President Obama Highlights Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
"In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college."
-President Barack Obama, 1/27/10
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama highlighted the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This program, a part of the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, allows some federal student loan borrowers who work in the public and nonprofit sectors to have remaining loan balances forgiven after 10 years of qualifying employment and loan repayment.
To learn more about the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, please visit our Web site.
The post-racial conversation one year later, with NYU Wagner's Irshad Manji
ONE YEAR after the inauguration of America's first African-American president, MSNBC presented "Hope and Fear in Obama's America: 2010" on Monday, January 18, a lively, extended discussion on race held at Texas Southern State University with national thought leaders, including NYU Wagner Visiting Scholar Irshad Manji -- the director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University. Tune in Manji's comments and offer your own.
WagNerds win volleyball championship!
WagNerds co-ed volleyball champions.
The co-ed WagNerds volleyball team was dazzling enough to win this year's NYU Intramural championship! It accomplished this impressive feat after finishing the semester with a won-loss record of 5-1 in the regular season. It then went on to win five more games -- and captured the 32-team, year-end tournament held in December.
In the finals, the NYU Wagner team defeated the Ballerz team by a score of 25-9 / 25-1 -- something that would have been impossible without the huge cheering section from Wagner and the crucial help all along of Christina DeCesare, Secretary of the Wagner Student Association (WSA), who coordinates Wagner's intramural programs.
Team members who participated in the playoff games included: Trish Bertuccio; Danielle Gilbert; Luke Heinkel; Jake Leos-Urbel; Noah Levine; Michael Lobiondo; Fedor Novikov; Jared Pruzman; Rebecca Smith; and Virginia Zuco.
The next season starts in the spring with a men's volleyball league and a women's volleyball league, along with many other sports groupings. Students who want to play on any of the teams can contact Christina to sign up.
Brademas Center report calls for a role for arts in enhancing America's global image
The 2008 election of Barack Obama has offered an historic opportunity for the restoration of America's image around the world. In January 2009, the John Brademas Center of NYU Wagner convened a group of experts to explore the public policy implications for American arts and culture of a renewed focus on U.S. public diplomacy, and issued a call for an expansion of international arts and cultural exchanges in the service of this new direction. A December, 2009, report from the Brademas Center is the result of their expert opinions and deliberations, including those of Wagner's Professor Ruth Ann Stewart, a coauthor of the report. The report, aimed at the President and Congress, is entitled "Moving Forward: A Renewed Role for American Arts and Artists in the Global Age."
Furman Center releases new study on racial segregation and subprime lending
On November 19, 2009, the Furman Center released a new report examining the relationship between residential segregation and subprime lending. The study examined whether the likelihood that borrowers of different races received a subprime loan varied depending on the level of racial segregation. It looked both at the role of racial segregation in metropolitan areas across the country and at the role that neighborhood demographics within communities in New York City played. The report found that, nationally, black borrowers living in the most racially segregated metropolitan areas were more likely to receive subprime loans than black borrowers living in the least racially segregated metropolitan areas. When looking just at New York City neighborhood demographics, the report found that living in a predominantly non-white neighborhood made it more likely that borrowers of all races would receive a subprime loan.
The Furman Center is a leading academic research center, and a joint initiative of NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the School of Law. The director is Vicki Been, the Boxer Family Professor of Law, and the co-director is Professor Ingrid Ellen of Wagner.
Half the world is 'unbanked,' says new Financial Access Initiative paper
The Financial Access Initiative (FAI), a research consortium based at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, has identified that 2.5 billion adults worldwide do not have a savings or credit account with either a traditional (regulated bank) or alternative financial institution (such as a microfinance institution). Nearly 90% of the financially un-served live in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. FAI published the findings in a November, 2009, paper, "Half the World is Unbanked" (click below to access it).
"Until now, the margin of error when considering the world's unbanked was about plus or minus a billion-unacceptable in any other field," said Jonathan Morduch, professor of economics and policy at NYU Wagner, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative, and author of Portfolios of the Poor, a new book examining the surprisingly sophisticated financial lives of the world's poor. "These findings are a real step ahead, and they show how better data can help policymakers truly target and serve poor populations with appropriate financial services."
