I was born in Orange, New Jersey, and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. I went to P.S. 236, Junior High School 78 and James Madison High School, all Brooklyn public schools. My father, Marvin, and my mother, Shirley, live in Long Beach, Long Island. My older sister, Judith, is a CPA and also lives in Long Beach. My younger brother, Robby, is a professor and former department chair at New York University's Education School. My younger sister, Myra, works for Soros Fund Management in New York City and lives in Long Beach. While I spent a little more than ten years living in Indiana, Buffalo, New York, West Virginia and Washington D.C., I have spent well over four decades living in New York City. I think at this point, I really am a New Yorker, through and through.
When we were kids, we used to go to the Catskills every summer and in 1962 my parents bought a summer house in Lake Secor, New York. We grew up to the sounds of rock, folk and soul music in the 1960s. I have always loved baseball and the Yankees. In high school I was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and in efforts to promote racial justice. I went to college in Franklin, Indiana, made some great friends, played in the band Palmyra and delivered the Daily Journal Newspaper in rural Johnson and Brown counties. After college, I joined my brother back in Buffalo, lived with him, and went to graduate school there. I studied environmental policy with Les Milbrath and Rich Tobin and organizational management with Marc Tipermas. Marc eventually hired me to work at EPA where I worked on public participation and organizational management in the water pollution control and Superfund programs.
I came back to New York to work at Columbia University in 1981 when Jim Caraley hired me to teach in the MPA Program. In 1985, Donna Fishman and I were married on a beach in Long Island. Two years later, we bought a small house a block from the beach in Long Beach. After Hurricane Sandy we rebuilt the ground floor of our Long Beach home, and like our neighbors we decided to stay because we love the ocean and enjoy Long Island's beaches. During most of the year we live on Morningside Drive in Manhattan. Donna was the Vice President for External Affairs at the Community Service Society (CSS) of New York for over a decade. CSS is a nonprofit organization that was established during the Progressive era and continues to advocate for poor people. In July 2004, Donna became the Deputy Director of the Jewish Fund for Justice; "The Jewish Fund for Justice is the only national Jewish organization solely committed to fighting the injustice of poverty in America." From December 2005 until December 2010, Donna served as the Executive Director of the Gilda's Club of Westchester. "The mission of Gilda's Club Westchester is to provide a place where men, women, and children with cancer and their families and friends join with others to build social and emotional support as a supplement to medical care." In December of 2010, she became Chief Operating Officer of the Fund for Public Health in New York: “The Fund for Public Health in New York, Inc. is dedicated to the advancement of the health and well-being of all New York City residents. Towards this aim, FPHNY implements programs to address pressing public health needs, develops private sector support for enhancing the health of New Yorkers.”
We have two wonderful daughters, Gabriella Rose and Ariel Mariah. Both of our daughters are without question brilliant, beautiful, and utterly charming. Gabriella is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and works at Columbia University and Ariel is a student at the University of Maryland. Both of my daughters attended the Bank Street School and then Gabriella went on to the Bronx High School of Science while Ariel graduated from Beacon High School here on the Upper West side of Manhattan. It's hard to express how much they mean to me or how lucky I am to be their dad. As James Taylor sings, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time" - and I try to do that as much as I can.
On to the professional part of the home page...
My biography and vita are on the page. They give you a pretty good idea of what I've worked on. If my books sound interesting, the management books can be ordered on-line from the publisher, Jossey-Bass or Georgetown University Press. The more recent books on environmental policy and sustainability management can be purchased from MIT Press and Columbia University Press. In 2005, I returned to the issue of environmental policy and management with a co-authored book published by MIT Press on Strategic Planning and Environmental Regulation. During 2006, Columbia University Press published my book, entitled Understanding Environmental Policy which in 2014 will be re-issued as a second edition. In 2011, Columbia University Press published Sustainability Management, a book that represents some of my current thinking on organizational and environmental management. In February, 2008 I began to write a blog mainly on environmental issues on the Green Pages of the New York Observer. When that ended in 2009, I started to write for the Huffington Post. I like to work with other people and have written books with my friend from graduate school, Shel Kamieniecki (Dean of Social Sciences at UC Santa Cruz), and my friend Ron Brand, who used to direct EPA's leaking underground storage tank program. Most of the articles I've published are co-authored because I prefer to work as part of a team. In the last few years, I've done much of my writing with my friend, consulting partner and intellectual co-conspirator, Bill Eimicke. In 2008, we wrote out most academic book, the Responsible Contract Manager, published by Georgetown University Press.
