When Barbadian-born academic Humphrey A. Crookendale graduated from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. in 1981, he never in his wildest dreams believed he would play a leading role in a major academic institution.
For more than 30 years, Crookendale, who migrated from Barbados in the summer of 1971, says he has served in a number of important academic leadership roles at Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY), including associate dean and acting dean of the Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education (ACSHSE).
In addition, he served as the dean of the college’s School of Management and helped found the college’s first graduate program in public administration.
Crookendale, a long-time Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn resident, currently serves as dean of MCNY’s School for Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), overseeing the college’s undergraduate and graduate programs in both emergency management and public administration, where he’s making a major difference.
Dean Crookendale, told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, that he was a key architect of the college’s Master of Science in Administration degree program, the college’s first graduate program.
It was Dean Crookendale’s vision to also develop a curriculum for a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in Emergency and Disaster Management, one of few such programs in the United States.
In addition to leading the day-to-day activities of the SPAA, Dean Crookendale also teaches in the MPA program. His areas of interest in teaching are public policy and policy analysis.
After graduating from Howard Law School, Dean Crookendale said he was attracted by an ad in the New York Times that called for a faculty member who had experience in political science and law.
“That sounded like me,” said Crookendale, who holds a B.A. in Political Science and Communications from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY).
“Never would I have imagined that my qualifications would land the job, and more that the job would instantly catapult me into a key role in the design of a master’s degree and the application for its approval by New York State,” he added. “With its approval, I was hooked on the idea of a career in academia.”
Over the years, Dean Crookendale said he has fielded applications from many candidates with law degrees, reinforcing and reaffirming that his decision was “not an aberrant one but, indeed, a wise choice.”
Crookendale – who teaches a class in public policy that is grounded in political science and law – said his legal training has served as “a foundation for so much of what I do today.”
“I use the Socratic method in my classroom to challenge students to think out of the box, and use a range of practical and current events as the basis for discussion and learning,” he said.
Dean Crookendale noted that public affairs and public policy is “a disciplinary area that calls into question such other disciplines as political science, economics and law, just to name a few.”
He said students who graduate with a Master of Public Administration in public affairs and administration are “equipped to be public servants and policy makers.”
“They are uniquely positioned to be change agents in their communities, and the many governmental and non-governmental agencies in which they work,” Crookendale said. “To this end, public affairs and administration is very important to me.”
He said the MPA in public affairs and administration is 30 years old, and is the oldest graduate program at MCNY. New York State gave permission to offer it in 1988.
The dean said the inaugural enrollment saw a total of six students register, with only two graduating.
Since then, he said there have been times in which over 120 full-time students registered in the program.
“By the standards of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), we would be a medium to large program,” Crookendale said. “This is a remarkable feat, given our very humble beginnings.” The dean said his greatest success is in witnessing graduates of the school go on to occupy significant roles of responsibility in New York City and its metropolitan area.
He said there are alumni who are deputy commissioners of city agencies; an alumna currently serves as a deputy borough president; and alumni are managers in a host of city and not-for-profit agencies in the tri-state area.
“There can be no greater sense of affirmation than to see and witness graduates who have taken the mantle of leadership and done so with skill and professionalism,” Dean Crookendale said.
In the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) community, he said he is one of a few persons of color who are in positions of leadership.
“Ironically, by definition, schools of public affairs and administration are charged with graduating students who will be policy makers of one kind or another in major cities across the USA,” he said.
“Many of our major cities have significant numbers of citizens who are of a minority status,” he added. “That there would be a distinct few deans of color speaks volumes to the entrenched forces of race, even within academic institutions.”
On a more positive note, however, he said he has used his status as “a beacon” both to his students and the larger community “to encourage and remind students who look like me that anything is possible.”