Congratulations to Dr. Liesl Riddle on her new role as dean of the College of Professional Studies (CPS), effective August 1, 2022. Now that she is leading the College we wanted to give our readers a chance to get to know her a little better.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I came to GW from the University of Texas 21 years ago and am an associate professor of international business and international affairs in the GW School of Business (GWSB). I served in GWSB’s administrative leadership, leading our graduate programs for seven years and working with stakeholders and the dean to develop the school’s next five-year strategic plan. I was selected as the dean of the College of Professional Studies in July and started on August 1st.
What drew you to your new role as Dean of CPS?
The College of Professional Studies has always been an innovative, interdisciplinary incubator for teaching and learning. Taught by practitioners with hands-on experience in industry, students in these programs are able to readily apply what they learn in the classroom to their professional careers.
This focus on the application of academic learning to solve real-world problems really resonates with me. I am an interdisciplinary scholar (combining sociology, demography, psychology, finance and policy fields) and spent several years applying my scholarly work to create programs, products and policies to help national governments as well as multilateral and private-sector organizations better market to and attract financial, human and social capital from diaspora communities abroad.
Could you describe what a Dean does on a daily basis or what is a Dean?
A dean is like an orchestra conductor: A dean serves the college community by listening to, connecting with, and blending the individual contributions of stakeholders - students, faculty, staff, alumni and employment partners. The resulting symphony created by this special work fosters the development of outstanding teaching and learning experiences for our students and faculty. These experiences engender professional career progression for our students and make a positive social, economic and political impact in our world.
How did your formal education & work experience prepare you for your new leadership role?
The combination of two regional studies degrees (B.A. and M.A. in Middle East Studies), a master’s in business administration, and a Ph.D. in sociology and international business is an unusual academic path! But these experiences exposed me to the challenges and opportunities of bringing different academic disciplines and research methods together, taught me how to visualize problems from different perspectives and provided opportunities to apply my academic work to solve real-world business and policy problems.
Those experiences also helped me engage with our stakeholders in the School of Business to create many different cross- and interdisciplinary graduate degree and certificate programs in the GWSB and shape the ways that I approached strategic planning for the school as a whole. I will build on that experience and the relationships I have across our University for CPS, to help grow existing and new programs and work with our stakeholders to build our next strategic plan.
Tell us about your most memorable GW moment.
In the spring of 2016, GW’s Provost appointed me to be the faculty mentor for a group of 10 rising GW freshmen from Atlanta, Georgia with different majors and interests. They had been selected to be the first Posse Scholar cohort on our campus. Most of these students were first-generation college students; many came from underserved communities. All are incredibly brilliant, talented and inspiring.
As a faculty mentor, I spent several hours each month coaching each student, taught a weekly two-hour professional seminar to the group, and helped them plan a large retreat for 150+ GW students, faculty and staff each year focused on social justice issues. Walking this journey with them was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I learned so much from them—their experiences, perspectives and voice.
What they taught me continues to shape my work as a teacher, scholar, administrator and mother. I was very fortunate to be awarded the prestigious George Washington Award in 2019 for my work with these scholars. But in truth, it is an award we all share together. Today, all have graduated, and they have gone on to graduate school and/or launched successful professional careers. And now I have 10 Posse scholar children added to my family.
What makes you tick?
Solving problems through innovation, particularly the kinds of problems where the solutions lead to positive social and economic impact.
What is your vision for the College?
I’m looking forward to working with our stakeholders to build on our strengths and shape the future college’s strategic plan later this academic year. My current “working draft” of the vision for the College is:
To be the most preeminent, agile and market-responsive learning innovation hub in the world, offering a distinctive array of interdisciplinary professional educational options (e.g., degree-based, continuing and executive education) to a diverse community of learners to:
- Empower their professional progression;
- Engender lifelong-learning; and
- Contribute to social and economic impact locally, nationally and internationally.
What advice would you give to CPS students?
Even when you don’t think you have any time to do anything else but go to work, class and sleep—find the time to schedule at least one hour per week to leverage the resources in the College to build your professional network and prepare for the next step in your career. I see too many students put this off until the very end of their program only to regret it. We have incredible career coaches, experienced faculty and alumni at CPS! Make sure each week, you carve out time to have conversations with them and invest in your “what’s next.”
Tell us about your family and pets.
I met my husband, Brent, in a linguistics class in Garrison Hall at the University of Texas at Austin 33 years ago. Brent is an urban and transportation planner and works for Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation. We have two sons: Kristofer Ulf Riddle and Austin Garrison Riddle. Kristofer graduated from high school in June and is currently on a gap-year program where he is conducting research with marine ecologists and oceanographers on a research vessel in the Pacific Ocean. Austin is becoming a teenager next week and is a YouTuber and entrepreneur, who designs his own “merch” and sells it on a website managed by a neighbor of ours. We have a nine-year old rescue mutt, Molly, who still thinks she is a puppy and is a great joy in our life.
What is your favorite movie?
I have been a die-hard Top Gun fan since the day it was released. I make my family watch it with me every Fourth of July, and they humor me (the youngest refers to it as “Mommy’s Movie”). This summer when the sequel came out, my best friend and college roommate insisted that we take our families together to see the movie since I had made her watch the movie with me so many times over the years!
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to escape into historical fiction dramas (think The Crown)—as well as dramas that make up their own fictitious histories (think Game of Thrones). It’s an easy way to “travel” to and interpret new worlds. I like to nerd out by researching the histories that inspired the dramas and debate and discuss it with my friends and family.
What is something no one would guess about you?
I have an embarrassingly large camel collection. Not live camels (my husband would never allow it!), but almost everything else camel—figurines, toys, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, etc. I even have a musical instrument (a small recorder) shaped like a camel! It started as a tradition of bringing home a camel from my travels throughout the Middle East. But then family and friends started adding to my collection! I keep all of them in two large curio cabinets in our home. My husband has a rule: No camel over three feet!