More in Flatiron Faces

David Birdsell, Marxe Dean and Professor at Baruch College's Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is pleased to introduce David Birdsell, Marxe Dean and Professor at Baruch College's Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. "The students are enormously talented and their stories are compelling," says Birdsell, a 30-year member of Baruch's faculty. "I’ve never worked with more deserving, inspiring people in my life." A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Birdsell, who is also a go-to media expert on political communication, holds a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Speech Communication from the University of Virginia, in addition to a Ph.D. in Public Communication from the University of Maryland.

1. Briefly describe your roles as Marxe Dean and Professor.

As Dean, I’m responsible for hiring and retaining a world-class faculty, making sure that we have the right recruitment strategies in place to attract the most talented, diverse students, shepherding the development of our degree programs, and nurturing relationships with our many partners locally and around the globe. Our new name and the resources that come with it provide many new opportunities in these areas and more. Baruch has always been about propelling opportunity, and we now do more to achieve that mission than ever before. I’m focused on my role as Dean, but I’m a Professor, too! And though I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to in the classroom, I very much enjoy working with our Executive MPA students on Saturdays.

2. You were instrumental in the School's creation and opening in 1994. It now ranks as one of the top public higher education institutions in the nation and New York City's only public graduate school dedicated to public affairs. What do you consider your greatest professional and personal achievement with these accomplishments? 

We’ve had a civic administration program at Baruch since the campus was founded in 1919, but it was always tucked into other programs. What changed in 1994 was opening as an independent school, which has allowed us to focus attention and resources on preparing people for leadership in public service, not only in government per se, but in nonprofits, hospitals, and educational institutions as well. I’m most proud of our graduates, who do great things that make this city and others better every day. We’ve also more than quintupled the size of the School since 1994 and built an outstanding faculty, a terrific group of scholars and practitioners who are keenly interested in making sure that their work contributes to building better lives through the thoughtful development, implementation and evaluation of sound public policy. The program has a role in international leadership, too, with faculty occupying board seats on all of the academic organizations central to the work we do. As of October 21st, I became President of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, which has a twofold mission to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service. And we have done all of this while continuing to lead the nation in the diversity of our student body. That’s something we never want to give up.

3. This year also marks your 30th anniversary as a Baruch faculty member. What do you love about being part of this college community?

Baruch changes lives, period. The students are enormously talented and their stories are compelling; I’ve never worked with more deserving, inspiring people in my life. I’ve had many roles at Baruch, but the one constant is a student body that makes me proud every single day.

4. It was just announced that your School will receive a $30 million donation, one of the largest contributions ever, to aid in expanding faculty and scholarship opportunities. As the School's Dean and a Professor, what are your thoughts on the School receiving such a generous gift?

Austin W. Marxe’s extraordinary gift–we have been renamed in his honor–is truly transformational. We will be able to create new endowed professorships, more than double our levels of scholarship support, provide seed money for important research projects, bring outstanding speakers to the campus for our students and community residents, and support our students studying off-campus, both abroad and in Washington, D.C. The gift also makes us more visible to partners, employers, and other universities around the world. It’s a time for building and creating opportunities for all of our constituencies.

5. With today’s rapid 24/7 news cycle, what’s your favorite medium for consuming news?

I’m glued to my iPad first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. In terms of content, I go straight to certain sites, but also rely heavily on aggregators such as City & State’s "First Read," RealClearPolitics, or The Washington Post’s terrific "Daily 202."

6. When you are looking for an off-campus lunch, where do you like to eat in the neighborhood? What's your favorite dish there?

I usually don’t have time to get lunch off-campus; I get something to take back to the desk, often from Lamarca. But when I have the chance, you’ll find me at Novita parked in front of a plate of its outstanding Inslata di Calamari.

7. What do you recommend to students, faculty, and visitors to the community as a "must-see” or “must-do" destination?

I always take them on Baruch College and Gramercy Park tours, and send them off to the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park on their own. People love it!

8. What do you like most about this area?

The area’s architecture is so varied and rich, but without the gargantuan scale of Midtown. The plazas and outdoor markets have created a vibrant sense of place and new, flexible destinations.

9. What's your favorite building or architectural element in the area?

I’m a huge Cass Gilbert fan so the New York Life Building is at the top of my list. High up as well are the MetLife complex and, of course, the Flatiron. But I also love the history of the area, and its role from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries as home to what became some of the city’s most important social welfare institutions. Most of the buildings that housed those organizations–the old Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies building, the United Charities building, the original Russell Sage Foundation building among others–have been turned to other purposes, but the exteriors still grace the neighborhood.

10. Choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Historical. Dynamic. Human-scaled. 

Image credit Billy Zhu.


Constantly in awe of  <a target="_blank" href="">@tristaneaton’s</a>100-foot-tall mural of Evelyn Nesbit, an iconic actress, fashionista, and chorus girl of the 1900’s. 💫 Swipe to see a close up of “The Guilded Lady.” ➡️

📍236 Fifth Avenue 
Mural in partnership with  <a target="_blank" href="">@kaufmanorganization</a>

📸:  <a target="_blank" href="">@nycwanderings</a>&  <a target="_blank" href="">@alemanny19</a>
Constantly in awe of @tristaneaton’s100-foot-tall mural of Evelyn Nesbit, an iconic actress, fashionista, and chorus girl of the 1900’s. 💫 Swipe to see a close up of “The Guilded Lady.” ➡️ 📍236 Fifth Avenue Mural in partnership with @kaufmanorganization 📸: @nycwanderings& @alemanny19
4 days ago