The analysis also revealed new insights; for example, that India, a country with low per capita income and a large rural population, demonstrates much greater use of financial services than many relatively richer and more urban countries. The global data indicate that countries can improve levels of financial inclusion by creating effective policy and regulatory environments and enabling the actions of individual financial service providers. More than 800 million of those using financial services live on less than $5 per day, so it is possible to provide these services to very low-income communities-but there are still nearly 2 billion to reach.
The Financial Access Initiative (FAI) is a consortium of leading development economists focused on substantially expanding access to quality financial services for low-income individuals, offering the next generation of thinking about microfinance. FAI is housed at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and led by managing director Jonathan Morduch and directors Dean Karlan (Yale University) and Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard University). FAI focuses on basic research and measurement tools that reveal the most effective means of implementing microfinance initiatives. FAI studies the value of microfinance by identifying the demand for financial services; the impact of financial access on incomes, businesses, and broader aspects of well-being; and mechanisms that can increase impact and scale of microfinance.
At NYU Wagner event, OMB Director Orszag describes remedies for U.S. deficit [Video]
Peter Orszag, Director of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Peter Orszag, Director of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), talked about the enormous U.S. budget deficit, its primary causes, and its potential implications for health care, higher education, and the career prospects of younger people in an address November 3rd at New York University sponsored by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Orszag was introduced by John Sexton, NYU's President, and Ellen Schall, the Dean of NYU Wagner, who served as the event's moderator and in her opening remarks noted that Orszag was the youngest member of President Barack Obama's cabinet.
Last year, Orszag told the audience of more than 400 people at NYU's Kimmel Center, the federal deficit was $1.4 trillion ,and a comparable budget gap is projected for the present fiscal year. Over the next decade, he said, the federal government is projected to generate additional red ink of $9 trillion. "Deficits of this size are serious and ultimately unsustainable," Orszag said.
The event was broadcast live by Fox Business while generating a significant amount of public interest and media coverage. To read an official text of the speech or view the NYU webcast, click on the links below.
New York Times spotlights NYU Wagner's 'Visual Explorer' application tool
When NYU Wagner reviews applications for admission, we try to add up the many components that make up an applicant and ask ourselves: Who is this person? Two years ago, we added an optional Visual Explorer essay to our application. This essay section provides all applicants with an opportunity to offer information about themselves that is not always captured through the standard essay question on the application. They are asked to select a photograph from an archive of two dozen conceptual images and then write about it. The process draws out their creativity, while grounding them in a moment of reflection about their motivation to study and work in public service.
"Too often," notes Wagner's dean, Ellen Schall, "applying to graduate school is transactional. We added Visual Explorer because we wanted to signal that the Wagner experience is transformational. Visual Explorer calls for people to slow down enough to reflect on their own experiences, connect their passion for public service to their professional goals, and offer their own perspectives on how to change the world."
On Nov. 1, 2009, the Education Life supplement of The New York Times spotlighted Wagner's pattern-breaking application tool, the images for which are provided in collaboration with the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership, or CCL.
View the interactive feature at the New York Times.
Lt. Gov. Ravitch sizes up state deficit at Rudin Center forum
Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch and Prof. Charles Brecher
"Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch's appearance at an NYU forum yesterday was overbooked almost as soon as it was announced, and the audience wasn't disappointed as Gov. Paterson's No. 2 let loose on a variety of subjects." So began a Crain's Insider dispatch on Ravitch's bracing, widely reported discussion Oct. 28, 2009, at NYU Wagner on New York State's huge budget challenges and the implications for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which he formerly headed, the $2 transit fare, and the controversial idea of introducing East River bridge tolls.
Ravitch, a major figure in the development of fiscal practices in the city and state since 1970s, offered his assessments with Wagner's Professor Charles Brecher (moderator) as a guest of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, housed at the school, and the Center's director, Anthony Shorris, who previously headed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "The State of New York," Ravitch said, "has in the remainder of this fiscal year a deficit of $4 billion--$3 or $4; people argue about it," he said, speaking to students and transportation professionals at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy. "Next year it's between $7 and $8 [billion], assuming revenues level off. The year after that, when the stimulus bill no loner provides any one-shots for the State of New York, the deficit will be between $15 and $18 billion. These are numbers that are unprecedented."
