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Local Lessons, Global Applications

The world’s urban population surpassed its rural population in 2010, and the trend toward urbanization continues unabated on every continent. As a result, the challenges of cities and the people who live there are growing concerns for policymakers around the globe. SIPA, too, is devoting increased attention to the challenges and opportunities that are particular to cities, and to the social policies that increase access to economic opportunity, and manage economic and social risk, for all world citizens.

New Chairs

Dean Janow has welcomed talented, diverse scholars who help train SIPA students to take on the challenges of our hometown and other urban places, and consider how to create and implement effective social policy for an increasingly diverse nation.


In 2016 SIPA inaugurated the David N. Dinkins Professorship of Professional Practice in Urban and Public Affairs. The chair honors Dinkins, who was New York City’s first African-American mayor and went on to serve as a professor of professional practice at SIPA from 1994 until his death in 2020. The chair is reserved for an individual with a distinguished record of public service in urban affairs who embodies Dinkins’s values and vision.

In December 2020 SIPA joined Columbia Law School to establish the William S. Beinecke Visiting Professorship, which supports a scholar or practitioner with a focus on public policy. The Beinecke chair memorializes the late William S. Beinecke, a 1940 graduate of Columbia Law School, and his commitment to social responsibility. In 2021 Attorney General Letitia James of New York State, who before becoming AG spent 15 years as an elected official in New York City, became the first Beinecke Professor, teaching a course on policing and policy.


New Faculty


Michael A. Nutter


Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

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Sandra Black

Michael A. Nutter, who served two terms as mayor of Philadelphia, was named as the first Dinkins Professor in April 2016. Nutter had joined the faculty earlier that semester, shortly after leaving office. Nutter served as mayor of what was then the nation’s fifth largest city from January 2008 to January 2016, and as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2012 to 2013. During his time in office, he was widely recognized as a reformer, leading changes in policing, economic development, taxation, sustainability policy, and other areas. In 2014, Nutter was named as one of Governing magazine’s Public Officials of the Year; in 2011, Esquire magazine cited him among its Americans of the Year. During Nutter’s mayoralty, Philadelphia’s city government received more than 150 awards for innovative programs, good government practices, and general excellence.


Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, who joined SIPA in fall 2016,  studies the political economy of the United States, with an emphasis on the politics of organized interests and public policy. In recent work, Hertel-Fernandez has examined the strategies that businesses have developed to lobby across the states, the ways that wealthy individuals are intervening in politics and their effect on the U.S. political terrain, and the politics of social programs, including unemployment insurance and Medicaid. His most recent book, State Capture (Oxford 2019), examines how conservative political mobilization across states over several decades transformed state policy and politics. His previous book, Politics at Work (Oxford 2018), examined how American businesses are increasingly recruiting their workers into politics and how that practice is shaping American politics and policy. Hertel-Fernandez is on public-service leave through December 2022, having joined the U.S. Department of Labor as chief evaluation officer. The role involves overseeing a research and evaluation team in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy.


Sandra Black, an accomplished labor economist, joined SIPA in fall 2019 as a professor of international and public affairs (with a joint appointment in the Department of Economics). Black was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers for the final 18 months of President Barack Obama’s second term and has been a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where she worked as a staff economist early in her career. Her research focuses on the role of early life experiences on the long-run outcomes of children, as well as issues of gender and discrimination. She is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a research affiliate at IZA, and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution. Black joined SIPA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she had held an endowed chair, and was from 2001 to 2010 a faculty member at UCLA, where she was recognized twice for distinguished teaching.

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