Christopher J. Deering was appointed Interim Dean of the College of Professional Studies, effective February 1, 2018, following the resignation of Dean Ali Eskandarian.
Chris, as he commonly goes by, is far from new to GW and has transitioned smoothly to his new role. Now that he is at the helm of the College we wanted to give our readers a chance to get to know him a little better.
Q: You are the newly appointed Interim Dean of CPS, but you aren't new to the College or to GW. Tell us about your recent role as senior associate dean and associate provost for the College and the Virginia Science and Technology Campus before transitioning to this new position.
A: About five years ago, Dean Eskandarian asked me to be his “ranch foreman” at GW’s Ashburn campus, the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. That involved managing all manner of things related to physical plant and day-to-day operations, but also monitoring and helping to promote use of the campus for educational and research activities.
A subsequent reorganization brought me fully into CPS as senior associate dean with further responsibilities for College operations – including things like, for example, information technology and the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. Now this.
Q: I see you are originally from California. What initially brought you to the DC region and to GW (other than avoiding earthquakes)?
A: I came to DC as a young graduate student in 1977 to do work on my Ph.D. dissertation (UCSB 1979). I was on a fellowship at the Brookings Institution. The following year, mostly as a coincidence of being in DC, I became an assistant professor at GW. Forty plus years later I’m still here.
By the way, west coast earthquakes are different from east coast earthquakes. They are less frequent here by far, but they seem to last longer and be felt over a wider area than out west.
Q: You’ve had quite a varied set of roles at GW. Tell us a bit about that.
A: Yes, I started out at GW as the academic director of the Legislative Affairs program – run then by the political science department and today though GSPM, with a stopover on Capitol Hill as a congressional fellow. I later served as associate dean for Columbian College and department chair for political science.
Q: Tell us about your experience working on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide to Senator George J. Mitchell (D-Maine).
A: In late 1984 and throughout most of 1985 I worked for Senator Mitchell as an American Political Science Association congressional fellow. At the time, it was an inside joke among those of us in the office to refer to him as “Senator Who?” because he was so little known by the public.
He had just taken on the role as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and would later make a name for himself as a member of the Iran-Contra Committee, Senate Majority Leader, and architect of the Good Friday Accords. I was a typical legislative aide responsible for foreign and defense policy, some agriculture, and marine/fisheries stuff – which for Maine is defense policy. Great boss. Great experience. Tons of stories.
Q: I see one of your academic specialties is in congressional committees. I recently had a colleague tell me he was reading one of your books about the committees in his political management class at GW. Tell me more.
A: Yes, Committees in Congress, I wrote that book. Remarkable that it’s stood up so well given that the last edition (3rd) was published in 1997. It is co-authored by, and to be fair the brainchild of, my friend and former colleague Steven S. Smith, although I did the third edition myself. It’s a comprehensive treatment of the origins, development, and operations of the House and Senate committee systems. Very political sciencey! First edition was translated into Portuguese in Brazil.
Q: Tell us about your most memorable GW moment.
A: Well, my two most memorable days on campus were January 13, 1982 and September 11, 2001. The latter requires no elaboration. The former is the day that Air Florida flight 90 crashed into the Potomac on takeoff from National Airport during a blizzard. That same day, in fact just 30 minutes later, Metro suffered its first fatal operational accident, a derailment. Each, for me, is a “where were you” moment. I was in Funger Hall.
On a happier note, the GW basketball team winning over #1 UMass with Bill and Chelsea Clinton in the audience.
Q: In your new role as Interim Dean you are tasked with "continuing business as usual" and with strategic leadership of the college. Can you share any insights about the state of the College?
A: Well first of all it’s important to note that Ali left the College in excellent pedagogical, organizational, and financial shape. Really, I mean excellent. So, stay the course it is, but matching his performance will be no easy feat. That said, it is now incumbent on everyone associated with CPS to play a productive role in contributing to President LeBlanc’s five strategic initiatives – particularly those on enhancing student experience, institutional culture, development and alumni relations, and research.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: Married. Two children. My wife Priscilla also has a dog that I do not claim but get along with just fine. Pris also is a political scientist at one of the other local “Georges”- Mason in this case. Former chair, senior associate dean, right now a regular faculty member. Our son is just about finished earning an MBA online at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School after serving nine years in the Navy. Our daughter currently works for the Millennium Challenge Corporation and recently earned an MA from the Elliott School in international development.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: Pris and I both grew up at the beach. Jones Beach (New York) for her and various LA beaches for me. And Pris started her academic career in the Seattle/Tacoma area on the Puget Sound. So we like the water. We currently have a place on the Chesapeake Bay in Kilmarnock, Virginia – with two kayaks, one 19-foot runabout, and a 36-foot Chesapeake Bay deadrise built in 1972. One way or another we’re out on the water year round.
Q: Favorite Book? Movie? Sports team? Food?
A: Moby Dick. Blade Runner. USC Trojans and GW Colonials. I’ve had season tickets for GW basketball for over 35 years. On food it’s a tough call between Mexican and BBQ (all regions).