Faculty Spotlight

May Faculty Spotlight with Associate Professor, John Casey

May Faculty Spotlight

After living, working, and studying all over the world, taking up residence in New York City was perfect for Associate Professor John Casey. We speak about his new book, his education, and his truly global perspective from the worldwide vantage point of New York, New York.

You were born in Hungary, grew up in Australia, and have lived and worked in Sydney, Barcelona, and New York. What is it like to be a foreigner with a global perspective working in New York City?
New York is a city of immigrants and a global city so I feel very much at home here.

The city itself is a laboratory in which we can explore the joys and challenges of how different ethnicities, races, and religions coexist. There are tensions and there is a continual struggle to ensure that poorer newcomers are not exploited and are able to defend their rights. But historically, world cities like New York have been remarkably successful in integrating diversity, negotiating the cohabitation of cultures, and managing the blending that inevitably come from generational changes.

New York is also a great place from which to look out at the rest of the world. One of my favorite times of the year is the opening of the UN General Assembly each September. (Yes, traffic on the East Side of Manhattan is a nightmare, but I don’t drive so that’s not my problem!) I always try to spend time around the UN during the opening week to see the parade of world leaders; I follow the coverage of the presence of more controversial leaders and I take advantage of the many opportunities to hear the leaders or their deputies speak about unfolding world events. Last year I went to an open forum with the Foreign Secretaries (equivalent of U.S. Secretary of State) of Spain, France, and the U.K speaking about the future of the E.U.

It’s a privilege to live and work in one of the epicenters of world affairs. I teach about international nonprofits and constantly point out to students that many of the organizations we are studying have their world headquarters or major branch offices within 30 blocks of our classroom.

How has your education and status as a Baruch MPA graduate shaped how you approach teaching classes now that you have transitioned to the role of Associate Professor?
I did my MPA at Baruch while working for City of New York during in my previous stint here from 1985 to 1991. (I came back in 2008 to take this job at Baruch after 17 years away). I chose to do my MPA because I was advancing in the city administration and I felt I needed to better understand policy processes and administration. Baruch gave me the knowledge and skills I needed for my work then. It also reinforced my love of learning and teaching. After leaving New York in 1991, I ended up managing an MPA program for a three-university consortium in Barcelona, Spain.

That MPA program was initially housed at the Univeritat Autonoma of Barcelona in the Public Law and Political Science Department, and while hanging around the corridors as an administrator, I was tempted to join the doctoral program. Once I graduated with a doctorate in political science from the Universitat Autonoma, a logical and almost inevitable step was to become a full-time professor. I first spent 8 years teaching public policy and governance at the Australian Graduate School of Policing, and then applied for this job at Baruch.

I think the biggest impact of doing the MPA while I was working for the City is that I know that the material we teach is all 100% applicable, even if at times it is not obvious to students. The other day I did a case study in an Introduction to Management class I teach; the students did a great analysis and argued forcefully about what the characters in the case study should do. When the discussion was almost finished I said. “OK. That is what they should do, but what would you do? That started a whole new conversation. I am always intrigued by how many students think what others should do is different from what they would do.

I also require my students to participate in class blogs. On the blogs they have to post commentaries about current events and how they relate to the course work. Or they can blog about “real world” materials they find and how they relate to the theoretical materials they study. A few days ago, a student posted an article from Forbes about how masculine norms in the workplace could be holding women back. That’s not a topic that gets much treatment in the textbooks.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book, The Nonprofit World: The Global Rise of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector?
Because of my own cosmopolitan background, my research and teaching has tended to focus on international comparisons and on the impact of globalization on public affairs. While teaching in policing I did research on how different police agencies around the world implement community policing and how they manage their relations with immigrant communities.

Here at Baruch I have been doing work on how the nonprofit sector has grown around the world and about the new governance structures that are emerging to manage relations between nonprofits and governments.

That is the focus of my new book The Nonprofit World. It explores the growth of the nonprofit sector within countries around the world and analyzes the growing impact of international nonprofits. There are economic, political and cultural factors that determine the differences in the size and function of the nonprofit sector in different countries, but in almost every country the impact of nonprofits has expanded considerably in the last decades. In the international arena, the nonprofit organizational form is seen as a way of surmounting the challenges posed by national sovereignty. Nonprofits can build global brands and establish a global presence in ways that make them more like business corporations than governments. My book looks not only at the high-profile international nonprofits such as the humanitarian aid and assistance organizations, but also at international sports and cultural organizations, business associations, and even hobby groups. In the book you can read about the nonprofit sectors in countries in Asia and Africa and also about international nonprofits like Amnesty International, World Vision, FIFA (the global soccer federation), the International Window Film Association, and the International Association of Quilters.