NYU Wagner congratulates the Class of 2009, and celebrates Convocation at BAM

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."


NYU Wagner Participates in Major NYU-Poly Graduate Program on Cyber Security

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.


NYU Wagner Researchers Join 2014 ACSP Annual Conference

NYU Wagner Researchers Join 2014 ACSP Annual Conference

A number of  NYU Wagner scholars will deliver research presentations and participate in panel discussions at the 2014 annual conference of The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) from October 30 to November 2 in Philadelphia, PA. In part, NYU Wagner’s participation will include discussions about: “Crime and Neighborhood Change” (Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen); “Transportation Issues in China” (Professor Zhan Guo); and “Extreme Events and Transportation Planning for the Poor” (Professor Rae Zimmerman).

NYU Wagner, School of Medicine Pinpoint Asthma Dangers in the South Bronx

NYU Wagner, School of Medicine Pinpoint Asthma Dangers in the South Bronx

The South Bronx has large volumes of heavy-vehicle traffic and is afflicted with very high asthma rates. Research by faculty members at the NYU School of Medicine and by NYU Wagner�s Professor Rae Zimmerman and Research Scientists Carlos Restrepo and Zvia S. Naphtali � all of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems � are pinpointing key factors associated with asthma�s unusually high prevalence. Among them: particulates in truck diesel soot and past land use decisions that put a preponderance of schools near major highways.

Obama administration officials eye public-private partnering

Obama administration officials eye public-private partnering

The public and private sectors are becoming interdependent through technology, globalization, and shared services and customers. Yet historically there has been a significant divide between the public and private sectors--with causes spanning from cultural attitudes to legal and political impediments. How can we advance partnerships in the arena of critical infrastructure?

On March 21, two officials from the Obama administration talked about key avenues to greater public-private partnerships in infrastructure protection and overall catastrophe preparedness. The occasion was a forum at NYU Wagner, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Douglas Smith, assistant secretary for the private sector, and Todd M. Keil, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection.

Offering reaction to the officials' comments were respondents Carl Weisbrod, partner in the leading policy, economic development and planning consulting firm HR&A, and Wagner professors John Gershman and Rae Zimmerman. The moderator was William Raisch, Director, International Center for Enterprise Preparedness at NYU.


Prof. Rae Zimmerman chosen to participate in Urban Infrastructure and Extreme Weather Related Events Study

Prof. Rae Zimmerman chosen to participate in Urban Infrastructure and Extreme Weather Related Events Study

Rae Zimmerman, Professor of Planning and Public Administration at NYU Wagner, has been selected to participate in a multi-disciplinary team of about 50 researchers from 15 universities plus other institutions. The team, led by Arizona State University, will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years.

Collectively, the team is called the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN). In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the “social, ecological, and technical systems” to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies. As part of the team, Professor Zimmerman will contribute to the integration of social systems, ecology and technology across infrastructures and their interconnections in urban contexts.

“Urban areas are vulnerable to extreme weather related events given their location, high concentration of people, and increasingly complex and interdependent infrastructure,” according to the NSF grant summary.

“Impacts of Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and other disasters demonstrate not just failures in built infrastructure, they highlight the inadequacy of institutions, resources, and information systems to prepare for and respond to events of this magnitude. The highly interdisciplinary and geographically dispersed Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN) team will develop a diverse suite of new methods and tools to assess how infrastructure can be more resilient, provide ecosystem services, improve social well-being, and exploit new technologies in ways that benefit all segments of urban populations,” according to the NSF summary.

Zimmerman is Director of NYU Wagner's Institute for Civil Instrastructure Systems.


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