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Dr. William Rothwell

Distinguished Professor of Education (WFED)

Phone: 814-863-2581

310B Keller Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • Learning and Performance Systems


William J. Rothwell, PhD, DBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPTD Fellow, RODC, FLMI is a Distinguished Professor in the Workforce Education and Development program in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems, College of Education, on the University Park campus of Penn State University.


Work Experience


Dr. Rothwell worked full-time in human resources, training, and Organization Development in both government (the Illinois Office of the Auditor General) and in a wholly-owned subsidiary (Franklin Life Insurance) of a multinational company (American Brands, #48 on the Fortune 500 list) from 1979 until he joined Penn State University in 1993 as a professor to head up a graduate program in Human Resource Development/Organization Development. He has been a consultant for over 50 multinational companies. Among his many clients are Motorola University China, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Siemens, Sony, GM Shanghai, Phillips, Erickson, HP, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Red Cross, Care, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Postal Service, and many more. He has been President of two consulting firms: (1) Rothwell & Associates, Inc. and (2) Rothwell & Associates, LLC. He is also, with his wife, a business owner of The Rothwell Partnership, which controls 7 homes for rent. From 1997 until 2022, he and his wife also owned and operated a personal care home for the elderly (Greenhills Village and Assisted Living Residence) licensed by the State of Pennsylvania for 54 residents. The business, sold in 2022, employed 27 full-time and part-time employees. In 2022 he and his wife purchased an 18-unit motel in State College, PA. Since business leaders who hear that Dr. Rothwell is a professor often jump to the conclusion he is all “ivory tower theory” and has no practical work experience, it is worth emphasizing he has extensive human resource experience in government, multinational business, consulting for many industries and economic sectors, and setting up and running several small and family businesses.


Education and Professional Certifications


Dr. Rothwell earned his Bachelor’s degree in English with High Honors and Department Honors from Illinois State University; he earned a Master’s degree and completed all courses for the Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; he earned his Master of Arts in Business Administration (MABA) from Sangamon State University (a university since renamed by the Illinois Legislature as the University of Illinois at Springfield). In a degree program entirely separate from his background in English, he earned his Ph.D. with a specialization in Human Resource Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2022 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) by the Alliance International University in Dutch Curaçao in the Caribbean. He has also earned multiple professional certifications: life accreditation as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) from the Human Resource Certification Institute; the Society for Human Resource Management Senior Professional in Human Resources (SHRM-SCP); the Registered Organization Development Consultant (RODC) designation from the International Society for Organization Development and Change; and the Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) Fellow (member of the Hall of Fame) from the Association for Talent Development, formerly known as the American Society for Training and Development. He is also a Fellow of the Life Management Institute (FLMI) designation based on passing 10 graduate courses in the insurance field. (The latter is essentially a master’s degree in insurance.)


International Work


Dr. Rothwell has been to China 83 times, to Singapore 32 times, and has visited every continent (except Antarctica) to do training, consulting college teaching, and research. He has chaired 110 Ph.D. committees at Penn State, has served on doctoral committees at foreign universities in England, China, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates, and is still listed as a visiting professor at Nankai University in Tianjin China, a visiting professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai China, and a special speaker at Renmin University in Beijing China. In 1999 and 2000, he taught 10 MBA courses at Nankai University, 10 MBA courses at Beijing University, and (in 2003) 4 5-day workshops to faculty at the renowned Islamic school Imam University in Saudi Arabia. His train-the-trainer programs have won global awards for excellence from Motorola University and consulting firm Linkage, Inc.




In 2022 Dr. Rothwell was named a Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at Penn State. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Organization Development Network, and earned the Global Lifetime Achievement Award by Penn State Global Programs (the university’s highest award for doing work internationally). He received the Distinguished Researcher Award from the College of Education in 2016 and was given the Graduate Faculty Teaching Award in the 2004-2005 academic year. (The Graduate Faculty Teaching Award is a single award given to one faculty member on Penn State’s 24 campuses each year.). In 2011 he was given the Association for Talent Development’s Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award; in 2014, he was named a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance Fellow by the Association for Talent Development; in 2016, he received the Best Global Training, and Development Leadership Award from the World HRD Congress in India, and in 2014 he was named a Brand laureate in Malaysia. Dr. Rothwell received the Walter Zeller medal (service award) from Kiwanis International and UNICEF.


Publications and Presentations


Dr. Rothwell has been a prolific author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor. Since 1987 he has published 130 books, 6 training packages, 2 training packages written under contract, 20 guides and technical reports, 6 published instruments and instrument administration guides, 185 book chapters, 74 scholarly and research articles, and edited 24 books in various book series. Some of his books have been translated into Korean, Chinese, Polish, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic and Russian. His recent books since 2020 include Succession Planning for Small Business and Family Business, Rethinking Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, High-Performance Coaching for Managers, Organization Development (OD) Interventions: Executing Effective Organizational Change, Virtual Coaching to Improve Group Relationships: Process Consultation Reimagined, Adult Learning Basics 2nd ed., Increasing Learning and Development’s Impact Through Accreditation, The Essential HR Guide for Small Businesses and Startups, and Workforce Development: Guidelines for Community College Professionals, 2nd ed.


He has delivered 1,526 onsite and online professional presentations in 15 nations over a 30-year period.


Areas of Expertise


Instructional Methods and Design

Methodological Research

Qualitative Research

Human Resources and Work

Career Development
Human Resources Management
Organization Development
Succession Planning
Workforce and Vocational Ed
Workplace Training

Organizational Management

Management & Leadership
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