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Shaping the Global Urban Future

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen
Director of the Graduate Program in International Affairs
The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy
The New School for Public Engagement

 

What was the impetus behind the development of The Milano School’s new specialization in Global Urban Futures?

For the first time in history, most of the world’s inhabitants live in cities. Urban centers are where change is happening: in the economy, finance, technology, culture, and the environment. It’s crucial for policymakers, citizens, and communities to understand how these rapid and unprecedented transformations are linked together and how they can be shaped and managed to improve the welfare of communities, cities, and nations.

I have worked in cities in fifty-five countries myself, and what I’m hearing from our students about their work in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Kampala, and Cape Town is what I’ve also found: that urban issues are more pressing and increasingly complicated to address. Effective solutions require multi-disciplinary approaches.

What’s your elevator pitch for this new area of specialization?

I’d say that we’re preparing practitioners to read cities and
to participate in the design and leadership of the urban future. If it’s a longer elevator ride, I’d add that our students analyze how global factors interact with local environments, actors, and institutions to produce new urban forms, policies, behaviors, problems, and opportunities. They need to be able to use rigorous methods to interpret patterns of change.

Is this a new approach to tackling complex global issues?

This is one of the first graduate academic specializations that brings together the urban experience of the United States with that of the rest of the world, combining theory and practice with fieldwork in New York and other American cities as well as cities in developing countries.

Milano is training practitioners to strengthen their understanding of possibilities for innovative change—and we know that we’ll come up with better solutions if we work in teams of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. We are already doing so in our Design and Development Program together with Chulalongkorn
University in Bangkok and the University of Buenos Aires.

What different disciplines are involved?

We draw on the unique strengths of more than twenty fulltime faculty members from economics, urban planning, urban studies, public finance, political science, anthropology, sociology, architecture, urban history, environmental sciences, and community development. We’re looking at the big picture, so that means urbanization in relation to globalization, climate change, the global and national economies, and media, technology, and culture. The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy is part of The New School, one of the few universities in the world where there is an active conversation and debate going on between design, the social sciences, and history. Along with the Graduate Program in International Affairs, Milano offers graduate programs in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management, Leadership and Change, Nonprofit Management, Organizational Change Management, Organizational Development, and Sustainability Strategies.

What career paths are open to your graduates?

Milano graduates work in government, nongovernmental organizations, and in the private sector. They are on the cutting edge of creative practice, evaluating projects in cities, working with technology to democratize information about cities, and helping to motivate greater public engagement.

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