Special Event Celebrates 'Creative State' by NYU Wagner's Natasha Iskander
Craig Calhoun, Jorge Casteneda, Natasha Iskander and Ruth Milkman
About 100 people attended an informative discussion of NYU Wagner Assistant Professor of Public Policy Natasha Iskander's fascinating new book, Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico. The presentation was held September 27, marking the launch of the book.
As the evening's lively dialogue reflected, Prof. Iskander's work constitutes an essential resource for scholars and students interested in public policy, government and international development. Her account reveals the unexpected process of contestation and agreement that gave rise to successful policies by which national governments bring migrants into their banking systems, capture remittances for national development projects, and foster partnerships for the design and provision of infrastructure.
Wagner Dean Ellen Schall offered introductory remarks, noting that Professor Iskander's book "draws our attention to the murky, unruly ambiguity that is the prologue to policy innovation."
The author also greeted the standing-room-only audience, describing her wide-ranging, three-year journey of research, which included extensive interviews with migrants, policy planners, and government officials in several countries. She outlined her findings and potential areas for future research.
Craig Calhoun, a sociology professor at NYU and president of the Social Science Research Council, hailed the book as a significant achievement, terming it an inspiring "account of innovation in which the state is unpacked and opened up," and the evolution of what have come to be called best practices are compellingly portrayed.
Jorge Casteneda, global distinguished professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, weighed the book's implications against his experience as former Foreign Minister of Mexico and the Mexican government's attempts to gain a path to a legal foothold for millions of undocumented migrants in the U.S. Ruth Milkman, associate director of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies at CUNY, described the active role of immigrants in pushing for decent pay and working conditions in construction sites and factories here.
"Natasha's book shows how migrant workers are shaped by both the desire to get ahead economically, but also by political situations in the countries from which they are migrating," she said.
Suitably, the event concluded with a buffet of Mexican and Moroccan foods, and Professor Iskander inscribing copies of her book for the mingling guests.
UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg Leads NYU Wagner Town Hall Event
Nick Clegg, UK Deputy Prime Minister, conducts Wagner town hall event Sept. 22, 2010.
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic Party Leader in the United Kingdom, conducted a lively town hall meeting at New York University on September 22, sponsored by NYU Wagner and the University.
The lively, one-hour event drew more than 350 people, predominantly NYU students, to the Kimmel Center for University Life and its Eisner & Lubin auditorium.
Ellen Schall, dean of Wagner, delivered welcoming remarks about the European leader, who was the unexpected star of the national elections held in the UK in May. The Right Honourable Clegg, microphone in hand, outlined the sweep of history that has given rise to the coalition government in which he serves, led by the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron.
The Deputy Prime Minister spent the bulk of the hour fielding questions from the audience on topics ranging from his program for reducing the dole by waiving taxation for low wage workers, the unprecedented peacetime national deficit facing his country, and nuclear policy. His comments also took in the economy, political reform, and how and why liberals and conservatives can and should work together.
Discussion Marks 30th Anniversary of Award-Winning book on Public Service [Video]
First published in 1980, Street-Level Bureaucracy by Michael Lipsky is a critically acclaimed study of public service workers - be they teachers, nurses, police officers, or child protective caseworkers-and the ways that they wield discretion and influence over the day-to-day operation of government programs. Lipsky's path-breaking book explores the tensions among these front-line workers, their clients and their managers, and how those tensions shape the possibility of systemic reform.
On Thursday, September 16, NYU Wagner Dean Ellen Schall joined Lipsky, distinguished senior fellow with Demos, New York City Deputy Mayor for Human Services Linda Gibbs, and John Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, to reflect on the award-winning book - reprinted on its 30th anniversary - and to discuss current problems and creative solutions in reforming social services.
The need for effective health care, social services education, and law enforcement is as urgent as ever, three decades since the book's original publication by the Russell Sage Foundation.
Deputy Mayor Gibbs recalled her reform-oriented work at the Administration for Children's Services and the Department of Homeless Services of New York City, emphasizing the value of engaging with street-level staff, while Dean Schall, the Martin Cherkasky Professor of Health Policy & Management, discussed her years early in her career as a Legal Aid attorney, and her experiences with reform as the commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice for New York City. Along with Michael Lipsky, they explored the everyday tensions between rules and discretion that exist for front-line workers and managers.
