Lifetime Achievement Awardee

Sonia M. Ospina

Sonia M. Ospina is a Professor of Public Management and Policy at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, a sociologist by training, and an expert in participatory and qualitative research methods. Her interests in the participatory, inclusive, and collaborative dynamics of democratic governance have produced research on social change leadership, engaged scholarship, social innovation, public accountability, and public sector reform, both in the United States and in Latin America. She holds a BA in Education and Social Sciences from Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá, Colombia), an M.S. in Policy Analysis and Public Management, from the W. Averell Harriman School for Management and Policy, and a PhD in Sociology from the Sociology Department at Stony Brook University, a SUNY campus.

Born in the U.S. to Colombian parents, Sonia grew up in urban Bogotá, where she got her BA and worked in this education field for several years until her return to the US. She has now lived more than half her life in another great urban space, New York City, where she and her husband raised their son. Sonia’s bi-cultural experience and her strong ties to both countries are embodied in her transnational and multicultural approach to life.

During her 34 years as an academic, Professor Ospina has enjoyed and cultivated spaces of collaboration with researchers from around the world, having co-authored articles and book chapters with colleagues from (as close as) the US and Central and Latin American countries, and (as far as) Australia and New Zealand, Korea, the UK, Spain, and Italy, among others. Her most recent collaborative projects include participation in two scholarly groups to develop insights on collective leadership and collaborative governance: The Global Action Research Institute for Indigenous Women Leaders (with colleagues from Universidad del Rosario, Colombia); and the International Working Group for Collaborative Governance (with colleagues from the Basque Country’s Provincial Council of Gipúzcoa and the Basque Country University, Spain). She has also has had the privilege of mentoring and learning from many students who passed through her courses–Leadership and Social Transformation; Qualitative Research Seminar; and Cross Sector Partnerships–including the eleven doctoral students whose dissertation she chaired and other ten who invited her to join their dissertation committee.

Professor Ospina is co-founder and Co-Director of the Colombian Studies Initiative since 2019 (in partnership with Universidad del Rosario); she co-founded the international network of leadership scholars, Co-Lead Net in 2015 and the Research Center for Leadership in Action in 2003, where she served as Faculty Co-Director until 2015. She is an elected Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Public Administration, a member of the Scientific Council of CLAD, a UN consulting body on state reform in Latin America, and just finished her tenure as a Board member of the Public Management Research Association (PMRA). She also served as President of the Inter-American Network of Public Administration Education (INPAE) (2008-2010), and earlier, in the Boards of the two other prime public management and policy associations, NASPAA and APPAM.

Professor Ospina has published in the prime leadership journals, the Leadership Quarterly and Leadership, as well as in the prime public management journals, including the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Public Administration Review. She has also held editorial responsibilities in these journals, as well as in other nine domestic and Latin American journals. Her latest books are Advancing Relational Leadership Research: A Conversation Across Perspectives (2012, co-edited with Mary Uhl-Bien); Social Innovation and Democratic Leadership: Communities and Social Change from Below (2017, co-authored with Marc Parés and Joan Subirats); and The SAGE Handbook of Participatory Research and Inquiry, Volumes 1 and 2 (2021, co-edited with Danny Burns and Jo Howard). In 2020 she co-edited a Human Relations Special Issue, Collective dimensions of leadership: Connecting theory and method, with Erica Foldy, Gail Fairhurst and Brad Jackson.

Overtime, she has been a consultant and adviser in international institutions including the Organization of American States, the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Regional Center for Learning and Evaluation Research; she has been involved in multi-year projects with The Ford Foundation, the Colombian Consulate in New York, the National Department of Planning, Government of Colombia; the NYC Office of the Mayor, and the New York City Department of Sanitation; and she has also advised academic programs at the Brazilian National School of Public Administration ENAP and in other prestigious universities in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile.

Professor Ospina was the recipient of the 2022 Keith Provan Award from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management, given to distinguished Public Administration scholars whose impact is interdisciplinary and integrates literature from across perspectives; substantially builds both theory and empirical approaches; and makes a unique and identifiable contribution to knowledge in public administration research.

Oral history is an excellent method for collecting and interpreting memories and fostering new knowledge. Dr. Phil Scarpino, past president of the National Council for Public History and Professor of History at IU, exhaustively researches each recipient prior to conducting his interviews and uses the highest standards prescribed by the American Oral History Association.

The Tobias Leadership Center focuses on research and programs related to the study of leadership across all sectors – including corporate, public service, education, religion, medicine, and non-profit organizations. Its focus on multiple sectors and on both the practice and theory of leadership distinguishes its agenda among leadership programs nationwide. Through ongoing research in a variety of sectors, it generates knowledge about leadership and disseminates this knowledge through a variety of programs.

Oral History with Barbara Kellerman
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Keynote session with Barbara Kellerman at ILA Atlanta 2016

Keynote session with Barbara Kellerman at ILA West Palm Beach 2018