Alumni in Action

Public Service Spotlight

Beth Weitzman

PhD - 1987

Vice Dean at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Tell us about your current public service work. Can you briefly describe your employment organization and position responsibilities, as well as any relevant volunteer or entrepreneurial activities?

After more than two decades on the Wagner faculty, I am currently the Vice Dean at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. As Vice Dean, I work with the Dean to provide overall leadership to the School, as it works to fulfill its mission. In particular, I am responsible for overseeing academic and faculty affairs. With the deans and department chairs, I am responsible for development and oversight of the School's curriculum and academic direction, including new courses and programs, academic policies, global initiatives, accreditation and review, and collaboration and partnerships across departments and schools within NYU and with external agencies and entities. I provide support to faculty and departments, in concert with the Dean, in hiring, retention, promotion and tenure, faculty housing, and overall faculty development.

In addition to fulfilling my administrative responsibilities, I try to stay active as a researcher, studying policies and programs aimed at improving the lives of poor people in regard to their health, educational, and social service needs.

Please summarize your professional and academic background. What has been a highlight?

NYU and Wagner have been the thread that binds my professional and academic experiences. I did all of my graduate work at Wagner, and spent more than 20 years on the Wagner faculty before moving to the deanship at Steinhardt. Highlights have included achieving tenure and promotion, numerous academic publications, an award from the American Evaluation Association in 2010, and a summer residency at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center.

What led you to pursue a degree in Public Administration? Why did you decide to study at Wagner?

As an undergraduate major in sociology, I was deeply intrigued by issues of poverty and social stratification. I had toyed with the idea of a career in social work, but realized that I was more attracted to solutions at a policy, rather than individual, level. Further, I loved my courses in research methods and statistics. I was delighted to realize that the field of public policy allowed me to blend all of these interests together.

In your current position, how do you use the knowledge and skills that you gained at Wagner? Which skills do you use most frequently?

Serving as Vice Dean requires that I use many of the basic skills and concepts learned years ago when studying for my Wagner MPA. These include everything from budgets to basic microeconomic theory to organizational analysis. These foundation courses still serve me well.

Reflecting on your academic experience, what Wagner courses, professors, and / or projects had the greatest influence on your professional development? How?

I was extremely lucky to study with faculty (many of whom remain at the University and are now close colleagues) who engaged and challenged me. In particular, I served as a research assistant to Jim Knickman (currently the CEO of the NYS Health Foundation) who later became my mentor. To this day, he is someone I trust to help me think through next steps in my career.

Reflecting on your time outside of the classroom (social events, orientations, trainings, etc.), can you describe one or two key moments at Wagner that impacted your passion for public service?

Wagner was a very different place when I was a student. I was the rare full-time student arriving shortly after completing my undergraduate degree. I would have loved to have had the opportunities for out-of-the-classroom engagement that are available today. It would have been great to have the chance to take classes abroad, also unavailable at that time.

How are you involved with the Wagner community as an alumna (i.e. attending events, mentoring students, maintaining connections with other alumni, recruiting at Wagner, etc.)?

As someone who is both an alumna and a faculty member, I think I bring special 'insider' knowledge to my advising of students. I have been in their seat and that informs my interactions with them.

Prospective students have expressed interest in learning how alumni funded their living expenses and education during their time as a Wagner student. If you feel comfortable, would you please tell us how you made it work?

I was VERY lucky. The school provided deep assistance with tuition. And, New York State provided a stipend through the Lehman Fellowship Program in Public and International Affairs (I think this was fellowship was phased out some years ago). In addition, I worked as a research assistant.