Bill and I have taught public management, management innovation and the MPA workshop (Fall & Spring). Syllabi and handbooks from those classes are included here. We have been exploring new ways of bringing public management education to those who need it. We wrote a paper in 1998 about our distance learning experiment with the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University. We have taught strategic planning and management innovation to thousands of public sector practitioners. In the fall of 2008, Professor Tanya Heikkila joined us as co-author for the 4th edition of the Effective Public Manager. In the summer of 2013 we again joined forces and co-authored that book’s 5th edition. I wrote the first edition of the Effective Public Manager in 1987 and it was published in 1988. Bill and I revised it in 1995 and 2002. Bill, Tanya and I will continue to work hard to keep it up-to-date and useful for public sector problem-solving professionals.
About a decade ago, Bill and I wrote a book entitled, Tools for Innovators: Creative Strategies for Managing Public Sector Organizations. It discusses how and when to use total quality management, reengineering, team management, benchmarking, strategic planning and privatization. Our thoughts on strategic planning are described in the Strategic Planning Handbook available on this page. The ideas in the book were first developed in a paper we delivered at the 1996 meeting of the American Society for Public Administration. Some of our work to improve management in the public sector has found its way into our research and writing including:
- An effort to bring team management into the U.S. EPA's Regional Office in New York City
- The evolution of ethics in government during the 20th century
- How New Yorkers perceive their parks
- The use of surveys as a way of measuring the outcomes of public programs
- The issues that government faces when trying to manage nonprofit contractor
In the fall of 1999, I co-authored two conference papers. The first was co-authored with my colleagues Bill Eimicke of Columbia University and Mauricio Perez Salazar of the Universidad Externado de Colombia. The paper compares public ethics in Colombia and the United States and was presented to the 1999 meeting of the Association of Policy Analysis and Management. Bill and I have worked with Mauricio on a variety of collaborations since the mid-1990s.
I wrote the second paper with Tracie Abbott, then a student in our Master of Public Administration Program. That paper dealt with integrating nonprofit management education into MPA curricula and was written for the 1999 meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. In spring 2000, I co-authored a paper entitled "Assuring Public Ethics in Privatized Public Programs" that I presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Public Administration. In fall 2000, I delivered a paper at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration on marketing executive MPA programs. I also completed a report with Bill Eimicke for the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment on the Business of Government entitled "An Analysis of the Use of the Worldwide Web and Internet in Government Service Delivery." In early 2002, we completed a follow up piece for PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled "The Future of E-Government: A Projection Of Potential Trends And Issues." Bill Eimicke and I also delivered a paper at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Public Administration: "Managing Privatization: The Tools, Goals and Ethics of Contracting." Further developing our thoughts on managing contractors, we prepared a paper for the 2001 research meeting of the Association of Policy Analysis and Management entitled "Overcoming Operational Obstacles to Privatization: The Art and Craft of Contracting."
In the fall of 2001, I served on a panel at the Annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and prepared a paper for the panel entitled "Developing International Partnerships and Projects: The Case of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs."
I have been working for more than a decade to build a masters program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and the Earth Institute. The program's first year was taught at the Biosphere 2 Center in Oracle, Arizona. In June 2003, we moved the program to New York. To prepare for the program, we held a national conference on environmental policy curricula at the Biosphere in December of 2000 and a summary of that conference is linked to this page. The design for the new curriculum is also available on the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy web site. A talk I gave at an information session about the new program is also linked here and provides a good summary of the program's design and mission. Over the past decade I have worked with a number of colleagues to develop a three-semester workshop sequence for our Environmental MPA Program. Syllabi and handbooks from those classes can be found on the program's web site at: http://mpaenvironment.ei.columbia.edu/?id=curriculum-descriptions#U9229.
In the fall of 2008, Robin DeJong, an alum of the program and a senior staff member at the Earth Institute, and I delivered a conference paper that reported the results of a survey of the program’s alums. I was gratified to see that their positive reflection of the program’s quality and impact.
When I stepped down after thirteen years as Director of SIPA's MPA Program to become the School's Vice Dean, I wrote a paper analyzing the evolution of the program's curriculum. I've also included that paper on this site since it reflects my views and those of my colleagues about the way to teach public policy and management in a professional school. That paper is entitled: "The Evolution of an MPA Program: The Case of the Graduate Program in Public Policy and Administration at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs".
From 1985 to 1998, I was the Director of Columbia University's Graduate Program in Public Policy and Administration. From July 1998 to January 2001, I served as Vice Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs. In January 2001, I became Director of SIPA's Executive Master of Public Administration Program and Director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy. In January 2002, I was appointed Director of the Office of Educational Programs at the Earth Institute. I served on the Earth Institute's Management Committee and Council of Directors. In 2002 and 2003, I was part of teams that developed a new PhD program with SIPA in Sustainable Development and a new masters Program in Climate and Society. In 2005, at the request of SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson, I stepped down as Director of the Executive MPA Program and became Director of SIPA's Concentration in Environmental Policy Studies.