Hear the full discussion in the Wagner Podcast.
UPSA Hosts Mayor Bloomberg on NYC's future
Mayor Bloomberg with UPSA chair Sandra Rothbard
Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided an optimistic forecast of the city's future in a talk he delivered October 26, 2009, at New York University's Kimmel Center as a guest of NYU Wagner's Urban Planning Students Association (UPSA). More than 100 Wagner students attended the event and heard an introduction by UPSA chair Sandra Rothbard. Bloomberg, in his remarks, said he envisions improvements in transit service, affordable housing, education, public safety, and the environment. He said he was pleased to talk with students who attend the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, a school, he noted with a smile, that is named for a "distinguished three-term mayor." Bloomberg ended his remarks with a straight-forward nod to Wagner and its "impressive" alumni working in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.
All kidding aside, Newark's Mayor Booker relates his policy challenges and success
Dean Ellen Schall and Mayor Cory Booker.
In a public conversation at NYU Wagner before more than 125 students, Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker offered hard-won insight, progress reports and humor in describing how his administration's strategies to reduce recidivism are contributing to broad civic improvement.
Mayor Booker fielded questions October 8, 2009, about his pattern-breaking efforts from Ellen Schall, Dean of Wagner, and the audience on a day when, as it happened, he was attracting national attention for countering quips delivered by TV talk-show host Conan O'Brien at Newark's expense. The mayor told students that New Jersey's largest city is simply "not the butt of jokes," but conceded that matching O'Brien laugh-for-laugh is no easy challenge.
But Booker had the audience chuckling at several points, even as he described serious and substantial efforts since his election in July, 2006, to set a national standard for urban transformation. He noted he has created several public/private partnerships and brought together civic group to rehabilitate and green the city's parks and playgrounds, doubled affordable housing construction, and set up model programs to assist at-risk youth and empower ex-offenders to thrive in meeting their family obligations.
Booker said with evident pride that only 3 percent of the ex-offenders who participated in an innovative fraternity on fatherhood begun by the city two years ago have been re-arrested, showing that carefully tailored programs can end a publicly and personally tragic cycle of recidivism. He said he calls the fatherhood program DADS, or Delta Alpha Delta Sigma, he joked. He hopes that by working to bring proven business analytical measurements and operational management techniques to the city administration, such efforts will be scaled up and replicated elsewhere. "Most cities," he said, "don't have a mature prisoner-reentry system."
The 39-year-old Mayor Booker said he's working to turn the city's well-regarded charter schools -- currently overseen by Wagner alumnus De'Shawn Wright -- "from "islands of excellence to hemispheres of hope." With the help of philanthropic organizations and researchers, transferring the Newark charters' formula for high achievement to the rest of the 45,000-student school system is achievable, he said.
"Hopelessness is probably one of the worst toxins in any city, it's a cancer, and it really undermines what you're trying to do," said the mayor. But in referring to his deepening involvement in public service, he then added, "It hasn't been easy, but it's been so rewarding."
The evening event was sponsored by The NYU Wagner Students for Criminal Justice Reform and The Black Allied Law Students Association.
NYU Wagner students 'Ask An Adjunct' at new Office of Career Services event
NYU Wagner's Office of Career Services held its first Ask-an-Adjunct event on September 24. The event provided students with the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with public service practitioners who are leaders in their respective fields.
Wagner's adjunct faculty are outstanding teachers, expert practitioners, and an invaluable resource for Wagner's students both inside and outside of the classroom.
Ask-an-Adjunct was preceded by a Job Search Strategies workshop that gave students tips and tools for finding the jobs they wanted. About 75 students attended the workshop and then headed to Ask-an-Adjunct where they met with adjunct faculty members representing a wide range of fields including health policy, consulting,international development, finance, and nonprofit management.
