Dr. William West, professor and Sara Lindsey Chair in the Department of Public Service and Administration, has been at the Bush School from the very beginning. He has seen it grow from a small program with fewer than twenty students to a highly regarded academic college with two departments and a student population of more than 300.
Although the bulk of his career has been at Texas A&M, West also served in the US Army. He graduated from West Point in 1971 and was in the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces before entering the PhD program at Rice University in 1976. “I thought I would enjoy academic life. I didn’t quite understand what I was getting into, but it turns out that I have enjoyed it.”
After a year at West Virginia University, West moved to College Station in 1981 to become an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M. He remained in that department for two decades, conducting research on administrative institutions, legislative and presidential oversight of bureaucracy, and other policy areas related to public administration and public management.
While still in the Political Science Department, West began teaching in the Bush School when it opened its doors in 1997.
“The Bush School started as a small operation within the College of Liberal Arts. The idea was that it would draw faculty from different units at the University. Political science and economics were the primary contributors, but there were faculty from other academic departments as well.”
In 2000, the School became a free-standing college within Texas A&M, with its own faculty. It quickly expanded in size and resources, with West joining as the director of the Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) program in 2001.
“The School grew tremendously. When the state legislature decided to make us a college, there was an expectation that we would expand significantly. Things have stabilized in recent years; but for ten years or so, we were undergoing tremendous growth in terms of the student body and the faculty.”
During West’s time as director, the MPSA program established certificate programs in homeland security and nonprofit management and was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Student enrollment also more than doubled from eighteen to twenty students enrolled per year to more than forty.
After six years, West stepped down as director of the MPSA program, which allowed him to devote more time to teaching and research. He later reassumed the role of program director and department head an acting basis while Jeryl Mumpower was on leave to direct one of the divisions at the National Science Foundation from 2012-2015.
West specializes in the study of administrative institutions, regulatory policy, the oversight of bureaucracy, bureaucratic politics, administrative law, and the Congress. He is the author of three books and has written numerous articles in journals such as Policy Studies Review, Journal of Politics and Economics, Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Politics, Public Administration Review, and American Journal of Political Science.
West has taught several courses at the Bush School during his time as a professor, including Accountability in Public Service, Foundations of Public Service, and Public Policy Formation. He often has students participate in structured debates.
“I think the debates are fun for the students to do,” said West. “It forces them to do research and make a case from a particular point of view. It’s also good to have people work in teams, which is something we stress here at the Bush School as part of the learning experience.”
Many students at the Bush School become quite fond of Dr. West and his easygoing nature. And the feeling is mutual. When asked what he likes most about working at the Bush School and Texas A&M, he quickly responds it’s the students that make the job enjoyable.
“I think we have very good students,” said West. “One of the things I like about Aggies is how close they are to each other. It’s a closeness that goes beyond anything I’m familiar with from other universities. I think that’s neat. We also have a talented and collegial faculty who are a pleasure to work with.”
Having had a role at the Bush School from its earliest days, West has high hopes for the future.
“I hope we continue the good things we’re doing,” said West. “I think our students are good now, but I think we can do even better. Becoming recognized as one of the top schools in public affairs takes recruiting good students and good faculty. No matter how good you are, it takes time to build a reputation. Every year, I think our reputation among our peer institutions gets better and better.”