August 2020 Alumni Spotlight
Robert Beiderman, MPA ’18
This month’s alumni spotlight features alumnus, Robert Beiderman, who has had an eclectic career as an actor/writer, chose two areas of study while at the Marxe School, and is now a New York State Excelsior Service Fellow.
Tell us what you do as a New York State Excelsior Service Fellow. What have some of your biggest accomplishments been?
I was assigned to the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) for my Fellowship, working as a Project Manager with the Communities and Local Government team. Governor Cuomo has made fighting the effects of climate change one of his administration’s top priorities, and NYSERDA is playing a key role in New York’s nation-leading goal of 100% net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The 20+ grants I manage cover a wide-range of different technologies – solar, heat pumps, electric vehicles and charging stations, light-emitting diode (LED) streetlights, etc. – which has given me a great opportunity to learn about many of the clean energy initiatives that will hopefully lead us to a healthier future. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with other state agencies as a member of the Climate Smart Communities standards committee (and Chair of the energy working group), and helped close out a grant with the United States Department of Energy for publication of the Utility Energy Registry, a database platform providing free public access to community use energy data. My wife and I have enjoyed getting to know the Capital Region. Autumn is spectacular and Albany is a very short drive to the Berkshires and Vermont, with both Montreal and Boston only a few hours away. We look forward to returning downstate upon completion of my Fellowship to be closer to friends and family.
You chose two areas of study while getting your MPA at the Marxe School: Nonprofit Administration, and Urban Development and Sustainability. What drew you to each of these interests?
I chose to pursue an MPA because I wanted to find a career that would allow me to make a positive impact on the lives of others. The Non-Profit Administration track was the most obvious one to fulfill this goal; I really enjoyed Professor Seltzer’s fundraising course, because I had many doubts about my abilities to effectively do this before studying with him. I also hope that my experience managing clean energy grants will translate to the non-profit sector down the road. I probably pursued the Urban Development and Sustainability track more for the “urban development” part, because I was working in an administrative role for an architecture firm while completing my studies and really admired their work; I also grew to appreciate the enormous impact housing plays in the development of children and families. Since starting my Fellowship, my interests have shifted more to the “sustainability” part, but I’ve also learned these parts are not exclusive of one another. Upgrading current and future building stock to save energy will be necessary to meet our ambitious clean energy goals, and will also save families a lot of money in reduced heating and cooling bills. I should also mention that while studying at Baruch I researched a white paper on floating solar panels, and I am determined to find a suitable location in New York for this technology.
Can you tell us about your work as an actor and writer?
It feels like a lifetime ago, but I spent 14 years as an actor in New York and Los Angeles, with a couple of tours and summer stock residencies mixed in. There is nothing more exciting than being onstage with a cast you trust and performing a well-written play for a grateful audience, but unfortunately these experiences were few and far between for me. I spent most of my time running around to auditions while working temp jobs or waiting tables. I reached a point where there were other things I wanted to pursue in life that I had sacrificed for too long. In the decade since I stopped acting, I have expanded my travel and met my wife; we just adopted a puppy, which is something I was hesitant to do while acting because of the nomadic lifestyle. As a creative outlet, I wrote a couple of humor books and have been working on and off for a few years on my first novel. It’s still a surreal experience when I see friends of mine on TV, but who knows…. maybe I’ll try it for fun again someday in retirement!