Faculty Spotlight

September Faculty Spotlight with Associate Professor, Frank Heiland

Sept 16 Faculty Spotlight

Engaged, curious, and not content to live on past accomplishments, Associate Professor Heiland embodies much of what makes SPIA professors true authorities in their field. In this month’s faculty spotlight Frank Heiland discusses the new Master of International Affairs curriculum; his interest in demography, labor, and health economics; and more.

You had a hand in developing the new Master of International Affairs curriculum. What are you most looking forward to once the program launches in fall 2017?
I’m excited about this new degree program. The Master of International Affairs at Baruch will be an opportunity for students to expand their competencies and knowledge to become the next generation of responsible leaders in government, international institutions, civic society organizations, foundations, and business. The emphasis on International Government Organizations, Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Trade Policy and International Economic Governance could not be timelier. The curriculum was developed specifically with the needs of a diverse and globally oriented student population and New York City’s role in trade, international non-profits, and global co-operation and policy co-ordination in mind. Working on this program under the leadership of Dean Birdsell and Clinical Professor Carla Robbins was a great experience and very effectively brought together expertise from SPIA, Weissmann and Zicklin. I look forward to welcoming the first generation of students and seeing faculty from all three schools come together for this innovative degree program.

What is it that draws you to areas of demography, labor, and health economics? In what ways have you found the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs an engaging haven for researching these broad and vital topics?
I’ve always been interested in social science scholarship contributing to knowledge that directly affects the lives of people and is important to society. My background is in Economics which teaches a very useful conceptual framework to think about outcomes in terms of the interplay between behavior (choice), constraints (resources/endowments) and preferences (fundamental objectives and desires). I’m interested in how different conditions – economic, social, informational, and biological constraints – affect people’s choices and wellbeing. Economics also taught me to have a critical eye for research methodology. While I am not wedded to any particular approach, most of my work is quantitative and involves analyzing large datasets using statistics. I pursue, whenever appropriate and possible, improved or complementary techniques. I am curious about many areas within demography, labor and health economics and I have worked on several of them.

I have published on the effects of family structure and union formation on child health and development, the time-use patterns and trade-offs faced by working mothers, the social context of rising obesity among adolescents and adults in the US, the measurement of work disability using self-reports and disability vignette data, how well older Americans are able to predict the value of their homes, the stability of fertility preferences in Europe, and the determinants of East-West German migration after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In recent work, supported by the Social Security Administration, I have studied the impact of Social Security and private pension wealth on work, benefit take-up behavior, and retirement well-being. Current collaborative projects include studies on the racial/ethnic differences in mortality at old age, the effect of teen childbirth on education, disability measurement in the US vs. Europe, and on urbanization and obesity in Indonesia.

A lot of my research is inter-disciplinary in nature, so I’m stimulated and challenged by being in SPIA. Here, my work is viewed by peers with various backgrounds, interests and expertise, which can be helpful to get feedback and new ideas. We often have very lively research seminars as a result!

You chair the college committee on undergraduate departmental honors theses. You must come across some impressive honors works. Do any come to mind?
I enjoy the fresh ideas, breadth of interests, and the tremendous enthusiasm that the honors thesis students bring to their scholarly research and creative projects. This past academic year we again had an impressive set of original theses from across campus, including works in Biology, Chemistry, Economics, English, History, International Business, Jewish Studies, Journalism, and Public Affairs. Particularly memorable were Stevie Borrello’s Journalism thesis “The Modern-Day Migrant Worker: The Life of a Filipina Domestic Worker in New York City” and Brian Boggio’s English thesis “Building the shakesCloud: An Alternative to Genre in Richard III, Macbeth, and Cymbeline,” supported by Professor Allison Deutermann.

Stevie prepared a timely and inspiring multimedia expose on the social, political, and migrant status of domestic workers in the U.S. told through the life of Nene Abellanosa, a Filipina domestic worker in NYC. Brian conducted a compelling analysis of genre and repertoire in Shakespeare. His thesis was theoretically sophisticated and beautifully written. We awarded the Kanner Prize for Outstanding Baruch Honors Thesis to Stevie and Brian. I’m grateful to Professor Bridgett Davis, who mentored Stevie, to Professor Allison Deutermann, who mentored Brian, and to the many other faculty members who have supported students engaging in departmental honors thesis research and creative projects.

What brought you to SPIA? What keeps you here?
I was recruited as a SPIA Faculty Associate of the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research. I’m teaching Baruch MPA and CUNY doctoral students, mostly in research methods and demography, something I enjoy tremendously. I have had many wonderful experiences with students here and CUNY’s mission of providing high quality education that less-privileged students can also afford is something I feel strongly about. What makes SPIA special to me is the open and collegial atmosphere. People are willing to take on complex issues and look for ways to contribute to the greater good of the school. In terms of research, while it can be difficult sometimes to develop new research with our teaching and service obligations, I am involved in several exciting collaborations with SPIA colleagues. That keeps me happy and busy!