UMass Boston

Robert C. Wood Visiting Professorship in Public and Urban Affairs

About the Visiting Professorship




Each year, the Robert C. Wood Professorship brings a distinguished public leader to campus for a lecture and conversation to engage students, faculty, and community members in discussions of public policy and public service.

The Robert C. Wood Visiting Professorship in Public and Urban Affairs was established in 1998 at the now John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. Conceived as a vehicle for bringing distinguished public leaders to lecture and engage on topics such as race, education, and government efficiency, the professorship links the scholarly pursuits of the McCormack Graduate School with practical problems and policies of the larger society. The selection of each year’s speaker is tailored to objectives developed by the McCormack Graduate School in consultation with the honoree, faculty, staff, and others.

The lectureship is named for Robert Wood, who served as president of the UMass System for seven years and was one of the nation's leading public intellectuals in the last half of the 20th century. His multifaceted career in public service also included was also a senior fellow and professor at the McCormack Institute, secretary of housing and urban development in the Lyndon Johnson administration, head of the Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies, Superintendent of Schools in Boston, and General Manager of the MBTA. He wrote and edited several books on topics related to politics and public policy, the presidency, and local affairs.

Following is a list of the Wood Visiting Professors beginning from the program's inception. Their titles are those which they held at the time of their appointed professorship.


 Wood Professorship Committee Members


  • Rita Kiki Edozie, Interim Dean & Professor, McCormack Graduate School
  • Marcy Murninghan (Chair), Senior Advisor, Outreach & Engagement, McCormack Graduate School 
  • Christopher Graham PhD '20, Manager, Student Success & Undergraduate Advising, McCormack Graduate School 
  • Franny Wood, Daughter of Robert Wood
  • Margaret (Peggy) Wood, Wife of Robert Wood
  • Erin O'Brien, Associate Professor of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts
  • Timothy Cronin, MPA '22 Student, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs
  • Michael Johnson, Professor, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs
  • Susan Crandall, Director, Center for Social Policy 

Wood Professorship Lectures




Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH is a practicing physician and renown global and national leading voice on pandemics and public health. He was in 2022 appointed the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. He is also the Dean of The School of Public Health and Professor of Health Services, Policy, and Practice at Brown University.

Lecture Title: The Role of Public Service in Transitioning to a Post-COVID Era





Yamiche Alcindor is an American journalist who is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour and a political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC. In the past, she has worked as a reporter for USA Today and The New York Times. Alcindor writes mainly about politics and social issues.

Lecture Title: Reporting Truth Amid a Pandemic and Racial Reckoning

Media Coverage: UMB News




Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Founding Partner, Global Optimism, and Convener, Mission 2020

Lecture Title: The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis in the Age of COVID-19

Media Coverage: Nature Book Review




Reuben E. Brigety, II, Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Lecture Title: America, Heal Thyself: Political Polarization and the Rebuilding of American Soft Power

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News




Peniel E. Joseph, Professor of Public Affairs and Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values at the Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas Austin

Lecture Title: The Struggle for Black Dignity in the Age of Trump and the Era of Black Lives Matter

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News




Maggie Hassan, Governor of New Hampshire, Daughter of Robert Wood, and Current Junior United States Senator from New Hampshire

Lecture Title: What I Learned from my Father about Public Service

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News




William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University

Lecture Title: Reflections on Issues of Race and Class in the 21st Century: Revisiting Arguments Advanced in The Declining Significance of Race (1978)

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News



Spring 2014

Paul Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation

Lecture Title: Where Boston Can Lead: The Urban Education Crisis and What To Do About It

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News



Fall 2014

Garrison Nelson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont and Author of John W. McCormack, A Political Biography

Lecture Title: Promises Kept: John McCormack, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News




Shelley Metzenbaum, Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget

Lecture Title: Performance: Delivering Effective, Accountable, Trusted Government

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News




Gordon A. Martin, Jr., Adjunct Professor of Law at New England School of Law and former judge and chief of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Lecture Title: The Right to Vote: Access to the Polls from the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to the Elections of 2012

Media Coverage: UMass Boston News




Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University

Lecture Title: Barack Obama and American Politics




Barbara Nelson, Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Founder of The Concord Project

Lecture Title: Building Social Capital in Divided Societies: Lessons from The Concord’s Work in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the United States




Keith Wailoo, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research at Rutgers University and Author of Dying in the City of Blues and Drawing Blood

Lecture Title: How Cancer Crossed the Red Line: Race and Disease in America




Alejandro Portes, Howard Harrison and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University

Lecture Title: No Margin for Error: Disadvantage and Success in the Immigrant Second Generation




Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law

Lecture Title: Democracy Means the People Make the Law




James Morone, Professor of Political Science at Brown University

Lecture Title: Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in America




Michael Keith

Lecture Title: Globalizing Culture: Multicultural Cities and the Future of Racism




Edi Rama, Mayor of Tirana, capital of Albania

Lecture Title: Artful Democracy: Urban Government and Planning After Communism




Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, and Former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Lecture Title: Homeland Defense, Economic Security, and Civil Rights in the U.S.




Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President for US programs of the Ford Foundation

Lecture Title: Community Building: The New (and Old) Politics of Urban Problem Solving in the New Century




Charles Hamilton

Lecture Title: The Role of Government – the Perennial Debate




Kick-off Lecture at UMass Boston and Dinner at JFK Library

Lecture Title: Bob Wood as a Public Intellectual