September 2017 Faculty Spotlight
September Faculty Spotlight with Lecturer, Alexis F. Perrotta
With the MTA and NJ Transit constantly in the news, especially during what Governor Cuomo has dubbed, the “Summer of Hell” public transportation is on many New Yorkers’ minds. We spoke to Lecturer, Alexis Perrotta (whose research focuses on urban transportation policy, planning, and welfare) about NYC public transportation, her students, and the Marxe School.
Urban planning and transportation are two of your areas of interest. What do you think of the current state of the MTA and NJ Transit?
Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement: trains are crowded, buses are slow and people are frustrated. One key frustration is that the fixes seem simple. To speed buses, allow all-doors boarding and close some lanes to non-commercial traffic. To improve the subways, shorten the headways and mitigate emergencies by upgrading the signaling system. Riders are left wondering why simple improvements are so rare and slow. The reasons are complex. There is the history of expecting transit to pay for its own operations, a strong federal priority on certain types of capital projects, and often acrimonious state-city relationships, to name just a few. I see Baruch graduates as capable of addressing these problems from all angles, from inside the MTA, to the governor’s office, to DC.
What drew you to the Marxe School? What keeps you engaged?
The students here are eager to learn. If I had to generalize, I would say our students are energetic pragmatists — worldly New Yorkers with high expectations. When I’m preparing a lecture, I try to consider it from the wide variety of perspectives I know I will encounter in the classroom. It is that challenge that keeps me engaged.
How do you orient your coursework toward students’ career aspirations?
In my methods classes, I tell students which skills they can add to their resumes once they have completed certain assignments or exams. I also discuss how those skills are used in the workplace, including the types of institutions that utilize the skills they are learning. I think adopting an expanded vocabulary is an important part of graduate school as well. I try to enable students to translate technical terminology into plain, useful language. For example, my classes require that students critically assess advocacy materials produced by nonprofit and public organizations. By deconstructing the language and arguments of these materials, students are positioned to both create and consume those types of materials in the future. Finally, I recognize that MPA students are here to advance in their careers, but they are also individuals who are learning theories and methods that will allow them to continue learning over time. One of the best comments I can hear from a student is that something they read in my class inspired them to learn more.