Humphrey School News—September 15, 2017

Barbara Crosby, Pioneer in Teaching of Leadership, Recognized for ‘Selfless Dedication’

Credited by colleagues with breaking down classroom barriers and beloved by former students as the “most influential” person in their professional careers, associate professor emerita Barbara Crosby is being honored for her three decades of teaching by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

Crosby is the recipient of the 2017 Leslie A. Whittington Excellence in Teaching Award, recognizing her outstanding contributions to public service education through excellence in teaching over a sustained period of time. Crosby retired from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in May, after dedicating her academic career helping students—particularly those studying public policy—learn how to lead. She helped to design the University’s minor degree programs in leadership at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

“Barbara Crosby has done more than teach leadership. She has lived it,” says Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg, who nominated Crosby for the award. “And, the remarkable influence she has had on so many students during the last 30 years will continue long after her retirement, since those students are now leaders in communities around the world.”

Crosby has taught and written extensively about leadership and public policy, integrative leadership, cross-sector collaboration, and strategic planning. She is the author of three books on the subject. She served as director of the Center for Integrative Leadership, a collaborative effort between the Humphrey School and other academic units at the University, and helped establish the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center.

In her nomination letter, Bloomberg noted that Crosby pioneered the teaching of leadership at the Humphrey School in the 1980s, “when the prevailing view in the public affairs scholarly community was that leadership could not be taught. Because of Crosby’s influence, leadership education is now embedded throughout the School’s curriculum and professional development programs.”

Bloomberg also highlighted Crosby’s attention to meeting the needs of students from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. “She has worked hard to recruit diverse students to the school and to make sure the school and its curriculum are welcoming to them,” said Bloomberg.

One of Crosby’s former students, Patricia Torres Ray, echoed those sentiments in her letter.

“As an experienced public sector worker and a woman of color, I frequently challenged Barbara to step out of her comfort zone to address concepts of leadership from perspectives outside of her experiences as a white, educated woman,” said Ray, who is a Minnesota state senator. “She welcomed the challenges and used the opportunities to expand academic material and exercises that incorporated perspectives outside of the common reference offered by the school.”

The awards committee noted Crosby deserves to be recognized for “her continued and selfless dedication to advancing public service education through teaching leadership for the common good.”  

The award, first presented in 1993, was renamed in honor of the 2000 recipient, Leslie A. Whittington of Georgetown University, who died at the Pentagon on American Flight 77 on September 11, 2001.

Crosby received the award at the annual NASPAA conference in Washington, DC, in October 2017.   

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