On counting calories: new research explores NYC menu labeling initiative
Do patrons alter their food choices when they see how many calories their selections contain? A study published October 6, 2009, in the journal Health Affairs by Brian Elbel, Rogan Kersh, Victoria L. Brescoll, and L. Beth Dixon examines how likely customers of restaurant chains in low-income New York City neighborhoods are to make healthier choices when the menus include prominent, now-mandatory calorie postings. The researchers collected about 1,100 cashier receipts two weeks before the city's calorie labeling law took effect and four weeks after. They found that eating habits did not change significantly in the wake of the initiative.
The researchers concluded, "In an ideal world, calorie labeling on menus and menu boards would have an immediate and direct impact on everyone's food choices. However, as has been seen in previous attempts to change the behavior of vulnerable populations (for example, [in relation to] cigarette smoking), greater attention to the root causes of behavior, or multifaceted interventions, or both, will be necessary if obesity is to be greatly reduced in the overall U.S. population."
Brian Elbel is an assistant professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. Rogan Kersh is an associate professor and associate dean of NYU Wagner. Victoria Brescoll is an assistant professor in the Yale School of Management. Beth Dixon is an associate professor in the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The research for the study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Eating Initiative, the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and the New York University Wagner Dean's Fund.
Professor Rae Zimmerman and NYU Collaborators Receive NSF Grant
Rae Zimmerman, NYU Wagner Professor of Planning and Public Administration, was awarded along with her fellow researchers at New York University a more-than $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) based on the Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship For Service (SFS) program for research and teaching of security and privacy issues on the Internet and other critical information infrastructure. Zimmerman is the Director of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems based at Wagner.
The three-year grant was given to Nasir Menon and Ramesh Karri of NYU-Poly, who lead the effort, and several professors from New York University - Anindya Ghose, NYU Stern Assistant Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences, Helen Nissenbaum of NYU Steinhardt, and Rae Zimmerman of NYU Wagner - to provide funding for their interdisciplinary program, "ASPIRE: An SFS Program for Interdisciplinary Research and Education." The grant will support faculty research and curriculum innovation. It will also provide scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students participating in the program in order to stimulate the growth of a cadre of scholars with expertise in security and privacy issues.
This NYU-wide collaboration will focus on identifying and providing practical, cost effective solutions to information security and privacy problems from technical, ethical, policy and business perspectives. Zimmerman's focus is on the connection between cyber threats and the public services that infrastructure provides.
Six Wagner grads publish case studies in Prof. Kovner's 'Health Services Management'
The critically praised new edition of the casebook Health Services Management: Cases, Readings, and Commentary (9th ed., Health Administration Press: 2009), includes essays by six graduates of NYU Wagner and Anthony R. Kovner, professor of public health and management at Wagner and co-editor of the volume. The revised volume provides a distinctive overview of management and organizational behavior theory. The book's essays are organized into six parts: The Role of the Manager; Control; Organizational Design; and Professional Integration; Adaptation; and Accountability. The Wagner contributors are former students of public administration and health management who have gone on to work as leaders in the healthcare field. For example, Claudia Caine (MPA '84), in an essay co-written with Professor Kovner, drew on her experiences as Chief Operating Officer at Lutheran Medical Center of Brooklyn, N.Y. Their case study reveals how quality control moves significantly reduced patients' average wait time at an inner-city hospital's emergency room, from 90 minutes to between 30 and 35 minutes, door to doctor. And Jacob Victory (MPA '98), director of operational performance management for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, wrote two essays, entitled "Mid-Career Change" and "Integrating Rehabilitation Services into the Visiting Nurse Service of America." Overall, the book's cases take place in a variety of organizations, such as a faculty practice, a neighborhood health center, a small rural hospital, and an HMO. Kovner's co-editors include Duncan Neuhauser, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University, and Ann Scheck McAlearney, associate professor of health services management and policy at The Ohio State University's College of Public Health. Professor Kovner is also co-author of a newly published textbook, Evidence-Based Management in Health Care, the result of work by he and other distinguished management experts to foster more reliable, evidence-based decision making education and practice widely in the healthcare industry.
U.S. Health and Human Services Taps Former Wagner Adjunct for Senior Post
NYU Wagner has a high-caliber group of adjunct professors, including many seasoned practitioners who work on critical public problems in and across a variety of fields and sectors.
Now, David A. Hansell, who was a Wagner adjunct assistant professor from 2000 to 2006, has been named to a senior post at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
His new title, which was effective on June 29, 2009, is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, according to an announcement by New York State.
In his most recent role, Hansell is the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and has a breadth of knowledge in the development and delivery of social service policy and programs, including TANF, child support, LIHEAP, food stamps, and services for victims of domestic violence, persons with HIV/AIDS, home care clients, and adults in need of protection.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner of the NYS OTDA, Hansell was Chief of Staff of the New York City Human Resources Administration, where he assisted in the management of all of the city's public assistance programs. Before joining HRA, Hansell served in a number of positions at Gay Men's Health Crisis, including Director of Legal Services and Deputy Director for Government and Public Affairs. From 1997-2001, he was the Associate Commissioner for HIV Services at the New York City Department of Health, and subsequently served as Associate Commissioner for Planning and Program Implementation.
NYU Wagner Adjunct Professor Writes Handbook on 'Leading Change'
Leading change is a topic of paramount importance. But a missing ingredient for many leaders has been how to translate concepts into actions, continuous improvements and sustainable results.
Now, the Wallace Foundation has just published NYU Wagner Adjunct Professor Jody Spiro's "Leading Change Handbook: Concepts and Tools."
This toolkit by Dr. Spiro, who is the Wallace Senior Education Program Officer, was developed to help leaders address several key areas of the change process: assessing and improving participants' readiness; engaging stakeholders; planning "early wins"; minimizing resistance; using collaborative planning methods; and developing ways to bring initiatives to scale and sustain them over time.
The handbook is available for free downloading and posting -- visit the link listed below.
For more than 24 years, Dr. Spiro, Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at Wagner, has served as a senior organizational change agent in a wide variety of public and nonprofit settings, including her current education reform work in countries undergoing dramatic transition. Dr. Spiro holds a master of public administration from NYU Wagner and an Ed.D. from Columbia University.
U.S. Labor Department Names Wagner Professor Sewin Chan to Advisory Panel on Pensions
Sewin Chan, Associate Professor of Public Policy at NYU Wagner, has been sworn in as a member of the U.S. Departmetn of Labor's Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Plans. The panel was established under the ERISA Act, and Professor Chan will be one of 15 members on a three-year term. Her specific role is to represent the general public in advising Secretary Hilda Solis on issues relating to pension and health plans. Others on the council represent various industry groups and unions.
Professor Chan teaches courses in microeconomics, public finance, and health economics. Her research is concerned with the well-being of individuals and households and how it is shaped by the interaction of economic behavior, market institutions and government policies. Professor Chan's current focus is on the economics of aging and retirement. Her recent projects include the impact of job loss on older workers, individual responsiveness to financial retirement incentives, and the well-being of caregiving grandparents. Professor Chan has also worked on the economics of the residential housing market, examining the inherent risks of homeownership and designing innovative financial instruments for controlling those risks. Professor Chan has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and the Center for Retirement Research. Her research has been published in leading journals such as the Journal of Labor Economics, the Journal of Public Economics and the Journal of Urban Economics. She holds an M.A. from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.
NYU Wagner congratulates the Class of 2009, and celebrates Convocation at BAM
In a Convocation speech to Wagner's Class of 2009, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan said he attended the 1977 World Series game when sports commentator Howard Cosell, observing a column of rising smoke in the vicinity of Yankee Stadium, told a national television audience, "Ladies and gentleman, the Bronx is burning." The wave of arson, crime, and abandonment afflicting much of New York City less than two years after the city government had narrowly avoided municipal bankruptcy captured Donovan's attention even then, as an 11 year old baseball enthusiast. And it's probably no accident that as someone who came of age in the 1970s and '80s in New York, he went on to devote his education and distinguished public career to understanding and innovating policy steps that helped rescue and transform New York and many other American cities in the wake of that "urban catastrophe."
Donovan quoted former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton in addressing the proud and excited graduates and their families gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 15: "Public service is not just a way of life, it is a way to live life fully."
According to Donovan, the rise of New York and the restoration of its once-strained civic bonds show that public-sector work - his own path-has enormous potential value, even though the challenges were amply demonstrated by the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Citing President Obama's call to service, as well as his recently signed national service bill, Donovan said the mission of public employees and others embarked on public service work of all kinds is to give us "a reason to believe in public service again" in our neighborhoods and across the nation and world.
"Wagner Class of 2009," Donovan said, "we need you to make it possible to believe again!...Together, we can put our shoulder up against the wheel and change the course of history."
Dean Ellen Schall enumerated the impressive accomplishments of the graduating students and faculty members, including Professors of the Year Shanna Rose and Anthony Kovner. She contended that the work of public service requires more than technical and analytical capabilities, as critical as those are, but also "artistry," saying, "Public service is as much about art as about science." Artistry is what is required to find bold new answers to problems that resist technical solutions, whether those are ending poverty, overcoming racism, ensuring equal health outcomes for all, creating public school systems that work, or building cities that are sustainable.
The dean told the graduates that she wrote an essay for the Convocation as if she were applying for admission to the school. She based her thoughts on a photograph she selected from a catalogue of visual images, just as many Wagner applicants are asked to do. The image she selected was that of a person bringing a pot to life on a pottery wheel, as it reminded her of an introduction to pottery class she took last fall.
"I showed up every Monday night from 6-9, much the way you showed up for a class," she told the graduates. "And it was very hard. It was the worst in the class, a fact clear to me and to everyone else. Yet I stayed and kept on trying. I knew there was learning in the trying, in sticking with what didn't come easily. I never actually cracked the code or became a potter. Yet at the end, I have these small little pieces of ‘pottery' in my house and the odd thing is, I display them...and they make me smile when I walk in. They remind me to take myself seriously, but not too seriously, to stretch even in the face of initial resistance, mine or others, to find pleasure in small wins."
She referred to the image on a large screen on the BAM stage.
"This captures a simple visual image that I wish for each of you as you go forth. That you embrace the boldness of seeing yourself as artists, as creators and change makers, as people who bring passion and the fullness of yourselves to the critically important challenges of public service. And that you have the discipline and energy and commitment to keep on going, even if you don't get it right the first time around, that you learn from what works as well as what doesn't, and that you find joy in small things as well as big moves."
Michael C. Alfano, executive vice president of New York University, offered spirited welcoming remarks, while class speaker Tracey Gardner, who earned an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy, introduced Donovan, noting, "He's not beaten down, not jaded, and ever on the lookout for policy changes to improve how things are done and make our lives better."
Wagner Student Delivers NYU Commencement Speech at Yankee Stadium
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Dean Ellen Schall
Kate Otto, NYU Wagner student and Reynolds scholar, was the NYU Commencement Speaker at the newly opened Yankee Stadium on May 13. In past years, the University has selected two student commencement speakers, one to represent undergrads and the other for graduates. There was one student speaker this year, which made Otto the perfect choice: she's graduating from Wagner's dual degree BA/MPA program.
The spirited day under sunny skies was highlighted by a Commencement speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was introduced by Wagner Dean Ellen Schall, who described her as "the chief architect of American foreign policy...[and] a luminous star in the crucial constellation of human rights defenders."
Otto, who hails from Rhode Island, worked during high school at a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She went on to attend NYU's College of Arts and Science and work on public health education programs in West Africa. She enrolled in Wagner classes during her senior year. This year, she completed the requirements for an MPA in Health Policy and Management from Wagner.
In addition, she has been working for Keep A Child Alive, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based organization where she began as an intern. The group supports the care and treatment of children worldwide afflicted with HIV/AIDS. There, Otto sparked the creation of a network that now includes 315 campus chapters. She is now looking to expand this network into middle and high schools, houses of worship, athletic teams, and more.
Otto has been awarded a Luce Scholarship, and will spend the next academic year in Indonesia working with an HIV/AIDS organization.
"Communities," she says, noting the global economic downturn, "are the most important thing we all can be building right now."