Beyond the Classroom

New #cityplanningBU Adjunct Professor Lourdes Germán, JD, Answers Nine Questions


Lourdes German, JD
Lourdes Germán, JD, is a new adjunct faculty member in the City Planning and Urban Affairs Program. This Fall 2017, Professor Germán is teaching UA 509 Public Finance and Urban Infrastructure.


1. Tell us a little about yourself?

In addition to my role on the faculty at Boston University, I serve as Director of International & Institute-Wide Initiatives at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and as Director of the Civic Innovation Project. At the Lincoln Institute, I advance our global municipal fiscal health campaign and our emerging campaign focused on Land Value Capture. This work is part of our mission as a foundation to seek to improve quality of life through the effective use, taxation, and stewardship of land. The Civic Innovation Project is an online thought leadership platform that uses technology to advance city-to-city learning with respect to the most challenging issues facing governments. I’ve been fortunate to partner with great organizations, like the Microsoft corporation, and others to run programs that convene public sector leaders in discussions related to the innovation eco-system across a range of issue areas that are part of the Civic Innovation Project. Prior to these roles, I spent a long career in public finance that included work as an attorney at a large international law firm, work as Vice President of municipal finance at a global investment bank, and work as the Chief Legal Officer and Vice President of Research of a municipal securities asset management company, and also taught government finance at a University. Outside of work, I enjoy volunteering on boards that help me stay involved in issues related to my field. For example, I serve as Governor Charlie Baker’s appointed Chair of the Massachusetts State Finance and Governance Board, among others.

2. What are your professional interests and why are you so passionate this topic?

My entire professional career, and work as a scholar, has been focused on government public finance, specifically examining the laws, policies, approaches, and frameworks that shape intergovernmental fiscal systems at the local, state, provincial, and federal levels in the US and abroad. A consistent theme in my current and future legal scholarship is the generation of original data regarding the fiscal conditions of governments, and an analysis of laws that facilitate the establishment of a municipal framework of fiscal governance that allow cities to use the widest range of innovations and tools to address their most pressing challenges. I’m passionate about this work because I care about the state of our cities and want to contribute to the creation of communities that are more successful, sustainable, and provide a good quality of life for their citizens. I also recognize that city leaders cannot do it alone and I want to be a part of the eco-system of stakeholders who can help leaders learn and apply the best strategies for their communities. This lead me to serve as one of the co-authors of the book, “Finance for City Leaders Handbook” published by the United Nations in 2016, for example.

3. What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

The most challenging part of teaching is what my colleague who is an instructional designer calls “productive struggles”- creating learning experiences that are not so easy that learners get bored and not so difficult that learners give up. I address this by trying to make the class as interactive as possible, this includes having students engage in a semester long exercise where they advise the Mayor of a city on a range of infrastructure decisions.

4. What brought you to the City Planning and Urban Affairs Program at Boston University?

My path to Boston University began with Dr. Madhu C. Dutta-Koehler, Associate Professor and Director of the City Planning and Urban Affairs Program at Boston University. In conversations with her to explore possible synergies between our organizations, I learned about her desire to expand curricular offerings in ways that introduce public finance to planners, among other concepts. When we discussed the potential for a new course that would teach students who are planning the future of cities about the financial decision-making that supports and enables urban plans, I was privileged to be invited to develop and teach the course.

5. What are you most excited about this semester?

My students. I’m excited to get to know them and understand their professional aspirations. The students at Boston University come from such incredibly diverse backgrounds and geographies – the contributions they make in the classroom always push the lessons and conversations in new directions.

6. What do you hope students take away from your class?

This semester my course focuses on one of the most significant challenges facing cities in the developed and developing world – meeting the global infrastructure gap. Leading research from organizations like the United Nations are estimating that cities have to invest $2.5 trillion annually in the coming decade just to keep pace with the demands of sustainable urbanization that is expected, with rising populations, across a range of sectors that are critical to citizens and their quality of life: transportation, power, water, telecommunications, among others. Students in my class will walk away with a clear sense of the prevailing avenues municipalities can use to address this and the decision-making process public officials go through when making strategic choices to finance this gap, as they plan for the future of their cities.

7. What do you like most about mentoring students?

I really enjoy mentoring and developing students and other young professionals in every setting I have worked. It’s incredibly gratifying to see a student progress in their knowledge and expertise on issues in the classroom, and to be a part of helping them create an important intellectual foundation in their journey as a scholar. The moments I most look forward to is seeing what my students go on to do after they leave the university and begin working in their chosen profession.

8. What is the most helpful advice you have received?

The most helpful advice I’ve ever received came from my greatest role model – my mother. Several years ago I was working for a wonderful organization in the private sector, but felt that I wasn’t challenging myself intellectually or learning new things in the day-to-day of my role. When I shared this concern with my mother she immediately said – “why don’t you teach? Teach what you know”. That advice really inspired me to think deeply and differently about my expertise, and forced me to reexamine how I could make the highest and best contribution with my work by sharing what I learned with others. That very year I developed my first course focused on government public finance and began teaching it in the graduate program of a university in Boston. It was one of the most professionally fulfilling experiences I have ever had. I discovered a passion for education and had a new understanding of my vocation that has guided the way I think about my career from that moment forward.

9. How do you like to spend your free time?

I am a lover of the arts. In my spare time you can find me quietly collaging, painting, or drawing for hours on end!

By Lourdes Germán, JD, and Andrea Ciminelli