Former NYC mayor Bill de Blasio joins the Ford School as Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence

November 17, 2023

Former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio will join the Ford School faculty for winter 2024 as a Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence. De Blasio will teach a  course open to all on “When Policy Met Politics: How Real Change Is Made,” and host a public event.

“The emerging generation will face arguably the toughest, most complex issues that young people have faced in human history. U-M, and the Ford School in particular, are indispensable institutions at a time when we need to prepare future public servants better than ever before,“ de Blasio says. 

“I want to offer my experiences and lessons, both sobering and hopeful, to these exceptional students as my own contribution to fast-forwarding their development so we speed them to the ‘frontlines’ of public service where they are urgently needed.”

He adds, “I also want to share with the U-M community my growing concern, as a longtime policy-maker, that we as a nation effectively have no policy governing the use of artificial intelligence. This is probably the most consequential technological development in history and it is proceeding recklessly, without oversight or transparency or regulation of any kind. We need to spark a true national discussion on this issue, and U-M is one of the places it has to begin.”

“Former mayor de Blasio brings a unique blend of experience as the former leader of the biggest city in the country. From his leadership on the creation of New York’s universal pre-K program to his current work on the social and economic implications of artificial intelligence and other technological advances,  the Ford School is lucky to have him,” says Ford School Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes

At a recent Policy Talk, de Blasio examined, “Are smart cities smart enough?”, in conversation with Science, Technology, and Public Policy program Director Shobita Parthasarathy

De Blasio served as the 109th mayor of New York City from 2014 to 2021. He guided the country’s largest city through the pandemic, and among his many other accomplishments he created a groundbreaking early childhood education initiative which became a national model, financed the construction and preservation of more affordable homes than any other New York City administration, and drove the City Council to pass a New York City Green New Deal. 

During his administration, the city rolled out a number of smart city solutions and tech education initiatives in every borough, earning New York the “Best Smart City” accolade in 2016. In recent months he has also become increasingly concerned about the rise of AI and other emerging technologies, and their impacts.

Before his mayoral terms, de Blasio held the office of New York City Public Advocate from 2010 to 2013. De Blasio's entered city politics came in 1989, when he worked as a volunteer coordinator for David Dinkins' mayoral campaign. He then ran the successful 1994 reelection campaign for U.S. Representative Charles Rangel. In 1997, he was appointed to serve as the regional director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey under the administration of President Bill Clinton. In 2000, he served as campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's successful United States Senate bid. Then followed service in the New York City Council from 2002-2009.

He received a Bachelor of Arts from New York University in metropolitan studies and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He is a 1981 Harry S. Truman Scholar.

About the Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence program

The Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence Program was established at the Ford School in 2002 to bring individuals with significant national and international policymaking experience to campus to interact with students and faculty. The program enhances our curriculum and strengthens our ties to the policy community.