Our History

From the very beginning, NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service has always been about preparing people to serve the needs of others. We trace our roots back to 1938 when NYU—in response to overfilled public service-oriented classes–offered its first Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. 

Robert F. Wagner
Robert F. Wagner (middle), Mayor of New York City from 1953 to 1965

Even after the US pulled out of the Depression, the demand for an interdisciplinary, skills-based approach to public service education continued to grow. In 1953, NYU created a stand-alone school—the School for Public Service and Social Work—which advanced the careers of public servants by teaching them to apply social science theory to public policy management in an urban setting. At the same time, New York City’s Mayor, Robert F. Wagner, was working tirelessly to improve the lives of New Yorkers. He built public housing and schools. He established the right for city employees to collectively bargain. He made housing discrimination based on race, creed, or color illegal. In 1989, NYU renamed the School in honor of Mayor Wagner. 

Today, NYU Wagner is a top-ranked school, providing Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Public Policy, and Executive and Doctoral degrees, in addition to our original MPA degree. While our impact has expanded far beyond New York City to cities worldwide, we remain driven by our mission to prepare public service leaders to translate ideas into actions that have an effective and lasting impact on the public good. Our faculty’s research changes the way people frame, understand, and act on important public issues. We provide our students with critical skills, access to all that New York City has to offer, and a deep understanding of context surrounding public service challenges—which they use to improve cities and communities across the globe.

The Puck Building, home of NYU Wagner