All agreed that the desire to make a difference draws younger people, mid-career professionals and increasingly even retirees to careers and positions in public service, and that this motivation remains at least as powerful as it was 30 years ago.
"I would say what young people want is impact," Dean Schall said during the question-and-answer segment, which included involvement by several Wagner faculty and students in the audience. "There isn't a sector where you can have greater impact than the public sector."
Prof. Natasha Iskander writes 'Creative State' - new book on migration & development
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Natasha Iskander just published a new book called Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico.
At the turn of the 21st century, governments around the world began searching for ways to capitalize on emigration for economic growth, and they looked to nations that already had policies in place. Morocco and Mexico featured prominently as sources of “best practices” in this area.
In Creative State, Professor Iskander chronicles how these innovative policies emerged and evolved over 40 years and reveals how neither the governments nor their migrant constituencies ever predicted the ways the initiatives would fundamentally redefine nationhood, development and citizenship.
Learn more about this fascinating topic and RSVP for the book launch celebration.
Featured Case Study: Ellen Schall and the Department of Juvenile Justice
When Dean Ellen Schall was appointed commissioner of New York City’s Department of Juvenile Justice, she transformed the troubled agency into one that Harvard University and the Ford Foundation selected to win their prestigious Innovations Award. This iconic case study is featured on Electronic Hallway at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs
NYU Wagner Prof. Ingrid Gould Ellen co-edits new book: 'How to House the Homeless'
Homelessness is one of the most troubling and persistent social problems in the United States, yet experts can agree neither on its root causes nor on how to eradicate it. Is homelessness the result of individual life conditions, such as poverty, addiction, or mental illness, or is there simply not enough affordable housing? And which services are the most successful?
In "How to House the Homeless," editors Ingrid Gould Ellen and Brendan O'Flaherty propose that the answers entail rethinking how housing markets operate and developing more efficient interventions in existing service programs. The book, published by the Russell Sage Foundation, critically reassesses where we are now, analyzes the most promising policies and programs going forward, and offers a new agenda for future research.
Ingrid Ellen is a professor of public policy and urban planning at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a leading academic research center devoted to the public policy aspects of real estate, land use and housing. O'Flaherty is professor of economics at Columbia University. How to House the Homeless grew out of a joint NYU Furman Center/Columbia University Center for Homeless Prevention conference in November, 2008.
NYU Wagner EMPA student John White is quoted in the New York Times
John White is the deputy chancellor for talent, labor, and innovation at the New York City Department of Education. In the New York Times article, he talks about why fewer NYC public school teachers received tenure this year.
NYU Wagner Participates in Major NYU-Poly Graduate Program on Cyber Security
NYU Wagner Professor Rae Zimmerman is part of Polytechnic Institute of New York University's planning for the launch of a pathbreaking graduate education program to educate scientists and engineers to address the increasingly complex issues surrounding information security and privacy. A $1.079 million award from the National Science Foundation's flagship interdisciplinary training initiative, Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) funds the program for the initial two years.
Reaching beyond a solely technical approach, the program has enlisted faculty from NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, as well as faculty from CUNYs John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Called INSPIRE (Information Security and Privacy: An Interdisciplinary Research and Education Program) the program will address the shortage of scientists and engineers versed in the interplay between information security and economics, psychology, public policy and law. INSPIRE graduates -with students receiving degrees from NYU-Poly or NYU - will be able to apply their understanding of these fields to develop technology solutions attuned to an increasing dependency on trustworthy information sources.
"In the context of INSPIRE, faculty and doctoral students will address the balance between what is technologically feasible and what is acceptable within legal, political, economic and society constraints," noted Kurt Becker, NYU-Poly associate provost for research and technology initiatives.
Professor Zimmerman is director of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS) at NYU Wagner.
FAI's Virtual Conference on Reimagining Microfinance Around the World a Big Success
Read more about it and access the toolkit of resources.
Education Pioneers Taps Grad Students from NYU, Harvard and Other Leading Schools
Education Pioneers of Oakland, Calif., a network of education leaders and entrepreneurs, has announced the recruitment of a record number of applicants from top graduate programs across the country. Under a highly selective admissions process, approximately 300 graduate students out of nearly 2,500 applicants were chosen to participate in the 2010 Summer Graduate School Fellowship Program - an acceptance rate of just over 10 percent. The program includes a summer position with a leading education organization as well as peer support and rigorous training on the challenges of K-12 education.
