Upfront

On July 1, former APA President Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, is tackling a new presidential role: President of the University of Wyoming.

Best known in psychology for his research on leadership, love, creativity and intelligence, Sternberg was attracted to Wyoming because it is a land-grant university — created to make higher education more accessible to students from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

"I really believe in the mission of land-grant institutions, which is to develop ethical leaders who are going to make a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the world," says Sternberg. "That's what I think education is all about."

His top priorities will be working with faculty and administrators to enhance how the school nurtures tomorrow's leaders and making the school a place "where faculty also can become world-class leaders in their fields," he adds.  

Sternberg, who is now provost and senior vice president at Oklahoma State University, as well as regents professor of psychology and education, also plans to teach at Wyoming, perhaps an undergraduate course on the nature of leadership, he says.

"It is a chance to have contact with students, to have fun teaching and to keep up to date in the field," says Sternberg. "It also sends a message to students and faculty that the administration not only values teaching, but also does it."

Sternberg says Wyoming felt like "a good fit," and his new colleagues agree.

"We are delighted to have not just a psychologist as president, but someone with his stature," says Carolyn M. Pepper, PhD, chair of the University of Wyoming psychology department. "He is prolific, and he has a reputation for being able to work well with lots of different people and get things done."

Sternberg earned his doctorate from Stanford University in 1975 and holds 13 honorary doctorates. He taught at his undergraduate alma mater, Yale University, for 30 years. A turn as APA president in 2003 inspired him to be an administrator.

"As a professor, I felt frustrated that I had ideas for change but could not see them implemented," he says. "The APA presidency changed my life in that it convinced me that psychology could be put to good use through academic leadership." 

In 2005, he became dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University. He left Tufts in 2010 to join OSU as provost.

He and his wife, Karin, also a psychologist, have 2-year-old triplets, who will have plenty of room to roam in the Cowboy State. "It's a great place to bring them up," he says. "They are already cowboys from being here in Oklahoma, so they are all ready for it."

—Jamie Chamberlin