After spending eight years running America’s fifth-largest city, Michael Nutter is now teaching students how he did it. The former Philadelphia mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate was named a professor of professional practice and urban policy this semester at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Columbia SIPA Dean Merit Janow announced the appointment last Wednesday, shortly after Nutter completed his second term as mayor. The city’s mayoral term limits prevented Nutter from being elected to the position for a third consecutive term, although there is no limit to how many times an individual can serve as mayor.
Penn’s Political Science Department could not offer Nutter a professorship of practice after his term expired because unlike SIPA, it does not have such positions, according to Political Science Chair Anne Norton. However, Norton hopes that Nutter will maintain his strong personal ties to Penn and Philadelphia.
“I am personally a great admirer of Michael Nutter, who was my councilman before he was my mayor,” Norton said. She hopes Nutter will come back to give a lecture at Penn someday in the future.
Nutter is not the first Philadelphia mayor to teach after leaving City Hall. Ed Rendell, a 1965 College graduate who served two terms as mayor before becoming the governor of Pennsylvania, became a lecturer at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government after his second term as governor ended in 2011.
Rendell now teaches a course called “Who Gets Elected and Why? The Science of Politics.” The course covers many aspects of modern political campaigning, including polling, campaign finance and the organization of political parties. The course is cross-listed with Penn’s Political Science Department and the Urban Studies program.
Rendell still lives in Philadelphia, according to his QuakerNet profile.
At press time, it was unclear if Fels had offered a similar position to Nutter. Fels Executive Director John MacDonald could not be reached for comment.
Other Fels faculty and staff with past political experience include 1963 College graduate and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies, now a Fels senior fellow, and Mark Alan Hughes, former chief policy advisor to Mayor Nutter, now the faculty director for the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy and a professor of practice at PennDesign.
Hughes, who teaches one course per semester as a professor of practice, advised Nutter in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer last week to use teaching students as a way to learn as a professional policymaker. Assigning students to come up with a plan to get City Council to give up their cars, he said, could be a valuable opportunity for students and professor alike.
“Show them that the real world takes more — not less — intelligence than the classroom, and challenge them to not apologize for the privilege of a good education but to show the know-nothings running too many American governments that book-learning actually helps,” Hughes said.
At press time, it was unclear whether Nutter had been offered a position at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Dean John J. Jackson, Jr. could not be reached for comment.
Nutter is now the second mayor to serve as a professor of professional practice at SIPA, joining former New York City mayor David Dinkins, who joined the SIPA faculty in 1994. Dinkins and Nutter have both publicly voiced eagerness to work alongside each other and have known each other for years.
“I have enjoyed getting to know Mayor Nutter over the years and find him to be a person of tremendous character, heart and humor. He will be an exciting and inspirational voice at SIPA and for all students in the Columbia community at large,” Dinkins said last Wednesday in a press release.
It is still unclear how many courses Nutter will be teaching at Columbia. His teaching schedule has not yet been finalized for either this spring or next year, SIPA Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dan McIntyre said in a statement.
McIntyre added that he expects that Nutter will be teaching courses on urban policy leadership and innovation.
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