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Let’s have an “urban” renaissance at Georgia State University’s School of Public Policy

Georgia State University today named W. Bartley Hildreth as the new dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies beginning July 1.

Here’s my hope. Perhaps Hildreth can put “urban” back into focus at the GSU School.

Currently, Hildreth is the Regents Distinguished Professor of Public Finance at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University. From the release that came out today, Hildreth is an expert on muncipal securities as well as state and local finance.

Although Wichita isn’t the metropolis that Atlanta is today, my hope is that Hildreth understands the academic role between a university and an urban community — something that seems to have been diluted at GSU over the years.

Back in 1977, I started working on my Master’s degree in urban studies at Georgia State’s College of Urban Life. At the time, Georgia State was a leading urban university spolighting the problems, challenges and solutions in city and metro issues.

But, as time went on, the College of Urban Life morphed into the College of Public and Urban Affairs; and then the word “urban” disappeared altogether.

Despite being in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the capital city of our state and the economic center for the Southeast, Georgia State has been downplaying its urban education.

It’s a shame, not just for the institution, but for the our community as well. We need students, professors and researchers helping us work through the myriad of our municipal problems.

And there’s no better place for that to happen than at Georgia State.

Now that GSU has a new president — Mark Becker — and a new dean of the School of Policy Studies, perhaps we can bring “urban” back into the fold.

At least, I hope we will.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Adam Allen April 20, 2009 5:59 pm

    Maria, it so funny that you published this a few weeks ago. I am a public policy/city planning major at GSU and have been speaking to many of my “urban” professors about this very thing! The closest thing GSU has to an urban studies program is called the Bachelor of Interdisplinary Studies in Community Studies, but NOBODY knows about it! I was actually on that track for a while but switched back to public policy. I missed having a cohort of other students with similar interests taking similar classes, with i didn’t get just taking a bunch of urban classes from different departments.

    I did, however, really enjoy all the perspective on urban life, and felt they will definitely give me an edge in working with urban problems as a city planner or in a related field. I took urban geography, urban anthropology, community and environmental psychology,etc., all of which would simply be electives under the current Public Policy program.

    Many of my professors are expressing a desire to create once again an urban studies program/department, or atleast to add some interdisciplinary perspectives beyond just policy within the policy school/program and to extend knowledge/use of the community studies program.

    I plan on speaking with my professors further as well as the Chair of the Public Administration and Policy department about this idea, and will use this article because you have done an excellent job succinctly expressing what many of use have been feeling!

    BTW, I have read your AJC editorials and articles for years- ever since I was a young teen- and you are always RIGHT on. Know that you have a major fan in me!

    Adam AllenReport

  2. mariasaporta April 20, 2009 10:29 pm

    Loved getting your comments. This has been a pet peeve or a pet passion of mine for years. Please know that I’m happy to do whatever I can to help you in your efforts.
    The education I received in urban studies was an excellent foundation for my career; and I believe such a department/program could be a valuable addition for GSU, Atlanta as well as the students and faculty.
    Wishing you well in your studies and with your efforts to bring “urban” back to Georgia State. (I would consider an interdisciplinary program between the School of Public Policy and the College of Business — that would capture all the facets and the essence of what makes Atlanta tick).
    All the best,


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