In the spring of 2006 Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs asked me to serve as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia's Earth Institute. That job is now taking up a good deal of my time and energy, as we work to create a new institution at the university. In 2010, I designed and then was appointed director of a new masters Program in Sustainability Management in the Columbia’s School of Continuing Education and Earth Institute. I now teach a new course called Sustainability Management for my students in SIPA and Continuing Ed. I also continue to teach in the three semester workshop sequence in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program.
In late 2001, my former boss Michael Crow nominated me to the U.S. EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology and, in January 2002, I was appointed to that Council. In the fall of 2003, the Council commented on EPA's disappointing Report on the Environment 2003. I drafted the last section of the letter which focused on the need to collect a better set of environmental indicators. My term on the council ended in 2004 and, from 2004 until 2006, I served as a management consultant to EPA Region II. Recently, I took on the assignment of Senior Advisor to Willdan Energy Solutions, a company that promotes environmental efficiency and sustainability.
As MPA Director, I had a simple measure of success for the program: students graduating from the program should have better jobs than the ones they held when they entered the program. In our public management class, Bill Eimicke and I give a briefing on our approach to professional development. Although we believe that public service takes place in all three sectors - public, private and nonprofit - there are tremendous opportunities in government. Contrary to popular belief, government in the United States continues to grow. In the 1990s, only the federal government reduced its numbers.
I believe very strongly in the importance of public service and the value of public service education. As my colleague, Professor and former Mayor David Dinkins often says, a society is judged by how it treats the least among it; the young, the poor, the frail, the elderly. I think that, as individuals, we are also responsible for what we give to each other, not what we accumulate in treasure. Having a family has taught me that life is precious and fleeting. One moment you are looking into the eyes of a baby one hour old, and the next moment that baby is showing you a story she wrote at school and asking for guitar lessons. In 2003, our daughter Gabriella celebrated her Bat Mitzvah. In 2006, our younger daughter Ariel celebrated her Bat-Mitzvah. Time passes quickly and each of us must contribute what we can to make the world a better place. Our great responsibility is to make the world safe for our children and to make it possible for them to accomplish and be all they can.
I have lived in New York City for most of my life and I often comment on New York City policy and political issues. I participated with my colleagues Mark Gordon, Gregory Frankel, Nickolas Themelis, and others in an analysis of New York City's waste management plan. I have a deep interest in the management of New York City's government. Despite the assertions of the Guilianni administration claiming that they were the only New York City government that knew how to manage, I found continuous and creative management throughout the Beame, Koch and Dinkins years as well. Mayor Bloomberg continues this tradition of excellent management in the New York City Mayor's office. The recent trends in New York City management are detailed in the attached paper entitled Governing New York City.
In the fall of 2001, after the horror of the destruction of the World Trade Center, I gave the MPA students in my graduate seminar in public management choice of either taking the course's normal final exam, or working in teams to research the response by the public sector to the catastrophe of 9/11. More than half of the students decided to work on the research. The work they did provided some of the material for a case study that I wrote with Bill Eimicke and the course's Teaching Assistant, Jess Horan, entitled "Catastrophe And The Public Service: A Case Study Of The Government Response To The Destruction Of The World Trade Center." The paper is in draft form here and was later published in the Public Administration Review's special edition on 9/11, edited by Frank Thompson, then Dean of the Rockefeller School of Public Affairs at SUNY Albany. We all learned a great deal and felt great pain during September 2001. I will never forget the white cloud of smoke visible from the window of my office or the sounds of silence on Broadway as I walked to Bank Street School to check on my daughters. Through it all, I was proud to be a New Yorker and thankful for the courage of my neighbors and friends. I thought of the dreams and wisdom of my grandparents that brought them to this country and found my love for America deepen and grow. Today, my love of country remains, although I am deeply ashamed of the failure of fundamental public administration we see in our national government in Washington D.C. We need and deserve a competent federal government. Instead, all we see is failure. From Iraq to Katrina, from global warming to the BP Oil Spill, we have managed to forget the lessons we should have learned in the second half of the 20th century. My great hope is that the Obama Administration will eventually reverse the course of the past decade and rebuild our government and sense of national community.
