Michael M. Crow announced.

“Debra has a deep belief in the power of university education and research; she is entrepreneurial and innovative, and has great interest in helping solve the social problems of the surrounding community,” says Crow. “Those qualities make her a perfect fit for ASU and the ideal person to lead our College of Public Programs.”

Friedman, who has been at Washington since 1994, is currently director of special projects, development and alumni relations. Prior to that, she served as associate provost for academic planning (1998-2003) and associate and assistant dean, office of undergraduate education (1994-97). Since 1995 she has also been affiliate associate professor of public affairs and sociology at Washington.

In explaining why she was eager to accept this appointment, Friedman says, “ASU is undertaking a grand experiment, one that I think is essential for the future of higher education. The traditional basis of public higher education has changed profoundly and few universities understand this. ASU, under President Crow, is one of the few that does understand. Being a part of this grand experiment is one of the most important things anyone with an interest in the future of higher education could be doing now.”

She also sees a clear mission for the College of Public Programs in this experiment.

“The College has a connection to urgent social issues and has a rapidly expanding body of transdisciplinary expertise in these areas,” she says. “Communities are also advancing their knowledge and better articulating their concerns. Public Programs has a special responsibility to bring these concerns and expertise together. The College’s new location at the Downtown Phoenix campus will help transform the relationship between the university and community.”

At the University of Washington, Friedman managed university-wide planning and visioning initiatives, administering two innovation funds that had a transformational impact on both education and research across the university.

One center she helped launch brought five colleges together to examine social problems such as poverty and health care disparities with greatly needed new analytical methods and data bases. Under her leadership a digital arts and media center was established, offering the first Ph.D. in the world in that field, and a center for nanotechnology that capitalized twenty-fold on its initial investment.

She also directed strategic analyses for the president and provost, was responsible for university-wide enrollment management, and managed a number of units including academic advising and educational assessment.

As associate dean for undergraduate education, she increased by ten-fold the participation of undergraduates in faculty research. As director of special projects, development and alumni relations, Friedman directed the public launch of a $2 billion fund-raising campaign and coordinated campaign communications.

Friedman, who previously taught at the University of Arizona and the University of Iowa, received her B.A. from Adelphi University (1976) and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington (1979 and 1983), all in sociology.

The author of numerous scholarly articles and the book, Towards a Structure of Indifference: The Social Origins of Material Custody (New York: Aldine de Gruyter 1995), she has won distinguished teaching awards at the University of Washington, and the University of Arizona and was a National Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Australian National University and the Russell Sage Foundation.

ASU’s College of Public Programs has a number of distinguished divisions and centers including the Advanced Public Executive Program, the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Management, the Center for Urban Inquiry, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center.



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