John Liu: The Professor Who Was
New York City Comptroller

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John Liu introduces Congressman Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler to Baruch students enrolled in PAF 9144: Budget & Financial Analysis.

Baruch College offers something that many other colleges don’t—and can’t—offer: The opportunity to learn from and interact with real world practitioners—men and women who have been successful in politics, business, and other endeavors. Case in point: John Liu, who recently joined the faculty of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs. Liu previously served as the NYC Comptroller and as a City Council member representing parts of Queens.

Through the leadership of Dr. David Birdsell, Dean of the School of Public Affairs, Baruch continues to strengthen its academic programs by inviting practitioners from government and nonprofit organizations to share their expertise with students.


Liu Steps Into the Classroom

JohnLiu2In January 2014, John Liu became an adjunct faculty member in financial management in Baruch’s School of Public Affairs. He brings to his classes a personal knowledge of the subject matter. He also makes use of the many contacts and connections he has made over the years in the field of public service, bringing guest speakers and lecturers from various levels of government entities and engaging them in a roundtable discussion with students. To date, guest speakers have included Congressman Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler (10th Congressional District of New York), Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, NYC Chief Actuary Bob North, Deputy NY State Comptroller Tina Kim, Deputy NYC Comptroller Carol Kostik, and President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew.

"Teaching at Baruch has been simply terrific, from students hungry and motivated to learn, to faculty members collegial and supportive,” Liu said. “My previous teaching experience was limited to being a teaching assistant when I was still in college, and teaching not municipal finance, but math and physics."

As Comptroller, Liu was responsible for oversight of New York City’s $70B+ budget and for investing a public pension fund worth more than $150B. Before his term as Comptroller, Liu served two terms in the New York City Council. He was the first Asian-American elected to any New York State legislative body and the first Asian-American elected to City-wide office.

After running unsuccessfully for NYC mayor in 2013, Liu took a break from politics and brought his years of government experience to Baruch students and taught PAF 9144: Budget & Financial Analysis II during the 2014 spring semester. Liu’s students were pleasantly surprised to see Liu leading the class.


Students Take Notice

Luis Rey Ramirez (MPA ’14), one of Liu’s students, says: “Being an immigrant and being raised in NYC, it was great to be in a class with someone who I could relate to and who has become successful in his own right.”

Ramirez, who is hoping to work with a government or non-profit organization, said the learning experience in Liu’s class was exactly on target and helpful. New York’s state and city budgets were being approved while Liu’s course was in session. Gutierrez said this provided an opportunity to have lively class discussions.

Classmate Karen Gutierrez (MPA ’15), agrees with Ramirez “What I really liked about his class was that he was able to take us away from just doing numbers,” said Gutierrez, who moved to New York from Columbia. “He went beyond that and focused on administrative matters, bringing in guest speakers who brought their expertise and stories about their work experience. As a graduate student in public administration, you want to know what the workforce is like and you want to get different viewpoints that will help you have a sense of how the work environment will be once you get out into the workforce.”


Bringing Expertise to the Classroom

As a practitioner, Liu was able to share his expertise and offer students the opportunity to tap into his real world knowledge.

My hope was to bring a real-life perspective to students, to supplement what they learned from textbooks and technical exercises with actual war stories from people on the front lines of municipal finance.

“Students were free to ask a wide range of questions and were able to gain more understanding than they otherwise would have by just reading the newspapers,” Liu said.

Liu is far from finished with public life himself. He recently announced his intention to run for the State Senate, starting with a primary against Queens Democratic incumbent Tony Avella.


About Baruch College:

Baruch College is a senior college in the City University of New York (CUNY) with a total enrollment of more than 17,000 students, who represent 160 countries and speak more than 100 languages. Ranked among the top 15% of U.S. colleges and the No. 5 public regional university, Baruch College is regularly recognized as among the most ethnically diverse colleges in the country. As a public institution with a tradition of academic excellence, Baruch College offers accessibility and opportunity for students from every corner of New York City and from around the world. For more about Baruch College, go to



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