The heart of NYU Wagner's programs is our faculty. An amalgam of full-time, clinical/research/visiting, and adjunct professors, they are outstanding teachers, expert researchers and committed practitioners.
Jonathan Morduch, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at NYU Wagner, participated in January, 2009, on the jury that awarded a new global prize for contributions to international development. The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, worth 400,000 euros ($526,000), was given to the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The 2009 award from the foundation arm of the major global bank recognizes efforts to promote randomized evaluations of health, education, and finance interventions.
Shafiqual Chowdhury, the founder of ASA, the world's #1 ranked microfinance institution according to Forbes magazine, visited NYU Wagner on October 22, 2008, to share perspectives with students. In his remarks, Chowdhury argued for maintaining a relentless focus on efficiency: by being as efficient as possible in delivering services, costs can come down and profits go up. Only with profits, Chowdhury argued, is massive scale possible. ASA now provides financial services to 7 million low-income women in Bangladesh, and recently closed a $150 million fund to expand their model elsewhere in Asia.
"ASA's story challenges decades of thinking about strategies to achieve economic and social development," writes Jonathan Morduch, professor at NYU Wagner and Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative, in the foreword to a new book on ASA (The Pledge: ASA, Peasant Politics, and Microfinance in the Development of Bangladesh by Stuart Rutherford, forthcoming in 2009 from Oxford University Press). By transforming from an NGO focused on grassroots political change into a financial institution, Morduch argues, ASA's history forces observers to "contemplate what has been gained and lost. What has been possible and what was perhaps utopian, ill-advised, and presumptuous."
The event was organized by the NYU Microfinance Initiative and supported by the Financial Access Initiative.
"The events of the last few days," New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. began in an appearance September 17 at NYU Wagner, "have been astonishing."
Speaking at a morning briefing co-sponsored by the Wagner School of Public Service and the Citizens Union, Thompson said that New York City can ride out rough turbulence affecting the economy with the same resolve and resiliency it showed more than 30 years ago during a brush with municipal bankruptcy, and in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
"With every downturn New Yorkers have encountered, our city has rebounded stronger than before," the two-term comptroller said at the briefing session co-sponsored by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Citizens Union. "That is the spirit of New York. We are fighters. We are resilient. We are innovators."
Thompson spoke only hours after the Federal Reserve had worked out an unparalleled $85 billion rescue of American International Group, the latest dramatic development in the financial crisis involving mortgage-related assets. "Uncertainty is in the air," he said.
In his hour-long talk, Thompson sought to ensure city retirees and others that the city's pension funds are secure and are cushioned against by ups and downs in the financial markets.
"As Comptroller," he said, "I'm the chief investment adviser to our city's pension plans, and it's important to me to assure the retirees that the pensions are safe and secure. We've been reducing our exposure to risk by diversifying our portfolio beyond stocks and bonds. This approach is helping us weather these tough times better than we would have ever before."
Thompson also underscored his opposition to an effort by the City Council to extend, from two to three, the number of terms that a city official can serve. Thompson is contemplating a run for mayor next year to succeed Michael Bloomberg.
"The people have said that there are two terms," he said. "To undermine their will, to do an end-run around democracy is just wrong."
The breakfast briefing was part of an NYU Wagner/Citizens Union series that will pick up again on October 7 with a visit by Eric Gioia, two-term member of the City Council from Woodside, Queens.
On November 12, Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, who is also looking to succeed Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, will be the featured guest of the breakfast series.
Last spring, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and John Liu, councilman from Flushing, Queens, who is a prospective candidate for the public advocate's post, also appeared at Wagner as part of the series.