GW Trachtenberg School Welcomes Mary Tschirhart as New Director

August 01, 2019

For Mary Tschirhart, accepting a position in Washington, D.C. is a chance to return to the place where she got her start.

“My first professional experience was as an intern at the Congressional Arts Caucus years ago,” Tschirhart said. “I fell in love with the city and the people. I saw, from the very beginning, that many individuals with vision are in D.C. and working to make positive change in the world. This a great place to make dreams happen.”

On June 3 Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Paul Wahlbeck announced Tschirhart as the newly appointed director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. Dr. Tschirhart joined the Trachtenberg School on August 1, taking the directorship following Dr. Kathryn Newcomer’s tenure. Newcomer returned to full-time teaching and scholarship.

The Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration is a graduate-level school offering degrees in public policy, administration and environmental resource policy.

"I look forward to working with Mary as she transitions to GW,” said Wahlbeck. “She will build on the strong foundation that has been laid in the Trachtenberg School, and I'm confident that she will advance its academic programs and research." 

Dr. Tschirhart said she is “looking forward to connecting with students, faculty, staff, alumni, nonprofit directors, and public sector leaders” some of whom she already knows from her research and teaching.

Tschirhart’s experiences give her perspective on the needs and interests of the Trachtenberg School’s stakeholders.  Her research examines membership associations and other types of nonprofit organizations.  Her board experience includes service with a family foundation, environmental conservation alliance, United Way, library, animal welfare organization, and treatment facility for people recovering from addictions.  She directed a university center focused on outreach, research and education for nonprofit professionals, collaborated to create new university programs, and served as a department chair.  She is enthusiastic about learning more about the Trachtenberg School and all its relationships and areas of influence.

“Classroom learning is just a small piece of what happens in the school,” Tschirhart said. “There are so many ways for faculty and students to be involved in the community and outside the classroom.”

Dr. Tschirhart comes to GW from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University, where she taught courses on nonprofit management and governance for the past six years. For the five years before that, she was at North Carolina State University (NCSU) where she directed the university-wide Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education and Engagement. Earlier faculty appointments were at Syracuse University and Indiana University. 

She is the past president of the Association for Research on Nonprofit and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and serves on the editorial boards for academic journals.  She has more than sixty publications including the books Artful Leadership and Managing Nonprofit Organizations.

“The search committee and everyone who met Mary during the search process was impressed with her expertise and her intentional way of engaging with people and scholarship,” said Prof. Dylan Conger, who chaired the search committee. “We know that Mary will further strengthen the Trachtenberg School’s research into nonprofits and appreciate that she adds even more to our already robust scholarship related to public service in all three sectors – public, private and nonprofit.”

Dr. Tschirhart earned her Ph.D. in organizational behavior and human resource management from the University of Michigan’s School of Business and a M.B.A. in arts administration from the State University of New York. She has a B.A. in philosophy from the Honors College at Michigan State University. She was initially attracted to the Trachtenberg School because of the diversity of degrees offered and breadth of research topics covered by the faculty.

“The strength of the staff and faculty is amazing,” she said. “Not just the expertise. Also the passion, dedication and true commitment to the mission of the school. There is a great diversity in interests, experiences and backgrounds and I look forward to being part of this community.”

The school’s location provides the diverse faculty with myriad opportunities to apply their research to real-life work and help students, alumni and members of the community connect the classroom and life beyond it.

Dr. Tschirhart looks forward to engaging the faculty in the “magic that comes from the many different folks involved in the life of the school.” She also knows the engaged alumni base will help shape the school’s upward trajectory.

“There are many people who have contributed to the trajectory we’re on.  I recognize the importance of keeping the track record going and fostering new and continued involvement of students, faculty, donors, and others in the School’s legacy of preparing public service visionaries,” she said.

“We are staying relevant while being resilient. We recognize our influence. Instead of the world changing around us, we’re changing the world,” Tschirhart said.

Mary Tschirhart in her office at the Trachtenberg School with the Washington Monument in the background