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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

SMPA director resigns after 3 years

The director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, Lee Huebner, resigned this week, citing “very demanding” administrative duties and a desire to focus more on teaching.

Huebner, who took over the director position three years ago, was formerly the publisher and CEO of the International Herald Tribune. He will step down in July.

“This was a difficult decision, and I have made it with mixed emotions,” Huebner wrote in a letter posted on the SMPA Web site.

No successor was named in the resignation letter. Huebner said in an interview that the SMPA faculty would make a recommendation to Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peg Barratt, who will make the appointment.

Before Huebner was hired in summer 2006, the SMPA had gone nearly five years without a permanent director and instead had a series of interim directors, including current SMPA professor Steven Livingston.

“Being director is fascinating and exciting and satisfying, but it’s a very full year,” Huebner said. “Whereas most teaching positions are nine months long, being director is a full year and weekends and vacations. There is a lot to be done.”

Huebner said he was proud of SMPA’s new media classes and resources and the faculty development that occurred under his leadership.

“Almost half the classes we are offering this year are taught by faculty members who were not here when I came to GW,” Huebner said, adding that in addition to a slew of part-time professors, five new full-time faculty members have been hired since he became director.

The Wisconsin native is known as a passionate and friendly face in the department, sending personal e-mails to SMPA students and teaching a course that brings about 20 students to Paris each spring break.

Before joining the SMPA, Huebner taught journalism and communications studies at Northwestern University. In addition to his position at the International Herald Tribune, he served as a special assistant to the president of the United States during the Nixon administration.

SMPA professor and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno said Huebner tried to “create a collegial and dynamic atmosphere at SMPA.”

“I have worked with him extensively. I think Professor Huebner has worked very hard to distinguish the School of Media and Public Affairs and help it grow and prosper,” Sesno said.

Sesno added, “His commitment to SMPA and to its students will be missed.”

Huebner said one of the most challenging parts of the job is balancing the academic and research-driven political communication curriculum with the hands-on journalism aspects.

“I think that the fact we can balance both is one of the school’s hallmarks,” Huebner said. “I think it really benefits students to be exposed to great scholars and great practitioners.”

Sophomore Andrew Feldman served on the Director’s Advisory Council – a group of students that Huebner brought together to advise him on student issues within the school – and said the director was passionate and accessible.

“He’s never too busy to have you come into his office and talk to him about a person, a policy issue or an assignment,” said Feldman, a political communication major. “With a guy with such experience and so many stories to tell, communication with students is something that’s invaluable.”

Emily Cahn and Matt Rist contributed to this report.

The Hatchet unclearly stated that Lee Huebner “resigned this week.” Huebner will leave SMPA in July. The article has been revised to reflect this clarification. (April 13, 2009).

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