In 2002, I turned my attention back to the field of environmental policy and management. I finished a draft of my sections of a new book on environmental regulation that I mentioned above with Shel Kamieniecki and Matt Cahn. I also wrote a paper for the 2003 ASPA meeting analyzing New York City's solid waste problem as an environmental policy issue. The paper is entitled “Environmental Policy at its Most Fundamental: The Case of New York City's Solid Waste Crisis.” I delivered a paper at the fall 2003 meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, entitled "Developing a Specialized Master of Public Administration Program: The Case of Columbia University's Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy." In the summer of 2004, under contract with Columbia University Press, I completed the first draft of Understanding Environmental Policy. The book was published in the summer of 2006. The attached power point slides provide a summary of its content. My research work now alternates between the fields of public management and environmental policy and often combines both fields of study. In the fall of 2004, with my new environmental manuscript under review at the publisher, I resumed work with Bill Eimicke. We wrote and delivered two papers in October 2004. The first was presented to a panel at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, Indianapolis, Indiana, October 21-23, 2004. This paper was entitled "The Executive MPA Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs: A Full-time MPA for People Who Can't Afford to Leave Work." The panel was about how MPA programs needed to respond to changing times and we discussed the need for additional models of "in-service" education for mid-career professionals. About a week later we found ourselves in Atlanta, presenting a new piece called "The Limits to Contracting: When to Make Instead of Buy." This was prepared for presentation to the Annual Research Meeting of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, Atlanta, Georgia, October 28-30, 2004. We are now writing a book on contract management and this paper may end up as a chapter in that new book. In the fall of 2005, I chaired a panel on capstone courses in public administration programs at the annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. The meeting took place from October 13-15 in Washington, D.C. and Bill Eimicke and I presented a paper at that panel describing the workshop and capstone courses in Columbia's MPA programs. In the spring of 2006, Bill and I turned our attention to the politics of local land use development and wrote "Public Participation and Shaping Urban Development: The Case of the Atlantic Yard and Nets Arena Project in Brooklyn." This paper was prepared for presentation to the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Public Administration, Denver Colorado, March 31- April 4, 2006.
The work of managing the Earth Institute combined with teaching, blogging and directing SIPA's Environmental Policy Programs and the new Sustainability Management Program has made it difficult to pursue a research agenda. Nevertheless, my interest in maintaining and improving urban environmental quality has raised a number of questions that I have worked on in recent years:
- How do we build institutions that permit meaningful public voice in local community and economic development?
- How do we plan and finance the infrastructure needed to provide water, transport, energy, waste treatment, shelter, education, health care and transport here in New York and in cities around the world?
- How do we ensure accountable and representative political institutions in a world growing more technically complex and economically interconnected every day?
The result of this is a new emphasis on sustainability management. I am working to combine environment science, policy and management into a single field. As I mentioned above, I now direct a masters program in sustainability management for Columbia’s School of Continuing Education and Earth Institute, teach a new course in Sustainability Management and have written a new book that was published in 2011 by Columbia University Press, entitled “Sustainability Management: Lessons from and for New York City, America and the Planet. As I wrote in the Huffington Post in December 2010:
“It is increasingly difficult for me to see how anyone can claim to be well trained in management in our business schools or competent in policy analysis, in our public policy schools, if they lack any knowledge of the physical dimensions of sustainability. …These physical dimensions are no longer simply engineering issues or "externalities" but factors that influence an organization's ability to survive and thrive. These are core issues of organizational management… before long all competent management will be sustainability management, and all competent managers must be sustainability managers.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-cohen/educating-the-next-genera_b_792489.html
In the spring of 2013 I established a research program on Sustainability Policy and Management in the Earth Institute. Our major initiative is a multi-year project on sustainability metrics. The field of sustainability management will not fully develop until we have a generally accepted set of sustainability metrics. As Peter Drucker once observed: “you can’t manage something unless you can measure it.” Without measures, you can’t tell if management’s actions are making the situation better or worse.
It's not always easy, as my friend and colleague Ralph Nunez might tell you. Dr. Nunez runs an organization called Homes for the Homeless, an organization that in its 20 year history has housed over 51,000 homeless children. In his spare time, Ralph taught quantitative analysis to MPAs at Columbia from 1981 to 2001. Today he works as a faculty leader of the Executive MPA Portfolio Presentation Capstone Course. The rest of the time he is trying to give poor kids and their mothers a chance to succeed. Ralph is a realistic idealist - he sees the world as it is and tries to make it a little better for people who really need a helping hand. That is all we can do . . . work in our own way to try to make a small difference. My approach has been less direct than Ralph's. I've worked since the early 1980s to build graduate programs to train people to work effectively in public service. I've tried to research and write about ways to build innovative and creative public organizations. Today I'm working with a talented team of educators, researchers and administrators to build the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Our goal is to bring the social and natural sciences together to help make the planet sustainable and free of extreme poverty. I've consulted for many public organizations and tried to help them in their work. It's been fun, frustrating, and fascinating and I can't think of anything I'd rather do...
That's it for now ...I try to answer my e-mails personally and quickly (although I tend toward brief responses) and would be happy to hear from you.