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Students and faculty welcomed the November announcement that the outgoing Boston Mayor, Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01), would join BU in February as codirector of the Initiative on Cities (IoC), a new center that will invite leaders of cities around the world to share their hands-on knowledge with academics and scholars from BU and other universities.
Lucy Hutyra, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of earth and environment, who has written often about the growth of cities, said the initiative “will provide an opportunity to bring together science and policy in potentially transformative ways.
“As a major research university in Boston, we have a responsibility to connect our scholarly research with the needs of our community,” said Hutyra. “With 20 years of experience running Boston, Menino understands how policies are developed and implemented and can help take our science to the streets and community in an effective manner. The knowledge, leadership, and innovation from this new Initiative on Cities can spread to other cities to make smarter and more efficient cities.”
The IoC will also tap academic expertise in disciplines across the University, among them engineering, education, health care, law, economics, and environmental studies, and will sponsor symposia, convene meetings to support policy makers, and hold an annual meeting, where city leaders from around the world will discuss such things as urban governance and the impact of climate change. It will be affiliated with BU’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and will study the governance and organization of the world’s swelling urban areas. Graham Wilson, a CAS professor and chair of political science, will codirect the IoC.
Menino left office in January after choosing not to run for a sixth term. Speaking at the press conference announcing his appointment, he pointed to the BU’s “long history of contributing knowledge that makes a difference in the world. I look forward to playing my role in that great tradition, and making sure that our cities thrive for years to come. We are going to work together to talk about economic issues and environmental issues. We are going to take scientific talk and turn it into street talk.”
Enrique Silva, a Metropolitan College assistant professor of city planning and urban affairs, said he found the new initiative “very bold and sophisticated. It’s innovative in that it recognizes that no single discipline owns the city,” he said. “It also recognizes that to work on the city, and the range of issues that the city presents, the University needs to harness the various research and disciplines that we have here. The initiative will break silos and allow us to look at urban issues much more creatively.”
Students at the standing-room-only press conference at 100 Bay State Road said they were pleased that Menino, who had received offers to lecture and organize conferences at Harvard, Northeastern, Brandeis, and Suffolk universities, had decided on BU.
“It rocks that we got him over Harvard.” said Devon McCarthy (CAS’16).
Jonathan Candelaria (COM’15), a First Year Student Outreach Project coordinator working in urban engagement last summer, said he’s excited to see such a prominent political figure come to BU. “What really interests me, though, is that he’ll be focusing on urban issues while he’s here,” he said. “Having studied some of Boston’s urban issues this summer, I’m eager to see what kind of societal impact he hopes to make through the BU community.”
Menino received an honorary degree from BU in 2001, and at the 2013 Commencement ceremonies in May he was awarded the Boston University Medallion for his service to the community. At the same time, Brown announced that the Boston Scholars Program, which awards merit scholarships to graduates of the city’s public schools, would be renamed the Thomas M. Menino Scholarship Program and recipients referred to as Menino Scholars.