Sep. 27, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan
After Congresswoman Grace Meng drops her kids off at school on Monday mornings in Queens, and before boarding the train to Washington, D.C., she stops by NYU’s campus to teach a graduate level course on law making.
Meng, a six-term Congress member, was selected as NYU Wagner’s Distinguished Visiting Urbanist, a program started in 2016 and funded by the Rice Family Foundation. The first appointment was Sumila Gulyani, who has led global infrastructure and sustainability projects at The World Bank for close to two decades. More recent Urbanists include Linda Gibbs, former deputy mayor for NYC Health and Human Services, NY1 political anchor Errol Louis and former Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake.
At NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the curriculum centers public policy to solve urban challenges through programs that focus on urban planning, health administration and nonprofit management. Meng’s 1.5-credit course, for which she created the syllabus, is titled “Topics in Urban Studies: Policy Agenda Setting in an Increasingly Polarized World.”
“Call me “Urbanista!” School has started for me too!” the Congresswoman bantered on Twitter earlier this month alongside photos of her in a classroom clad with a NYU badge.
The intimate 12-person class covers how public servants engage with stakeholders during the decision making process of passing legislation. It will also cover the best practices to reach and impact historically underrepresented communities. As part of the position, Meng will also participate in public forums on policy, governance and politics with faculty and students.
“We are pleased to have the congresswoman with us for this academic year. She brings deep expertise and broad experience of lawmaking and policy making, enriching our students and faculty,” said Sherry Glied, the Dean of NYU Wagner.
During her time in Congress, Meng has passed a variety of legislation, including a law that banned the use of the outdated term “oriental” from federal law, made it mandatory for public housing to meet minimum heating requirements and fought for broadband and internet access for students across the country to close the homework gap. The wide range of experience in pushing pivotal legislation helped shape the structure of the course.
Now, on top of her duties as a Congress member representing Flushing, Bayside and Forest Hills, among other Queens neighborhoods, in Washington, Meng is grading assignments and discussing assigned readings with masters and PhD students.
“I thought it would be a fun way to connect with people and to share about my job and hopefully get more young people interested in public service,” Meng told QNS. “I was really excited to try it out. I’ve never done this before.”
She says that while the higher education students are all familiar with the legislative process through past coursework, she wanted to share more of the “behind the scenes activism” and “the stuff that you don’t necessarily learn about by reading a textbook.”
“It’s not so much about me lecturing, but trying to show and help them understand the real life application of laws and policies and how it affects people – and how people will affect policies,” Meng said.
And while this is Meng’s first time teaching in a classroom on any level, she mentioned that in high school, she wanted to be a teacher. This experience has allowed her to sample that role amidst her busy schedule.
In October, Meng will participate in Wagner’s public forum, “A Conversation with Rep. Grace Meng: A Fireside Chat on Reaching Underserved Communities through Public Service,” with students, alumni and faculty.
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio is also teaching a course at Wagner this fall titled, “Topics in Public Policy: How Policy Gets Made – Effective Strategies at the Intersection of Government and Politics.”