An academic leadership role hadn’t really crossed Megha Budruk’s mind before the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions' then-Dean Jonathan Koppell nominated her several years ago to attend the ASU Leadership Academy.
But once enrolled she realized she already occupied such a role, because leadership is fundamental to the work faculty members do. Since then she has led a variety of research efforts, grants, faculty-student teams and ASU’s engagement with the Young African Leadership Initiative East Africa program, a public management leadership program in Kenya.
Budruk, an associate professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, begins work Aug. 2 as the Watts College interim dean for faculty affairs, appointed by Interim Dean Cynthia Lietz.
“I have directed a lot of projects, but never considered it as leadership,” Budruk said. “I thought of it as getting a project going to achieve an outcome for the communities we serve."
She said as an administrator she can provide an opportunity to give back to the college and bring her skills and experience as a faculty member to a position that supports faculty.
“When Dean Lietz approached me with the position, I thought the time was right. It was a good moment to step into the role, a natural progression for me,” she said.
Budruk, who has taught at ASU since 2004, said the Watts College’s visibility within the university community has noticeably grown in recent years.
“The work our college has done, whether at the local, state and national level, has had more impact,” she said. “That’s being recognized now. It’s the biggest change I’ve seen in the last 17 years.”
Lietz, a President’s Professor of social work, said she is very pleased that Budruk will be serving in such an important administrative role this year.
“Dr. Budruk will bring a high level of care as well as meaningful experience as an educator, researcher and leader as interim associate dean for faculty affairs,” Lietz said. “I am confident in Dr. Budruk’s abilities and know that she will be a positive and effective contributor in this new role.”
Budruk will oversee the college’s academic personnel function. This includes recruitment of new faculty as well as helping to advance the careers of the talented faculty in Watts College.
“The past 15 months have brought on many challenges but also opened up opportunities to rethink how we have done things in the past,” Budruk said.
Budruk anticipates her position will require creativity and flexibility in how to approach faculty-related policies and practices.
She said her interdisciplinary academic background and experience living on three continents has taught her to value a difference of opinions and surround herself with diverse ideas and people of varying backgrounds.
“The best ideas come out of a multitude of perspectives,” Budruk said.
While serving in her leadership capacity, she will continue to teach and conduct her research in the area of parks and recreation management.
“I enjoy being in a classroom with students, figuring out their passions, and helping them achieve what they really enjoy in their degree programs,” Budruk said.
That includes teaching a wilderness course that is open to students across all majors.
“It’s about our relationships with nature over the past 500 years,” Budruk said. “Every semester we have something new to talk about: wildfires, management and mismanagement of natural resources or how evolving societal forces shape what nature means to us.”
Human beings’ relationship with nature is a subject she said is close to her heart and where her research as a natural resource social scientist is focused. Nature became a refuge for millions under stay-at-home orders worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, which has brought the importance of this kind of work to the forefront.
Budruk earned her PhD degree in natural resources at the University of Vermont. She has two master’s degrees. One is in recreation management and tourism from ASU. The other is in environmental sciences from the University of Poona in India, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology.