Wagner Experience Fund
NYU Wagner is pleased to announce the launching of the Wagner Experience Fund. Eligible continuing students will be able to apply for $5,000 funding to pursue an unpaid summer internship related to their career goals. Details and application procedures will be announced in March. For details, click here.
Conversation Starter: Thoughts for the New NYC Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black
Amy Ellen Schwartz writes:
Cathie Black's appointment as New York City Schools Chancellor came at a difficult period. While her predecessor, Joel Klein, enjoyed swelling public coffers and large increases in per-pupil spending, Chancellor Black takes office at a time when the budget is shrinking, certainly significantly and maybe substantially.
At the same time, while Chancellor Klein claimed standardized test results "proved" his reforms were working, the recent adjustments in those metrics have fueled doubt about whether - and to what extent - his hallmark strategies such as replacing large comprehensive high schools with new, small schools and increasing school autonomy "worked." Even more, the turmoil created by opening and closing schools - and the attendant expense - raises questions about the sustainability of these reforms.
Bottom line: Cathie Black faces considerable challenges in the months ahead and it behooves us to help her succeed. In that spirit, I offer the following suggestions.
Beyond "What Works": While education officials and policy makers tout the importance of finding out "what works," we need more than that. We need to figure out "what's worth the money" or what gives the biggest bang for the public buck. Is the high cost of new small schools worth the money, or would we do better to invest in mid-size schools or schools-within-schools? Unfortunately, relatively little attention has been paid to the costs of interventions and reforms and so the evidence base is thinner than it should be. This is a gap that needs to be filled.
Special Education is Critical: Between 2002 and 2008, full-time special education students increased by 20 percent, from just over 82,000 to over 98,000. (That's an increase from 7.5 to 9.5 percent of total enrollment.) At the same time, direct per pupil expenditures for special education increased 31 percent. Together, this means that Special Education eats up a larger and larger share of the budget, threatening to crowd out spending and services for general education students. (My forthcoming paper with Leanna Stiefel provides more detail.) While federal and state rules and regulations place significant restrictions on classification, services, and so on, the school district can and must find ways to deliver required services in the most cost effective way possible.
Don't overestimate the value of value-added: Although evaluating the efficacy of teachers and schools using test score based value-added measures has undeniable intuitive appeal, the usefulness of these measures in improving schools now is much more limited than the publicity might suggest. For one thing, value-added measures can only be calculated for a fraction of teachers in NYC public schools. (Currently, only about one in five.). More importantly, however, it seems unlikely that value-added scores will identify significant numbers of previously unidentified "bad teachers" that can then be dismissed to make way for (or save the jobs of) otherwise-hidden "great teachers." I am certain that value-added analyses have an important role to play in education policy and practice in the long run - and equally confident that the short-run returns will be fairly small.
Moving Matters: Chancellor Klein was fond of saying that much of his reform efforts were guided by a desire to create a system of good schools and not a good school system. In practice this meant that accountability fell to individual schools for the students currently enrolled. Who, then, is responsible for making sure that students enroll in schools that can provide the services they need? That they choose "well"? In a different vein, a growing body of research shows that student mobility between schools - prompted, say, by family dissolution, foreclosure, or behavioral or academic problems - harms their performance and, potentially, affects their peers. Helping students navigate between schools, adjust to new environments, and succeed will mean attention and accountability for the school system and not just a collection of good schools.
One of my colleagues once claimed that every home in New York City was within walking distance of one of the best public schools in the country...and one of the worst. As a parent and alum of the New York City public schools, I wish Cathie Black the best of luck in her effort to make all of our schools better.
Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E. (2011). "Financing K-12 Education in the Bloomberg Years, 2002-2008" in Jennifer A. O'Day, Catherine S. Bitter and Louis M. Gomez (Eds.), Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation's Most Complex School System (pp. 55-84). Cambridge MA: Harvard Education Press.
Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E., Conger, D. (2010). "Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth." Journal of Urban Economics, 67:303-314.
Professors Receive MacArthur Grant to Help Study Impact of Foreclosures on Children
The MacArthur Foundation has announced support for a multi-disciplinary, cross-university set of researchers, including three from NYU Wagner, to study the enormous instability in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, and the impact of this instability on children.
According to the researchers, "policymakers know surprisingly little about how such instability affects children, and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses." The project approved for Foundation support aims to fill these gaps and provide better guidance to federal, state, and local housing and education officials, community organizations, and elected officials about the benefits of housing stability.
The three Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service professors working on the project are:
• Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning, and faculty co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint initiative of NYU Wagner and the School of Law.
• Amy Ellen Schwartz, professor of public policy, education, and economics, and director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. She also teaches at NYU Steinhardt.
• Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics, and associate director of Institute for Education and Social Policy, who also teaches at Steinhardt.
The trio's co-PI's include:
Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law, New York University, and faculty director of the Furman Center, and the principal investigator on this project; David Figlio, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University; Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics at the University of Connecticut.
The co-investigators note that, to date, some research has examined how residential moves affect children's educational outcomes, but the research has been limited by concerns that effects attributed to moves cannot be separated from those of unobserved characteristics of the families that move and of the neighborhoods to which they move.
Further, existing research does not adequately distinguish between types of housing moves: those that the family plans versus those that are more involuntary; those that involve only a change in housing versus those that take the child to a new neighborhood or school; or those that place the child in better neighborhoods or schools versus those that do not.
Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records in four major markets that are suffering from unusual housing instability-New York City, and the counties of San Diego and Fresno in California and Pinellas County in Florida - Professors Ellen, Schwartz, Stiefel and their co-investigators will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students' educational outcomes.
In addition, they we will assess whether any effect that housing instability has on children differs by the child's race or the predominant race of the neighborhood in which the child lives or to which the child moves, and if so, what explains those differences.
The research grant was announced as part of a group of nine new MacArthur Foundation grants totaling $5.6 million for explorations of the role that housing plays in the long-term health and well-being of children, families, and communities.
Rogan Kersh Delivers Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Lecture
Rogan Kersh delivered the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Lecture at NYU on February 10, 2011, at Kimmel Center, and received a significant University award as well.
His speech was a featured event of MLK Week 2011.
Kersh, associate professor of public policy and associate dean for academic affairs for NYU Wagner, has been a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow in Health Policy, a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities, and a Luce Scholar. His publications include "Dreams of a More Perfect Union" (Cornell University Press, 2001), a study of U.S. political history; "Medical Malpractice and the U.S. Health Care System" (Cambridge University Press, 2006); and articles and op-ed pieces in numerous academic and popular journals. He is also a frequent commentator in the media on U.S. political issues.
In addition to delivering the address, Kersh was recogized as one of the Office of the Provost's 2011 recipients of the New York University Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award.
Egypt Uprising in Focus, in Two Parts
Professor Natasha Iskander and Waad El-Hadidy of RCLA in the first of two events (Feb. 7 & 8, 2011) devoted to the uprisings of Egypt.
As Egypt's younger generation mount million-strong demonstrations for "Bread, Freedom and Social Justice" -- as one protester's sign read -- the shockwaves from the uprising have reverberated through the government of Hosni Mubarak, the White House, and the digital tentacles of students and other pro-democracy sympathizers in every corner of the globe.
On February 7 & 8, 2011, NYU Wagner and its Research Center for Leadership in Action(RCLA) launched public discussions illuminating some of the less-visible aspects of the revolt, its better-known causes, and where this history-changing moment may lead.
In the first of these two events, which drew nearly 150 students altogether, Natasha Iskander, assistant professor of public policy, and Waad El-Hadidy, senior associate for RCLA, began by showing photos and YouTube videos capturing the good cheer and thoroughly Egyptian-style humor on display on the streets of downtown Cairo -- such as many makeshift hats worn by demonstrators, fashioned from chunks of asphalt or plastic water bottles, and fastened with scarves.
Another video showed a young Egyptian woman's impassioned plea for reform of the country's political process.
Remarkable, said Iskander, was the nonviolent nature of the demonstrations, a feature she called "historic in its own right," especially given the distributive, leaderless character of the protests.
"The protesters are everybody," she said.
And the issues animating them transcend lines of religion, class, and generation, Prof. Iskander and El-Hadidy said. Even in the wake of the Mubarak government's unleashing of thugs on camels and horses to storm the crowds, the police kidnap and detention of journalists and activists, and the sewing of civilian chaos to erode the movement's public support, the protesters as a whole appeared free of bitterness toward the Egyptian authorities. It's a reflection of the socially intimate nature of life in Egypt, a place, said Iskander, where police and army personnel live as neighbors with the people now taking to the streets, and their families.
"This is a real turning point in the history of Egypt," said Iskander, speaking of the spontaneous mass movement, although she cautioned that knotty issues will require negotiators to emerge, and negotiation, such as election reform. These matters go beyond the immediate question of Mubarak's hold on power, and are more complex.
Still, the uprising beginning Jan. 25 " took the world by surprise, it took the people of Egypt by surprise, it also took the demonstrators by surprise," said El-Hadidy.
On Feb. 8, the second discussion, moderated by El-Hadidy, featured: Mona Eltahawy, a frequent CNN guest analyst on Arab and Muslim issues; Karim Tartoussieh, who is writing his dissertation at NYU on digital disobedience, culture, and citizenship in Egypt; Omar Youssef Cheta, a PhD candidate in the joint program in Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, and History at NYU; and Rania Salem, a doctoral candidate at Princeton. Joining Wagner and RCLA in sponsoring the panel discussion was the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Program at the College of Arts and Science at NYU.
The day's speakers described the sparks precipitating the protests, ranging from the government's growing use of summary arrests and police brutality, to the lack of good prospects for younger people, who represent a third of the population, to the Tunisian revolt that toppled that country's longtime ruler. Facebook and YouTube, too, brought people out to the streets, and Eltahawy noted that Egypt's release of Google executive Wael Ghonim, a key figure behind the Facebook and YouTube push, was galvanizing the movement as she was speaking.
"He's a 30 year old who scared the crap out of a 30 year old regime," Eltahawy said, predicting Ghonim could become one of the pro-democracy movement's most important representatives in the tense and uncertain days to come.
For Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, the Answer to Fierce Partisanship is Leadership
Former U.S. Senators Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, Feb. 2, 2011.
Former U.S. Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Trent Lott (R-MS) sized up the often-fractious political climate of today at a public discussion sponsored by NYU Wagner's John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress on Feb. 2, 2011.
In 2001, the two ex-senators traded roles as Senate majority leader three times. But sitting in armchairs in Vanderbilt Hall and speaking before an overflow crowd of almost 500 listeners, they were congenial -- especially in comparison to the often-fierce partisanship that has defined recent sessions of Congress.
Rogan Kersh, Wagner professor of public policy and associate dean for academic affairs, was the moderator. "It can be reassuring to return to an earlier time," he remarked.
Although Daschle and Lott lamented what they called a loss of comraderie among Congress members, they maintained that leadership has been, and will remain, the key to overcoming strained relations between the two parties.
Neither was despairing about today's political atmosphere. Indeed, Lott said, "The Senate was designed to be dysfunctional .... to cool off the hot action of the House." In addition, he noted, major legislation, such as the national healthcare overall, gained recent approval despite its highly controversial nature.
Furman Center Releases "15 Years of Research, Analysis and Insight"
Over the past 15 years, the Furman Center has been committed to the highest standards of interdisciplinary empirical and legal research about housing, land use, real estate, and urban affairs. This report looks back at the Furman Center’s past research, events and reports in four focus areas: Housing Finance and Foreclosures, Affordable Housing, Land Use Regulation, and Neighborhood Change.
Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC
Bohnett Fellows pose in front of the White House during their trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, 2011.
Bohnett Fellows from NYU Wagner joined with their counterparts from UCLA and the University of Michigan in attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21, 2011, with Professor Rogan Kersh. After sharing information, insights, and ideas with more than 200 of the nation's mayors and many other public service leaders, the Wagner students offered these reports:
"It was by far one of the best networking opportunities of my life. Most of the Conference participants were mayors, and between sessions there was ample time for me to walk up to people and introduce myself. I was amazed at how engaged many of the mayors were. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter must have talked to us for half an hour one evening: He was really interested in what we had to say and fielded all of our questions, including some pretty tough ones, with aplomb.
"I was incredibly impressed with the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan. The conference included many speakers from the national stage, including Nancy Pelosi, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica, and Alaska Senator Mark Begich. These folks usually spoke for awhile and then took questions from the mayors. Almost without fail, Mayor Quan's hand would slowly rise, she'd be called on, and then, with perfect posture and composure, she asked the most pointed and well-informed question imaginable. It made me happy for the people of Oakland. They've got a real policy wonk running the place.
"More broadly, it was great to be around Republican and Democratic politicians talking about actual issues - from handgun violence to job creation - without reverting to demagoguery It was the sort of situation that might restore a person's faith in the American political system."
"When elected officials are talking about economic development, I expect to hear more about financial incentives than about public services. But the economic-development drivers the mayors were discussing included developing exports, attracting foreign investment, and producing a highly skilled labor force through education and workforce training. Mayors and federal officials echoed that cities must cooperate across other governments and sectors to succeed in these areas. It's not surprising that President Obama articulated some of the Conference's major themes in his State of the Union address of Jan. 25, 2011. Getting to speak personally to some of the mayors completely changed my perspective on urban government, and my work this semester is going to reflect it.
"The Conference was also the first time the Bohnett Fellows at all three schools were able to come together. I really connected with a Fellow from the University of Michigan over our work in Northern industrial cities. She lives and works in Detroit, and I came to NYU from Pittsburgh. I found that we could swap war stories about managing decline, but at the end of the day we were talking about common points of growth and battling inequality."
Elizabeth H. Guernsey:
"The trip to the Conference of Mayors winter meeting was definitely one of the highlights - if not the highlight - of my Wagner career so far. The access to and conversations with so many mayors was great. I came back from the Conference inspired to know that so many smart people are working in local government and really focused on making our cities great places to work and live. I was also struck by the mayors' signing of the Civility Accord in reaction to the Tucson tragedy. It was refreshing to hear the mayors talking about their cities in a nonpartisan way.
"A highlight of the trip was meeting with the Fellows from the other schools and hearing about the work they are doing in other cities. Another highlight was attending the Mayors Against Illegal Guns meeting, and hearing mayors talk openly about what they think needs to be done to protect public safety in our cities. The mayors were able to talk honestly and openly without worry that they might upset their constituencies."
The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship for incoming Wagner students offers "...a great opportunity for students to directly engage in the challenges of governing our vibrant and diverse city," according to David Bohnett, Chairman and Founder of the David Bohnett Foundation. The Fellowship provides full tuition support and summer stipends for three Bohnett Fellows per year. These students must be enrolled in either the Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program and express an explicit interest in working for municipal governments to solve our most urgent social issues. The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship also allows two fellows a terrific opportunity to intern at the highest level of NYC government. The third fellow gets to take on exciting work with the current President of the US Conference of Mayors, which has an ongoing partnership with Wagner.
Helped by Bill Cosby, artist frames the African American experience
"Manchild," by Alonzo Adams, features a young man seated on a pile of tires -- with books at his feet.
Alonzo Adams was working by day as a salesman for an electronics and appliance chain and taking art classes in the evening when he unwittingly planted the seeds of his commercial success and acclaim as a painter of the African American experience. Many of Adams' figurative works in oils will be on view throughout February at the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner. The exhibition, free to the public, commemorates Black History Month.
For Adams, the brief episode began one day in late 1980s when he suddenly suppressed his usual sales pitch and instead advised a kindly customer not to buy her selected merchandise at full price, nor pay for a service contract.
"We made our money getting people to buy this type of stuff and I had done all that," the artist said of the job he held after graduating from college. "But this particular woman reminded me so much of my mother, I just couldn't do it, my heart wouldn't let me. I called her back from the cash register aisle and explained how she could actually save a lot of money."
"I'm going to return the favor one day," the grateful customer said.
"Don't worry about it," Adams replied. "Just become a better shopper."
Six months later, the local newspaper in Adams' northern New Jersey community published the first article ever written about him, describing his artwork and ambition. His talent at the time lay in watercolor, a usually loose medium that he used with the technical precision of his earlier efforts in pencil. He told the reporter that African American art seemed destined to catch, since even popular TV programs like The Cosby Show were showing works in the background by black artists.
"The lady I helped at the store read the article and showed it to Mr. Cosby. It turned out that her son appeared as a guest actor on the show -- and she liked to go to the Astoria studio when the program was being taped," said Adams.
Cosby sent word to Adams, who was 26, to meet him at the studio and to bring along his watercolor "Amazing Grace," pictured with the newspaper article. Cosby looked it over and said "This is amazing," recalled Adams.
"What do you want to do with your life," the entertainer asked Adams.
"I want to be the best black artist in the world."
"Don't limit yourself to being the ‘best black artist in the world,' " Cosby suggested. "Try to become the best artist in the world."
Cosby said, "You're good but not great - you have potential." He offered to send the younger man to graduate school, saying, "Get in on your own merit to any school in the world, don't mention my name, and I'll pay for it," according to Adams.
Adams earned his MFA at the University of Pennsylvania, courtesy of Bill Cosby, "and my whole world opened up." It was Cosby who'd advised him to learn how to paint in oils because such paintings have greater longevity. Adams' ensuing portraits and landscapes --informed by his family history, his Harlem roots, Jazz, and contemporary urban life -- would be purchased by professional athletes, celebrities, CEOs, and corporate foundations. His studio and gallery are now located in Plainfield, N.J., where he lives in an early-19th century home with his wife and their two sons, 10 and 13.
The NYU Wagner exhibition of Alonzo's works will begin with an opening reception on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 5:30 p.m., for which RSVP is required. Entitled "Sienna Visions: Paintings by Alonzo Adams," the show is presented, together with Wagner, by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and cosponsored by Wagner's Black Student Alliance.
Adams lost his mother, Katie, with whom he was exceptionally close, last year. In one sense, the Gallery show marks his return "from the valley," as he put it.
"You've got to climb back up to that mountaintop and pull yourself back into your work again."
Bill Clinton counselor's latest assignment - teaching at Wagner
Politico.com's "Playbook," a roster of the latest DC news and happenings compiled by reporter Mike Allen, included the following item on January 19 about NYU Wagner's Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration Doug Band:
"ALUMNI NEWS: After conceiving and building the Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton counselor/consigliere/post-presidency architect Doug Band recently joined the NYU staff as an adjunct professor and will use his nearly 16 years working for the Clintons to teach a public service, policy and politics course (despite earning his master's and law degrees from Georgetown). Doug also serves on the international advisory board for Coca-Cola, and on the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Vote Vets boards, all while still running Clinton, Inc., helping heads of state around the world transition out of office, and raising his son Max, who recently turned one (and has started walking), with his wife Lily in NYC."
Professor Ospina Chosen as Co-Editor of Public Administration Journal
Professor Sonia M. Ospina will serve as a co-editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, a top-tier journal of public administration.
As the official journal of the Public Management Research Association, it serves as a bridge between public administration or public management scholarship and public policy studies. Having served as an active reviewer, Dr. Ospina will now be one of six co-editors shaping the articles submitted and selecting what is published.
Professor Ospina is Faculty Director of RCLA -- the Research Center for Leadership in Action.
2002 Alumnus Who Advised Newark Mayor Goes to Washington
After working for more than four years alongside Mayor Cory Booker to improve public education in the City of Newark, NYU Wagner alumnus De'Shawn Wright (MPA '02) has garnered an exciting new position in public service -- he has been named the new deputy mayor for education by Washington, D.C., Mayor-elect Vincent Gray. The Mayor-elect was quoted referring to Wright and another new appointee as "top-notch professionals" in policy and management for large and complex urban school systems.
Gray chose Wright, who formerly worked for the New York City Department of Education, on the strength partly of his school reform work in Newark, N.J. In addition, Wright served as a partner with the Newark Charter School Fund, which was successful in gathering support to help fund the city's charter schools.
Since graduating from Wagner, Wright has returned to Wagner on numerous occasions, including in 2009 for a public event with Mayor Booker. We wish him well as he begins his latest leadership position.
Former UK Prime Minister on the Promise of Globalization
Ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks about globalization, Dec. 14, 2010.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown participated in an engaging public discussion cosponsored by NYU Wagner on Dec. 14, 2010, describing what he sees as hopeful economic possibilities presented by globalization. Brown spoke before an audience composed largely of students, and was interviewed on the stage at Vanderbilt Hall by Robert M. Shrum, the renowned U.S. political consultant and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Introduced by NYU President John Sexton as the University's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence and "one of the great citizens of the world," Brown in turn hailed what he called NYU's "path-breaking" initiative as the first global network university.
During the discussion with Shrum and a question-and-answer session with the audience, the former prime minister focused on the prospects for growth in European, U.S., and African exports and employment that China's rapidly expanding economy may generate in the years ahead. In light of the 2008 financial meltdown, Brown also spoke of a pressing need for consistent rules and standards for responsible behavior by markets and governments worldwide. He also discussed his role in recognizing the necessity for his government and that of the U.S. to recapitalize tottering European banks as the meltdown was happening.
"We had capitalism without capital - the banks did not have enough capital," Brown said. Through his efforts and those of other world leaders, "we avoided what could have been a Great Depression." He stepped down as prime minister in May, 2010, after his Labour Party lost control of Parliament.
A current Member of Parliament, Brown was in New York to publicize his new book, "Beyond The Crash." Asked by an audience member about the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables, Brown said while American policy was predominantly shown to be honest, "there are certain parts that you'd question, certain parts nobody will like." He said he had suffered personal "embarrassments" from the release but then noted, "You've just got to accept that."
Afterward, the former prime minister signed copies of his new book, chatted with students about their programs of study, and posed for photographs. An article on the event published in the next day's New York Times described the reaction of one NYU Wagner student, who has lived in London. Patrizia Mancini commented: "I have to say that he seems like a different person. He's way more relaxed. As a politician, he would seem fake when he smiled, but now he seems so natural."
Professor Zhan Guo Wins Award for Best Paper
Dr. Zhan Guo, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Transportation Policy and Director of Research at the Rudin Center, has won the award for Best Transportation Paper, presented by the University Transportation Research Center, Region 2. Professor Guo's paper, "Does the Built Environment Affect the Utility of Walking? A Case of Path Choice in Downtown Boston," was published in Transportation Research D: Transport and Environment, Vol. 14 in 2009.
Assoc. Prof. Robertson Work Appointed to Fulbright Specialist Program Global Roster
Prof. Robertson Work facilitates global workshop on climate change in Brazil, 2009.
NYU Wagner Associate Professor Robertson Work was recently appointed to the global roster of the Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. Through FSP institutions of higher learning overseas can request Prof. Work's services with support of Fulbright. To date Prof. Work has received a request from a university in Nepal to design a leadership and management curriculum and from a poverty research center in Pakistan to help create a strategic organizational plan and rollout. Prof. Work teaches Innovative Leadership for Human Development at Wagner.
Conversation Starter: The WikiLeaks Document Flood
Professor John Gershman writes:
The recent WikiLeaks document dump and the associated reporting by several prominent newspapers have made many researchers enthusiastic and fanned the flames of hyperbole both on the part of WikiLeaks and its detractors. Both sides exaggerate the significance of the leaks, and the hyperbole obscures more significant issues.
The documents cover a period from 1966 to February 2010 from a range of embassies and personnel. The ones involving Iran and the Middle East garner the greatest attention, although most are unsurprising to anyone who follows the region. One less widely reported view is that of former National Security Council staffer Gary Sick, who argues that the documents indicate that the Obama administration has yet to seriously try an engagement strategy with Iran and that Washington has largely resisted the drumbeat for attacking Iran from its allies in the region.
The broader question is whether these kind of leaks lead to longer-term difficulties for the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy. To the extent those policies include the routine use of diplomats as spies, it will be a good thing if the leaks reduce those efforts.
But some ask: Will foreign leaders will be less willing to be forthright in their views and opinions if they think they will appear soon on the internet?
Short answer: probably not. CNN tweets that while calling another government to talk about the leaks, Secretary Clinton was told, "Don't worry about it, you should see what we say about you."
Others have asked: Will U.S. diplomatic personnel be less forthright about their own opinions or expressing the views of others in diplomatic cables.
Again: probably not. Perhaps the language will be less colorful.
Will the now ramped-up security measures for these and presumably other types of documents inhibit the kind of information sharing that was pointed to as missing prior to the 9/11 attacks. Short Answer: Possibly -- but getting the balance right takes time.
Finally, will the leaks will make some countries whose cooperation with the U.S. is unpopular at home retreat from their collaboration. Short Answer: Possibly in the short-term.
Don't Buy the Hype
But those may not be the most important dimensions of WikiLeaks' impact.
"Cablegate" - as the document dump has been dubbed -- is in some ways a form of celebrity shock journalism, the equivalent of a s speech by Bono on African poverty monopolizing press attention while the people who have been working in the trenches on these issues for decades get overlooked. Outfits like the National Security Archive, Open the Government, and freedominfo -- among many others -- slog away on a daily basis, working to hold officials accountable and do the nitty-gritty work required to make the Freedom of Information Act meaningful and governments around the world more open and accountable.
Cablegate has, in fact, sparked a valuable debate on the benefits and limits that transparency can and should play in foreign policy. This kind of debate will only strengthen our democratic institutions as we publicly debate and identify the benefits and risks associated with secrecy. For example, even Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame suggested that some things should remain secret, at least for a period of time. Recent experiences suggest that such a debate is an important and valuable one -- and that this is potentially a benefit that far outweighs the short-term risks to the conduct of foreign policy.
What's your opinion? Comment HERE.
"FolkloRican" Exhibit Draws Attention
"Iluminado" by Pepe Villegas
With "FolkloRican," the latest—and current—exhibit showing in the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner, renowned multi-media artist Pepe Villegas presents a 10-piece collection of oil paintings that delve into an intriguing archive of personal and cultural memories referencing his Puerto Rican upbringing. Ranging from striking representational and semi-representational portraiture to abstract and symbolism-rich canvases, this highly evocative and criollista sampling is deeply rooted in cultural pride, introspective contemplation, and national nostalgia.
"FolkloRican," which opened Nov. 17, 2010, and continues through January 31, 2011, commemorates Latino Heritage Month at New York University and is co-presented by NYU Wagner, the Latino Studies Program, the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and NYU Steinhardt. Curated by Wagner's Frank Crescioni-Santoni, the exhibition drew extensive coverage in New York City's El Diario newspaper (November 28, 2010).
Please note: the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner - at 295 Lafayette Street, 2nd Floor, will be closed Dec. 24th through Jan. 3rd. For more information, such as hours and directions, please call 212.998.7400.
Urban Design is a Matter of Public Health [Video]
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley was the keynoter at the "Speeding Summit" held at NYU Wagner on November 19, 2010 -- and he pledged a major new public health emphasis on urban design.
"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," said Dr. Farley. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "
The event, sponsored by the nonprofit group Transportation Alternatives, examined a proposal by cycling and other traffic safety advocates to reduce the side-street speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph, and was hosted by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU Wagner.
Furman Center Presents New Data on NYC Mortgage Lending
State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods 2009
The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint research center between NYU Wagner and NYU Law, recently released its fourth annual analysis of FFIEC’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, called Mortgage Lending in the Great Recession: HMDA 2009.
The analysis reflects several surprises in a tumultuous year. While home purchase mortgage lending declined throughout the recession, the study found that lending to low and moderate income home buyers increased in 2009, as did the number of new mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veteran’s Administration (VA). In 2009, 16 percent of New York City home purchase mortgages were FHA/VA-backed loans, compared to less than one percent of loans issued from 2005 to 2007.
The study also found, in contrast to home purchase lending, that mortgage refinancing increased substantially in 2009. The increase in refinancing activity, however, was not uniform across New York City’s different racial and ethnic communities. Black and Hispanic homeowners did not refinance at the same rates as white and Asian borrowers, which suggests that not all New York homeowners were equally able to take advantage of lower interest rates and reduce their monthly payments.
Impact of 2010 midterm elections debated at NYU Wagner [Audio]
Senior Fellow Shrum sizes up 2010 midterm elections with Prof. Kersh and National Review's Williamson.
The struggling economy offers the most basic explanation for why voters heavily rewarded Republican candidates at the polls in the 2010 midterm elections, two years after a very different set of results.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are likely to push through a series of targeted spending cuts over the next two years, but with little or no effect on the national deficit or overall government performance. And the Obama administration will be constrained as it navigates the partisan divide as well as stepped-up congressional subpoena activity.
These were the main points of agreement that emerged during a lively, hour-long discussion [audio] about the 2010 midterm elections on Nov. 8 at NYU Wagner. The forum featured National Review deputy managing editor Kevin Williamson, veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shrum, and Paul Light, a noted critic of the federal service.
Rogan Kersh, associate dean and professor at Wagner, moderated the discussion and question and answer session. The analyses of the historic election and its potential ramifications in policy and politics brought out dozens of students.
"Actually we've had three extraordinary national elections in a row - 2006, 2008, and 2010," began Bob Shrum, who teaches at Wagner. "In each case, they were a rebellion against the status quo, and they were a rebellion against two very different status quo's."
The panelists sought to make sense of it.
The 2010 midterms, said Williamson, do not represent a national mandate for Republicans, as conservatives "haven't done anything to earn back the trust they frittered away over the course of eight years during the Bush Administration."
What is more, the editor said, "there's always a danger that they're going to do something dumb, and I think that they're right on the cusp of doing it" -- such as maintaining federal spending levels at thigh levels while cutting taxes. The combination would only make a dangerously troubled economy even shakier, he said
Still, a bad economy would hardly be bad news for Republicans come the 2012 presidential election.
"Barack Obama would love it if unemployment were at 7 percent in 2012, but I think we're looking ahead to 11 percent unemployment, or even higher," said Williamson. "We are in for some rougher times than even those we've experienced economically, and there's no easy way out of it."
No easy way indeed, Shrum agreed.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure from Tea Party Republicans to deliver on this promise of a 'smaller government' and to achieve some of these cuts," Shrum said. "They'll succeed in some places, but overall we're not going to get to this dream, in part because there's not much reality behind the dream." For when Republicans begin selecting programs to cut - be they aid for education, or aircraft safety - a public backlash is likely to arise.
"We're headed for a train wreck on all sorts of things because the newly elected Republicans simultaneously want to extend the tax cuts and cut the deficit," Shrum warned. "It's what Ronald Reagan said he was going to do in the early 1990's. If Reagan, who I think was a masterful president, couldn't pull that off, then I don't think we are going to see it done very well here."
Light, a professor at Wagner, cautioned against another new flurry of "micro-oversight" of the federal government. He called instead for aggressive oversight of troubled agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, and, moreover, an overarching plan to create a productive, accountable and effective national government, a true overhaul that could save taxpayers $1 trillion over 10 years.
"It takes a lot to do that, and it would take a Democratic Party that actually steps up to the plate. President Obama has had virtually no interest in big-ticket federal reform; Republicans continue to argue for pay freezes, hiring freeze and pay cuts, which is small potatoes," said Light.
One audience member asked whether New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg could become president in 2012. Shrum replied that an Independent Bloomberg candidacy could be viable, but only in a three-way race in which the main Republican nominee had a polarizing effect -- and if the economy was still suffering.
"His claim to fame is being a billionaire and telling you how much salt to put on your French fries. I don't suppose that's going to be something that's going to catapult him to the White House," he said.