UVA Appoints New Leader for Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

The University of Virginia announced that Larry D. Terry has been appointed executive director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Currently the founding director of the Urban SERCH Institute, and assistant professor for the Master of Science in Public Leadership program at the University of North Texas in Dallas, Terry assumes the role July 1. He also will hold a courtesy appointment in UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy.

“We are thrilled to have Larry leading the Cooper Center,” said Louis Nelson, UVA vice provost for academic outreach. “His demonstrated engagement experience and scholarly achievements are impressive in their own right, but it is his track record and reputation with a broad swath of stakeholders – from community groups to government officials – that impressed the committee. His capacity for bridge-building will be invaluable here at UVA.”   

Over the last four years, Terry has made it his mission to improve the lives of citizens in the Dallas region and in Texas, creating practical partnerships with elected officials, public servants and community leaders to address poverty and other community issues. The linchpin in his programming is the SERCH Institute – Service, Education and Research for Communities with Hope. SERCH houses university-led projects that fulfill UNT-Dallas’ mission to be a catalyst in its community’s transformation, by creating partnerships with organizations ranging from the City of Dallas to the YMCA to local urban farmers.

Under Terry’s leadership, last year SERCH launched the Community Leadership Academy, the nation’s first peer-based citizen police officer leadership training program. 

A key component of SERCH’s success is deploying the university’s strengths in research and data collection and analysis – and engaging students in the process. “Public policy students at UNT-Dallas create program evaluations, community needs assessments and other impact/effectiveness studies as part of their curriculum,” Terry said. “The interweaving of service and research is an invaluable learning component for students – one that I hope to nurture at UVA.”

The data are shared in turn with state and local government and community agencies to inform programs and practices.

Terry also served as the program coordinator for one of the nation’s few Master of Science in Public Leadership programs, with a focus on real-world perspectives and experiences.

“In building the program at UNT-Dallas, I promoted the philosophy that the ‘community is your classroom,’” Terry said. “In addition to classroom instruction and traditional research, our students get out in the community and apply their new knowledge to address organizational and institutional problems that stand in the way of a thriving society.”

“Dr. Terry has been a leader in community engagement and connectedness for UNT Dallas – we’re going to miss his vision and commitment to both our students and the community at-large,” University of North Texas President Bob Mong said. “The University of Virginia is one of world’s great universities, and it makes us proud to see UVA come to UNT-Dallas to fill such an important leadership position. We wish Dr. Terry the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

Terry was previously an assistant professor in the School of Business, Public Administration and Information Sciences at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, and an assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University’s Phoenix campus. He holds a Ph.D. in public affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas, an M.P.A. in public administration from San Diego State University, and a B.A. in black studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“I am grateful to Meredith Gunter, interim director of the Cooper Center, for taking over when John P. Thomas left after 20 years at the helm,” Nelson said. “She has been an invaluable resource to me throughout the year and during this search. I appreciate her willingness to stay on to help Larry’s transition into the leadership role. 

“I would also like to express my gratitude to the entire search committee for their thoughtfulness and vision when recruiting Larry.”

Ray Scheppach, professor of public policy at the Batten School and the chair of the search committee, said, “Not only does Terry have the expertise in the necessary critical areas to lead the Weldon Cooper Center, but he has such an engaging personality that he lights up the room. I know that people will want to be on his team.”

The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service exists to inform public policy, deliver public service and develop and inspire public leaders. Faculty and staff at the center participate in the life of the University through joint academic appointments, teaching, research and other service to the mission of the University. 

The Cooper Center includes three research groups: the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, the Center for Survey Research, and the Demographics Research Group, each of which provides research and policy analysis for government and private-sector clients, and contributes to academic and applied publications and practice on a national level. In addition, the Cooper Center offers leadership training for Virginia’s elected and appointed officials and across the country, and political leadership training through the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

Through the Virginia Institute of Government, the Cooper Center offers strategic and technical support to local government officials and professional associations serving those officials throughout Virginia. (Find out more about the Cooper Center).  

Media Contact

Alexandra Rebhorn

Office of the Provost