2 School of Public Affairs doctoral students accept faculty positions at major U.S. research universities


Mark J. Scarp

Two graduating students in the doctoral program at ASU’s School of Public Affairs (SPA) each have accepted a faculty position at a major U.S. research university, SPA Director Donald Siegel announced.

After receiving her degree in May, Fengxiu Zhang will join the faculty as an assistant professor of public administration at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia. Upon graduation in May, Leonor Camarena will be an assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University’s Newark, N.J., campus.

Siegel said the placements reflect the rigor and world-class reputation of the school’s doctoral program and graduate faculty.

“A strong PhD program places its doctoral students at major research universities. Our recent placements of Fengxiu Zhang at George Mason University and Leonor Camarena at Rutgers University-Newark add significant luster to our school’s research reputation,” Siegel said. “The School of Public Affairs was recently ranked No. 3 in the U.S. in research, according to the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. It is also a testimony to the outstanding job Professor Mary Feeney has done as PhD director, along with Professor Eric Welch, who also works quite closely with many of our top students.”

Fengxiu Zhang, PhD candidate, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University




Zhang was chosen in 2019 as the second SPA doctoral candidate in three years to be named an Emerging Scholar by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). She was one of only two students from the 282 NASPAA schools to be named an Emerging Scholar in 2019.

While at ASU, her work has focused on understanding how and why public organizations adapt to the complex and threatening changes in their biophysical and technological environment, particularly those associated with extreme events. At the Schar School she plans to continue research on resilience with the newly founded Center for Resilience and Sustainable Community at George Mason University.


Leonor Camarena, PhD candidate, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University




Camarena worked as a graduate research assistant at ASU’s Center for Science, Technology and Environment, which, like SPA, is within Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. At the center, she managed and was a member of several research projects and conducted surveys related to technology in local government and the use of genetic resources.

Her research focuses on representation, leadership, gender and diversity in public organizations, and it contributes to theories related to public and nonprofit organizations, feminist theory and the structural and interpersonal barriers of diverse individuals within public organizations.

Mark J. Scarp is media relations officer at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.