Satu Zoller, associate director for academic programs at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy, will retire at the end of this summer after 24 years at the program.
Zoller has long been “the backbone” of the UMass public policy program, said Professor John Hird. Zoller helped launch what was then known as the Center for Public Policy and Administration back in 1998, with colleagues Kathy Colon, who retired in 2020, and Hird, the program’s founding director, who went on to serve as dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
“Students, faculty, staff, and directors come and go, but Zoller and Colon were there from the beginning and are responsible for much that the center/school has achieved,” Hird said. “Satu was a key to shaping the institution itself, with vision, intelligence, and integrity… She has been a tireless advocate for students and has helped countless graduates both personally and professionally. [She was] central to building a caring and inclusive culture centered on students, with special appreciation for international students.”
Zoller’s commitment to the program was recently recognized with a College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Outstanding Staff Award.
Over the years, Zoller was involved in virtually every aspect of the public policy program, including curriculum development, program planning, student advising, recruitment and admissions, and career development and internship support. She developed and taught for many years the program’s Professional Development Seminar, organized and led student networking trips to Washington DC and other places, played an integral role in CPPA’s evolution into the School of Public Policy, and led efforts to create an undergraduate public policy major, which launches in the fall of 2022.
SPP faculty member Marta Vicarelli credited Zoller with building a foundation on which the program will continue to grow. “She is the heart and soul of the school and an inspiration for her generous commitment,” Vicarelli said.
Through all her many responsibilities, Zoller’s top priority has always been ensuring that students receive the best education possible, with the support and opportunities necessary to help them launch their careers.
Former SPP Director Alasdair Roberts described his five years working with Zoller as “a privilege,” adding, “I've always admired her commitment to the welfare of our students and public service education more broadly.”
Alumna Christa Drew, who received her master of public policy and administration in 2011, recalled first meeting Zoller at a student orientation barbecue. “Satu’s calm presence there and throughout my time always helped to ensure stability and confidence,” Drew said. “I never saw her flustered or stressed, and she always seemed to have time to meet with students.”
“I just cannot imagine CPPA/SPP without Satu,” said Puja Minni, MPPA ‘10, a policy researcher. “From the time I got the admission till the time I graduated, she was a constant guide, helping us in every way. ... I hope she finds new adventures and amazing experiences wherever she goes next.”