The national non-profit organization mobilizes top graduate students and provides them with an opportunity to launch a career in education. Through its summer fellowship program, Education Pioneers prepares its Fellows to become leaders in the field through high-impact work experience, training, and access to a robust network in the public education sector.
Education Pioneers recruits select graduate students in business, policy, law, and education from top universities, including Harvard, New York University, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, and Stanford. Nearly 70 percent of the Fellows in the 2010 class have between three to six years of career and professional experience. Prior work experience includes major companies such as Google, McKinsey & Company, Harlem Children's Zone, Goldman Sachs, and Boeing. In addition, nearly 50 percent of Education Pioneers Fellows in the 2010 class are people of color.
The 2009-2010 Wagner Review is now online
The Wagner Review 2009-2010
Read the latest version of The Wagner Review, NYU Wagner's student-run academic journal, which showcases the critical thinking and collaborative innovation that typifies our students, future leaders in public service.
From conceiving alternatives to prostitution for sex workers in Latin America to untangling the politics of same-sex marriage in the U.S. to examining the implications of pedestrianizing New York's iconic Broadway, NYU Wagner students are at the forefront of social change as they tackle these and other pressing social issues.
Prof. Zimmerman Explores the Challenges of Climate Change for New York City
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has released a report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change that outlines the need for early and ongoing adaptation actions in New York City and identifies best practices in climate change adaptation planning. The report, "Climate Change Adaptation in New York City: Building a Risk Management Response," is one of the most comprehensive studies on climate change adaptation undertaken by a municipality and was published in the latest issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. NYU Wagner Professor Rae Zimmerman contributed to the report. The chapter that she prepared is as follows: R. Zimmerman and C. Faris, "Infrastructure Impacts and Adaptation Challenges," Chapter 4 in New York City Panel on Climate Change 2009 Report, Climate Change Adaptation in New York City: Building a Risk Management Response, C. Rosenzweig and W. Solecki, Eds. (Prepared for use by the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 1187. New York, NY, NY Academy of Sciences, 2010. ISBN 978-1-57331-800-6.) Dr. Zimmerman is Director of the Institute of Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS) at Wagner, and a professor of planning and public administration.
Join FAI for a Virtual Conference on Reimagining Microfinance around the World
On June 8 and 9, MicroSave and the Financial Access Initiative are hosting the virtual conference "Reimagining Microfinance around the World: Implementing Lessons from Portfolios of the Poor" to share their findings from more than of a year of in-depth research in Bangladesh, India and South Africa and discuss how use this research to create practical solutions for improving the lives of the poor. The virtual conference will be moderated by Portfolios of the Poor coauthors Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven, and MicroSave's Graham Wright. Find out more here.
NYU Wagners Lily Batchelder Named U.S. Senate Finance Committees Chief Tax Counsel
Lily Batchelder, who teaches at NYU Wagner, has been named Chief Tax Counsel for the Finance Committee of the United States Senate.
"I'm glad to welcome Lily back to the Senate Finance Committee's tax team," commented Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the panel, who named Batchelder to the position. "Lily's wide range of experience and expert knowledge of tax and public policy make her an invaluable advisor to the Finance Committee as we continue our efforts to create jobs, help small businesses grow, close the tax gap and explore tax reform.
In addition to her role as an Affiliated Faculty at Wagner, Batchelder currently serves as a Professor of Law and Public Policy at the New York University School of Law,and as an Affiliated Scholar with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Prior to that, she was an Assistant Professor and an Associate Professor at New York University School of Law and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. She has worked as a Tax Associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and conducted research as a Wiener Fellow at the Wiener Center on Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Batchelder has also worked in the New York State Government, as a social worker, as a law clerk for the Senate Finance Committee's tax office and for the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice. She has testified as a tax policy expert before the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Economic Committee.
A native of Brookline, Mass., Batchelder earned her J.D. from Yale Law School and a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Reynolds Foundation Fellows Mingle with Washington, D.C. Elite
Reynolds Fellows on the steps of the Supreme Court
From March 24 to 26, more than 70 outstanding Reynolds Foundation Fellows in Social Entrepeneurship from both New York University and Harvard University met in Washington, D.C. to exchange ideas with 30 leaders in government, business, and medical research.
The gathering marked the first Social Entrepreneurship Summit of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, and also included representatives of the other scholarship programs supported by the Foundation, as well as the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The Social Entrepreneurship Summit drew veterans of the last six presidential administrations, among them Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics; the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, General James L. Jones; Congressman John R. Lewis; Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU; labor leader Andy Stern; Carlyle Group Founder David Rubenstein; Pulitzer Prize recipients Rick Atkinson, Neil Sheehan and Donald Graham, Chairman of the Washington Post Company.
The Reynolds Fellows and other student delegates stayed at the historic Willard Hotel, just one block from the White House, and many of the Summit programs were held at the Willard, a center of Washington's social and political life since it first opened in 1818. On their first evening in Washington, the students were whisked to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States for an informal meeting with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Kennedy initiated a discussion of the Court's work and the constitutional issues it consider, and emphasized the importance of civil debate with a quotation from Justice John Marshall, "Rational discourse is the safeguard of freedom." The entire company remained at the Supreme Court for dinner with the Justices, where they heard welcoming remarks from Summit Host Catherine B. Reynolds.
The following morning, the Fellows met a series of exceptional speakers in the first symposium session of the Summit, held in an elegant and intimate meeting room of the Willard. The first speaker, Jacqueline Novogratz, is a prime example of the concept of social entrepreneurship. Founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, she has channeled philanthropic contributions into self-sustaining enterprises that provide essential services to some of the poorest people on earth. Ms. Novogratz illustrated her address with vivid anecdotes of her experiences, from Africa to South Asia.
The Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, engaged the Fellows in a passionate discussion of the importance of civil liberties in the atmosphere of heightened security prompted by the war on terror. He fielded students' questions.
The Summit also heard from the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, Sonal Shah. The Indian-born economist is President Obama's liaison to social entrepreneurs and the nonprofit sector. David Rubenstein, who served as a domestic policy aide to President Jimmy Carter before founding The Carlyle Group, the private equity firm with interests in every sector of the economy, emphasized the importance of building on one's early accomplishments, rather than resting on one's laurels. The final speaker of the morning was a member of President Obama's Cabinet, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
The discussion of finance and government continued over lunch at the Willard, where the Fellows heard from the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. A former president of Harvard, his alma mater, Summers delivered a summary of current national economic issues, as well as educational issue dear to his heart, the importance of the mathematical study of probability.
In the afternoon session, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, engaged in a lively discussion of the federal government's role in medical research. Dr. Collins, a pioneer of genetic medicine, is now responsible for allocating the $31 billion the government appropriates for health research. Dr. Fauci, long a leader in the struggle against HIV-AIDS, touched on the current state of this effort. Both men stressed the need for transparency in medical research, which they weighed against the privacy concerns that arise from the collection of genetic and medical data.
The physician scientists were followed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. As a young infantry officer in Vietnam, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gulf War, and as Secretary of State at the onset of current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, he has had a unique insight into the most crucial episodes of our history. A central figure in American foreign policy and national security for nearly 30 years, General Powell gave the Fellows the benefit of his incomparable perspective on world events, as well as that of his own inspiring life story.
Another participant with a unique insight into America's wars, past and present, was journalist and author Rick Atkinson. Recipient of multiple Pulitzer Prizes for reportage, and for his multi-volume account of the American army in World War II, he is also author of the most acclaimed account of the every day life of combat soldiers in Iraq.
Struggles of another kind were addressed by the last speaker of the afternoon, Andy Stern, President of America's fastest growing labor union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He received an enthusiastic reception for his discussion of SEIU's work on behalf of some of the least visible workers in the American economy, and of SEIU's influential role in the landmark health care legislation--the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--that had passed the House of Representatives the previous Sunday.
That evening, the Fellows traveled to Capitol Hill just as the Senate was preparing for a final reconciliation vote on amendments to the health care bill. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine received one group briefly in her office before taking to the Senate floor to cast her vote. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi received the other Fellows in his Capitol retreat, alongside the Senate floor, with a breathtaking view of the monuments. A number of Fellows watched history in the making from the Senators' private gallery as the reconciliation package received the approval of the Senate and was sent to the White House for the President's signature, the last act in a political drama that had consumed Washington for more than a year.
The Fellows had dinner in the Mike Mansfield Room, adjacent to the floor of the House of Representatives, where they were met by someone familiar to the Reynolds Fellows from Harvard's Kennedy School: David Gergen, former advisor to four U.S. Presidents and now the Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School. Mr. Gergen introduced three prominent members of the House of Representatives--Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Dingell of Michigan and John R. Lewis of Georgia--and asked them to share the stories of their own life journeys. The distinguished legislators obliged.
The third Congressman to speak was an American hero--and living legend of the Civil Rights Movement--John R. Lewis. In powerful words, he recalled the rise of the nonviolent protest movement--the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides--and the harassment, arrests and physical attacks he and his comrades stoically endured, including the near-fatal beating he received leading a voting rights march across the bridge in Selma, Alabama. That he has now served more than 20 years in Congress, representing constituents who were long denied the right to vote, is a testament to the vitality of American democracy, and a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy were purchased by countless acts of courage, like those of Rep. Lewis.
After dinner, the party was joined by a surprise guest, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, fresh from her legislative victory in the protracted health care debate. The Speaker was received with an emotional ovation from the Summit Fellows, conscious of the momentous nature of the occasion. She offered thanks to President Obama for his tenacity in the long campaign, and recalled a lesson taught by her father, himself a Congressman and Mayor of Baltimore. Many things are valued in the political process, he told her, but in the end, only one thing determines success or failure. "Get the votes," she said, beaming. "And this time, I got the votes."
Returning to the Willard after dinner, the assembly heard from writers with profound insight into two agonizing chapters of American history. Jay Winik, the acclaimed author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America, discussed the enduring legacy of President Abraham Lincoln's leadership during the Civil War. Neil Sheehan first won recognition as a courageous Vietnam War correspondent and later received the Pulitzer Prize for A Bright Shining Lie, one of the most lasting books to emerge from that conflict. Sheehan discussed the tragic complexities of America's involvement in Vietnam, and the lingering effect of the war on our country today.
Additional presentations on Friday were made by: Donald Graham, Chairman of the Washington Post Company, which also publishes Newsweek and Slate; former Mayor of Indianapolis, Steven Goldsmith, now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School; Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the D.C. schools, who began her career as a young leader of the Teach for America program; and Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of AHIP--America's Health Insurance Plans.
For Friday's luncheon the assembly moved to historic Blair House. Known as the President's Guest House, this mansion, originally built in 1824, has welcomed foreign heads of state since its acquisition by the federal government during World War II. Its splendid interior is rarely seen by the general public, but the Summit Fellows were treated to a rare tour of its spacious rooms and tranquil courtyard. At Blair House, the Fellows received a summary of defense issues from the President's National Security Advisor, General James L. Jones.
The national security theme was developed further as the company was taken on a bus trip to Langley, Virginia, and the offices of the Central Intelligence Agency, where the Fellows received a tour and briefing, followed by a visit with one of America's most respected public servants, CIA Director Leon Panetta. A former U.S. Congressman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Chief of Staff to President Clinton, Panetta helped dispel some of the aura of mystery surrounding the nation's intelligence services.
At the end of the long day, the Summit participants returned to the Willard Hotel for a reception in the Crystal Room and a final dinner in the elegant Willard Room. Over dinner, David Gergen introduced a series of speakers drawn from the ranks of the Reynolds Fellows, and from the other programs that enjoy the support of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
The administrative home of the NYU Reynolds Program is the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. The current class of 36 Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellows at New York University were represented at the Summit by Magogodi Makhene. Ms. Makhene grew up in Soweto, South Africa during the last years of apartheid. As a Reynolds Graduate Fellow at New York University's Gallatin School, she is studying the use of private equity and venture capital as vehicles for economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. The final speaker of the Summit, Cesar Francia, grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. He studied International Politics as a Reynolds Fellow at New York University and he will soon be returning to NYU to earn a Master's in Public Administration. He is currently serving as a full-time aide in the office of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
NYU Wagner Showcases Students' 2009-10 Capstone Projects
The Captone Program: End Event, May 5, 2010
The Capstone Program -- learning in action -- is a crowning achievement in the life of every NYU Wagner student. On May 5th, members of 76 student teams displayed their advanced consulting work for urban, national, and global organizations at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan. Hundreds of visitors to this dynamic Capstone End Event learned about the teams' analyses, field work, and advice covering such critical areas as New York City recruitment of female firefighters, a major hospital's geriatric services, the landmarking policies of small and large cities, and the progress and opportunity for growth in international governance on climate change.
Focus on Faculty: Zhan Guo, Assistant Professor, Urban Planning & Transportation
Zhan Guo, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Transportation
Zhan Guo joined the Wagner faculty in August, 2008, as an assistant professor of urban policy and transportation planning, and a research fellow at the Rudin Center for Transportation and Planning. Zhan decided that he wanted to pursue a career in academia while in graduate school. "Before that I thought maybe I wanted to do something industry-related, but when I was in graduate school, I figured out academics and research is probably the best fit for me and my personality."
What are your current research projects?
I'm doing research on people's travel behaviors with the goal of encouraging them to use cars less and to use more sustainable, alternative travel modes such as public transit, bicycles, or walking more. I'm interested in how we can change peoples' behaviors to promote transportation sustainability and reduce car dependency, pollution, carbon emission, and congestion, and to improve health and safety. Under this umbrella, I'm working on several different topics.
I'm studying how the pedestrian environment in Boston affects peoples' walking behavior. How much people like or dislike walking is very much determined by how good the pedestrian environment is, so I want to measure that impact and figure out how to improve the "walkable environment."
In NYC, I'm looking at how the residential parking supply affects the decision whether or not to have a car in the city, and if you have a car, whether or not to use it. For example, if you have only on-street parking available, you may not want to use your car a lot because once you leave your spot, it's hard to find another one. But if you have a garage, maybe that's not so important to you. So the parking supply affects whether or not you use a car and how many cars you have.
I'm also researching a particular transportation-financing mechanism. For example, right now we have a gas tax. Some people argue that the gas tax will be gone in 15-20 years because of more fuel-efficient and electronic vehicles. What if we went to a mileage-based fee and charged people based on the distance they drive and not on the gas consumed? How would that affect peoples' behavior and travel decisions?
I just finished a project on how the transit map affects peoples' travel decisions on public transit in London. The way in which you see the transit map will affect which line you decide to take. However, the map can distort reality and give you wrong message if, for instance, the pass is actually longer in reality and shorter on map. Interestingly, I found that people trust the map more than their own experience.
How did you become interested in studying transportation and land use, public transit, and pedestrian behavior?
I was trained as a designer in college and grad school-I have a bachelor in architecture from Tianjin University (Tianjin, China), and master in urban planning and design from Tsinghua University in Beijing-and all my research is on urban-oriented issues. Much of my research looks at the physical environment and how policy and infrastructure regulate and affect the physical environment.
This summer, you're teaching a class in Shanghai called Urbanization and Sustainable Development in a Transitional Economy: Experiencing China. Can you tell me about it?
I teach urban planning primarily in a U.S. context. The situation is so different in China that it's good to have a comparative perspective. The idea is that the metro areas in China are the biggest labs on urban development. You see all kinds of urban issues that are different than in the U.S. The first issue is rapid urbanization. Within 15-20 years, more than 200,000,000 people (almost 2/3 the population of the U.S.) will move from rural areas to urban areas in China.
The second factor is rapid economic growth: eight, nine or even 10% GDP growth per year for the last 30 years, which will probably continue for the next 20-30 years. That's compared to one or two percent yearly growth in the States. With that type of growth, everything changes very fast. For example, five to 10 years ago, just a very minor portion of people in China owned a car. Now China is the number one auto producer and consumer in the world.
The third factor is institutional transition. Thirty years ago, China had a very centralized economy, but it has rapidly transitioned to a market econony, albeit with no regulations, unions, or labor laws, due to the communist political system that's still in power.
What is the best part about working at Wagner?
From faculty research point-of-view, this is a very interdisciplinary school, and my research into peoples' travel behavior is also interdisciplinary: we are talking about economic leverage, urban planning, transportation infrastructure, psychology, and the social and societal influence. I like that I can reach out to different colleagues to help me refine my thinking from different prospectives. It's a great help to my research.
From a practical point-of-view, the environment of New York City is a good fit for my research, which is tied to empirical analysis. I look at parking behavior and policy, so if I want to talk to decision-makers at the DCP (City Department of Planning) and the DOT (City Department of Transportation), I can. It's a good environment to help me reach my academic goals.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Staying connected to colleagues in the planning academic community, since Wagner's is a small planning program in a school of public policy and management, and most planning programs are in planning schools.
What's the best thing about living in New York?
The public transportation and parking.
Look Hard at Legacy of 'Heroic Leadership,' urges RCLA executive director
Bethany Godsoe, executive director of NYU Wagner's Research Center on Leadership and Action, examines what she calls the "bravado of heroic leadership," and its troubling legacy, in an essay inspired by her participation in the National Urban Fellows' "Call to Action Summit on Diversity" held Apr. 21 in Washington, D.C.
NYU Wagner's Paul Light Launches 'Light on Leadership' Blog In The Washington Post
Professor Paul Light has launched a new blog for the Washington Post entitled "Light on Leadership: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom with NYU Wagner's Paul Light." Light's online commentary on the national government will appear every Thursday on the newspaper's website. His debut column April 15, 2010, "Slimming the Federal Leadership" -- coauthored by Russ Feingold, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin and member of the Senate Budget Committee -- drew more than 300,000 hits.
His second column (Apr. 22, 2010) focuses on CEO compensation levels at nonprofit organizations. His latest (June 3, 2010), looks at what President Obama can learn from the oil spill debacle.
Professor Light is NYU Wagner's Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service and founding principal investigator of the school's Organizational Performance Initiative.
Campaign for High Performance Government Established
Drawing upon decades of experience, leaders in public service have announced their intent to establish the Campaign for High Performance Government, a non partisan working group to encourage urgently needed reform of the federal government's administrative practices.
Economist and former chair of two national commissions on public service reform, Paul A. Volcker made the announcement at the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) as part of the Elliot Richardson Lecture series.
"We must place public service reform squarely on the federal agenda. Too much of what government achieves is at risk without wide-ranging changes to improve performance and restore trust."
Funded by a grant from the sponsor of The Truman Medal for Economic Policy and supported in part by The Robertson Foundation for Government, and the NYU/Abu Dhabi Center for Global Public Service and Social Impact, the Campaign for High Performance Government is designed to re-introduce Congress and the Administration to well documented reform proposals, including those in the two earlier reports of the National Commission on Public Service, both of which were chaired by Paul A. Volcker.
The Campaign for High Performance Government will address the continued erosion of the federal government's capacity to faithfully execute the laws. Its goal is to reverse what the first Volcker Commission called the "profound erosion of public trust." Recently, the Gallup poll found that Americans now estimate that 50 cents of every federal dollar is wasted, a reflection of the erosion of confidence in the ability of government to perform efficiently and ably.
The Campaign for High Performance Government will be anchored at NYU's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. It will focus on identifying strategies for urgently needed action and analysis for the reform effort.
According to the Campaign director, Paul C. Light, NYU Wagner School of Public Service Professor, Robertson Foundation for Government Advisory Board member, and founding director the new NYU/Abu Dhabi Center for Global Public Service and Social Impact, "Well publicized breakdowns in the federal bureaucracy, whether in managing national security, in contracting practices, or in unwarranted political influence are symptoms of the government wide need to achieve reliable high performance."
The campaign will focus on a series of previous proposals including:
-- Reform of the excessively time consuming presidential appointments process
-- Need to reduce duplication and overlap across federal agencies
-- Civil Service changes in recruitment, training, retaining and deployment
As Light noted, "We need the right federal employees in the right place at the right time with enough resources to deliver on the promises we make today."
The Campaign for High Performance Government will start its work to translate the specific recommendations into action with support for Senators Feingold and McCain's legislation to reduce the number of presidential appointees, and restore the president's fast-track reorganization authority that expired in 1984.
The former Chairman of the Federal Reserve noted that the Obama Administration has signaled its support for federal government reform.
"The Administration is working to make government more transparent, examine contract fraud, and improve the hiring process. But much more needs to be done."
According to Volcker, this is a particularly important time to push forward on public service excellence.
"Public demand for results is high, but confidence remains low; interest in public service of all kinds is clear, but service in federal agencies remains a questioned destination at both the top and bottom of the hierarchy; the need for a high performance government is undeniable, but seems just out of reach when crisis strikes." Speaking of the need for immediate action, he concluded that "A great society deserves no less."
Paul A. Volcker's full remarks can be found here.