Gift from Melody Robidoux Supports Faculty in Government and Public Policy

Nov. 13, 2019

Faculty are the linchpin of the University of Arizona’s mission. They teach students, train the next generation of researchers, add to our knowledge of the world, and share their findings with the community.

Melody Robidoux, who is a long-time donor to the university's School of Government and Public Policy, has donated $300,000 to the school to support its faculty.  Rodidoux has a degree in political science and a juris doctorate from the UA.

“We are so grateful to Melody for her ongoing, generous support of the School of Government and Public Policy,” said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “She helps the school thrive by supporting various needs, including space renovations and student travel. Her latest gift to faculty will help us reward and retain some of our strongest scholars.”

The gift comes from Robidoux’s donor-advised fund, the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund, which is held by the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. The gift will support two senior faculty – school director Edella Schlager and former director Brint Milward – and two mid-career faculty – Samara Klar and Faten Ghosn.

The School of Government and Public Policy (SGPP), housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, is the largest school at the UA, with 2400 undergraduate students in four majors– political science, law, criminal justice, and public management and policy. It has more than 200 students in three master’s program – public administration, public policy, and international security. It also offers a doctorate degree in government and public policy.

SGPP prepares students to be involved citizens and leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors.

“As a teacher-scholar in higher education, I believe we are at the forefront of creating, synthesizing, and bringing new knowledge into the classroom. We also help to provide students with the skills and competencies that facilitate their success beyond the university experience,” said Ghosn.

A Tradition of Generosity

Rodidoux’s first gift to SGPP was to create the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Citizen Engagement Room that turned an existing classroom into a high-tech space that could be used by students and faculty and for community events. Then she created an endowed student travel fund that assists SGPP students with internships in Washington, D.C., and study abroad. In 2017, she created the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund Chair, a term-limited chair held by Professor Brint Milward. In addition to donating more than $690,000 in the College of SBS, Robidoux has given generously to the James E. Rogers College of Law.

Robidoux is passionate about policy related to women’s rights and social justice. In 1992, Robidoux co-founded the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona to foster equity and opportunity for women and girls. Her foundation also funded Junior State of America’s expansion into Arizona, a program that fosters civic engagement for high school students.

“My interest has always been in policy, often directed toward women’s rights, social justice and education,” Robidoux said. “I am interested in developing people who can speak articulately and understand policy and the law – who want to be leaders.”

Robidoux understands the role that professors play in developing tomorrow’s leaders.

“Developing and keeping excellent professors, researchers, and department chairs is key to creating a top-notch School of Government and Public Policy,” Robidoux added. “The students who are in the School are future leaders, researchers, advocates, politicians, teachers, lawyers, and more. They need to be inspired and guided by faculty who are engaging, smart, and well-respected in their fields. We want those types of people to stay at SGPP.”

Supporting Faculty Excellence

The new funding from Melody Robidoux supports faculty who illustrate the breadth of expertise in the school. Schlager and Milward are now both Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund Leadership Chairs, with Milward’s position being a renewal of his existing chair. Klar and Ghosn are Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund Professors.

Edella Schlager’s research focuses on comparative institutional analyses of water laws, policies, property rights, and compacts in the western United States. Her teaching centers on environmental policy and public policy.

“Nurturing leadership is important for Melody,” Schlager said. “Her support allows me, as the director, to invest in events and activities that otherwise would not be possible but are critical for recruiting and retaining the best students and faculty.”

Brint Milward’s research revolves around networks and collaboration, including how to effectively manage networks of nonprofit and for-profit organizations that jointly produce public services. In addition, since 9/11 Milward has studied illegal and covert networks that pursue grievances or greed.

“After the School of Government and Public Policy was created in 2009, Melody became a major donor and great friend of SGPP,” Milward said. “We could not have had the success we have had without her.

Melody is passionate about supporting students by providing opportunities and venues for them to explore and construct public policy that is effective, equitable, and accountable. Her most recent gift will allow SGPP to reward and retain faculty who are at a point in their career where they are being recruited by some of the top schools in political science and public policy.”

Associate Professor Samara Klar studies how individuals’ personal identities and social surroundings influence their political attitudes and behavior. Klar also created and helps run Women Also Know Stuff, a website that promotes the work and expertise of scholars in political science who identify as women.

“It is, of course, a huge honor to be recognized for my research and I am so grateful to receive support for the work that I do as a faculty member at the University of Arizona,” Klar said. “It is, though, particularly humbling to receive this support from Melody Robidoux. She is an inspiring woman who truly takes the time to learn about our work, who understands the value of social science, and who gives so much of her time and resources to important causes.”

Associate Professor Faten Gosn studies the interaction of adversaries, be they conflictual or cooperative. She is also the co-director of a $1.4 million federal grant to study refugees and the mass displacement of people from conflicts.

“To be named one of the first two Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund Professors as a recognition for my dedication and hard work is a great honor; I had never thought that such an opportunity would be even possible,” Ghosn said. “It is also a great motivator as the funds will help me to continue to carry out my research on conflict and refugees, and share my findings with my students and broader community.”

Read the story on UA News