Dwight Hall administrators announced Thursday that Alex Knopp, visiting clinical lecturer at Yale Law School, will succeed Kathrine Burdick as executive director of the nonprofit center for public service and social justice on July 1.

Knopp, whose credentials include 15 years as a state legislator and four years as the mayor of Norwalk, Conn., brings a passion for public service to the University’s community service hub, Dwight Hall student leaders said. The executive director of Dwight Hall oversees the development of student leadership and partnerships with Yale and New Haven.

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In a telephone interview Thursday, Knopp, who will continue to serve as an adjunct lecturer at the Law School, said he was drawn to Dwight Hall because of its dedication to public service.

“I believe Dwight Hall’s superb record of encouraging a civic-minded attitude leads to a lifetime of commitment for social change among students,” he said. “I would like to expand those opportunities for students.

“I feel that there is a new spirit of activism among Yale students,” he added.

Burdick, who is retiring after 10 years as executive director, agreed to postpone her departure for two years as Dwight Hall conducted a search for her successor. After the search process finally began last fall, the search committee collaborated with Phillips Oppenheim, an executive development firm, to screen and interview candidates.

Out of 78 applicants, the search committee chose to interview 15 candidates, eventually narrowing the field down to four candidates who met with the center’s student leaders. Several weeks ago, the organization’s board of directors unanimously selected Knopp, a former Connecticut state assemblyman, as the next director.

Sandra Lee ’97, a member of the Dwight Hall board of directors and the head of the search committee, said she found Knopp an ideal candidate because he seems able to balance the demands of students, Yale and New Haven. Knopp understands not only the “why” of service — why people volunteer — but also how to serve the community effectively, Lee said.

Deborah Rose ’72 GRD ’89, chair of Dwight Hall’s board of directors, said Knopp’s gentle personality, combined with his management experience as mayor of Norwalk from 2001 to 2005, qualified him to mentor student leaders without being imposing. Knopp’s friendly demeanor with students is immediately noticeable, Rose said.

But she added that Knopp will have big shoes to fill in his new post as director.

“When we interviewed Kathrine Burdick a decade ago, we asked why she chose to apply to our small organization after serving as director for a state program,” Rose said. “[Burdick] responded saying that it wasn’t smaller, it just had different objectives.”

Rose said Burdick’s administrative expertise allowed Dwight Hall to endow numerous fellowships during her tenure.

Amy Rothschild ’09, student co-coordinator of Dwight Hall, also said Burdick’s unique rapport with students defined her decade as executive director. Nonetheless, Rothschild, a member of the search committee, praised Knopp’s experience in public service and social justice and said she expects a meaningful collaboration between Knopp and student volunteers in future years.

“Dwight Hall is ever-growing in terms of the number of student groups and initiatives at the organization,” she said. “Knopp’s experience as mayor with not only long-term strategy but also the nitty-gritty of daily operations will help us develop the resources we need to support Dwight Hall.”

Founded in 1886 as the Yale University Christian Association, Dwight Hall now annually supports over 3,500 volunteers of all religious backgrounds, 75 student-run volunteer programs and student involvement with nearly 300 different agencies in New Haven.