For Dr. Jeryl Mumpower, newly returned department head of the Bush School’s Public Service and Administration Department, teaching and research have always been an act of service—both to the academic community and the broader public.
“I’ve been very pleased to have had a career at research universities doing the things that professors at research universities do,” said Mumpower. “It’s a great job. We get to teach, we get to do research, and we get to engage in service to the professional community and the broader community.”
That focus on public service is what eventually led Mumpower to the Bush School. After a distinguished twenty-two-year career at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, State University of New York at Albany, he moved to College Station to accept a position as department head of the Public Service and Administration Department and Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Chair in Business and Government.
“I came to the Bush School in 2007, and it was a very exciting place to be,” said Mumpower. “I’m passionate about public universities, so being able to be part of a place that has a compelling vision dedicated to the promotion of government and public service and has substantial resources in place is very appealing.”
For the past three years, Mumpower has been serving the broader public through a position at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as director of the division for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. The NSF is an independent federal agency with an annual budget of more than $7 billion that provides funding for basic research at colleges and universities across the nation. While at NSF, Mumpower oversaw a division of about thirty-five people and was responsible for dispersing just under $100 million to valuable research initiatives.
Mumpower’s most recent time at NSF was his third tour at the agency. He previously served from 1980 to 1984 as program manager and policy analyst in the Division of Policy Research and Analysis and from 1998 to 1999 as program director for the Decision, Risk, and Management Science program. He firmly believes in the mission of NSF to allocate federal dollars to research in order to make the best possible investments.
“It’s fundamentally important to invest in knowledge,” said Mumpower. “Sometimes the payoffs are hard to wrap your head around because it takes years, or even decades, before the payoffs are evident. But many times, the research has an extraordinary return on investment for American taxpayers.”
While promoting research at the NSF was highly rewarding, Mumpower says he is excited about once again interacting with students, faculty, and staff at the Bush School.
“You get to do a lot of things at NSF, but you lose the ability to interact with students,” said Mumpower. “I am looking forward to getting to know first-year students new to the Bush School and second-year students before they head out the door.”
Mumpower will have lots of opportunities to engage students this semester while supervising a capstone team researching the potential effects of trade restrictions among US states and among North American countries. Capstones at the Bush School are integrative, team-based, applied research projects required of all students and led by a faculty advisor. This year’s capstone will be the first to partner with the Texas A&M School of Law.
“With capstones, you get to find out a lot about things you wouldn’t necessarily know about if it weren’t for the opportunity to participate in the capstone,” said Mumpower. “The instructor’s role is different from other courses since his or her role is primarily as a resource or guide. In many ways, you are more like a coach than a teacher.”
In the past, Mumpower has taught courses in decision making in public service and risk analysis, among others.
Prior to joining the Bush School, Mumpower served at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, State University of New York at Albany, as professor of public administration, public policy, public health, and information science, and directed programs at both the master’s and doctoral levels. He also served in several administrative roles while at Albany, including associate provost, dean of graduate studies, dean of the School of Public Health, interim vice provost for research, and interim provost.
“The positions I’ve had—being a chair, a dean several times, vice president for research, and provost—have all been rewarding experiences,” said Mumpower. “To be able to get up and go to work and say I’m a university professor and get to do a lot of different things is what has been the sweetest thing about this profession.”