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NYU CUSP students come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, from computer science and engineering to business and public policy. However, what they all share is a passion for applying analytical skills to problem-solving in an urban context.

As pioneers in the growing field of Urban Informatics, CUSP students are looking for a challenge, and want to make a difference in how people live, and improve the quality of life in cities.

Fall 2017 Class Profile


77 students

including new and returning graduate students

27 years

average age of students

3.4 average GPA

in undergraduate studies

3.5 years

average work experience

6 NYC Employees

currently working for the city

18%

students who already have a Master’s degree

62%

percentage of international students currently enrolled

35%

percentage of female students currently enrolled


Undergraduate Backgrounds CUSP



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Perspectives from the CUSP Community

What’s it like to be a student at CUSP? Hear what our students have to say below, or check out the backgrounds of our current Fall 2017 cohort here  →

Jonathan Geis CUSP

Jonathan Geis

USA, MS Class of 2018

As the Director of Analytics, Office of District Planning for the New York City Department of Education, Jonathan wanted to go deeper into his department’s data sets but knew his work was limited by his technical skills. He first found CUSP when researching data science and public policy programs, and was surprised to see “how many avenues there were to explore data science within a city.”

“As I learned more about CUSP, I saw all of the behind the scenes aspects of running a city that I had never thought about before,” he said.

As a student, Jonathan has seen direct correlations between his coursework and his career. Most notably, Jonathan has worked with CUSP faculty and leveraged multiple resources at CUSP to set up a Department of Education Hackathon. He has also realized the depth of untapped data in his department and hopes his new skills from CUSP will help him study and analyze these data sets to improve the lives of students.

“We are serving 1.1 million students in NYC, with everything from food to transportation to sanitation. It’s like a medium sized city that we’re running, and we have the ability to collect and analyze data from a lot of those operations. There’s a lot that we could learn and apply not just to other school districts, but other city departments.”

At CUSP, Jonathan enjoys the diversity of experience and the depth of experience of his classmates, from the countries and industries represented to the level of expertise in his cohort. In his first semester, he has already professionally collaborated with other classmates in city agencies and feels challenged in his courses.

“I didn’t come from a programming background, but the expectations weren’t lowered for us,” he said. “We were thrown into the deep end of the pool, but someone was always there to guide and support us.”

Ekaterina Levitskaya

Russia, MS Class of 2017

After finishing her first Master’s degree in Design and Urban Ecologies and working for an environmental non-profit and a web-mapping startup, Ekaterina became interested in learning how cities and urban communities work together.

“I grew up in a big city- Moscow- so I saw many urban issues around me. I wanted to learn about the science of cities, but at the time, I didn’t know such a field existed. I completed my first Master’s, which was about understanding the ecosystem and how urban communities work together. But I still wondered about what tools and quantitative skills I needed to think about these problems.”

When she discovered CUSP, Ekaterina was excited to find a program that was not only at the forefront of data analysis on urban centers but also would teach her key quantitative skills. “People come here from all over the world because there isn’t such a program yet on the science of cities; it’s a pioneering field, and CUSP is the center point. Those people who love pioneering will love CUSP because it’s on the edge of creating urban science.”

As a student, Ekaterina’s favorite aspect is her cohort’s combination of tech and social science backgrounds. “CUSP allows for a dialogue between urbanists- people who have studied the history of cities, sociology, and social economics- and technologists,” she says. “It’s interesting to see how we think, interact, and discuss a problem. It’s really important in the real world to bridge this gap, and to have urbanists understand the scientific side and for scientists to gain more storytelling skills.”

In her courses, Ekaterina finds it valuable not only to speak from her perspective as an urbanist but also to hear the personal experiences of her classmates. She believes these diverse backgrounds are helpful not just in gaining her own technical skills, but also when thinking about new ways to creatively impact cities.

“We have so many city organizations that are swamped from all the data sources that they have,” she says. “We need filtering skills to narrow down and analyze the most important data, and creative ways of using these sources. It’s a data scavenger role. I like looking at all of these different local communities and seeing how we can connect and help these people using data.”

Sunny Kulkarni, CUSPSunny Kulkarni

India, MS Class of 2017

“I stumbled upon CUSP and was immediately hooked. The program was in the field of data science but was focused on urban innovation, solving the issues of big cities, and social good. The skills I learn here I will not just apply to my work, but also to data-for-good initiatives. It seems to be a really promising career.”

Sunny has worked in the field of analytics for almost 9 years. Most recently, he joined Sustainable Jersey City, where he led a Sustainability Indicators Metrics project, a data-driven analytical project with a focus on building a scorecard on the city’s sustainability measures.

Sunny chose CUSP because of its specialized degree and connections to urban innovation and solving the issues of big cities.

“Growing up in Mumbai, one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in India, I’ve always had a passion to engage and build bridges toward greater understanding across cultures. In Mumbai, I knew what challenges we faced and the ways it could improve.”

In his classes, Sunny lends his perspective of Mumbai to conversations on global perspectives on big cities. “Being part of NYU CUSP is awesome because there’s no shortage of ways to implement ideas or learn from other people’s experiences,” he says. “We have a class of 80 students with really diverse backgrounds and countries, and it brings innovation and understanding to what’s happening in different parts of the world.”

He hopes to use his degree and analytics consulting experience to successfully build smart city solutions, and apply his skills to social causes.

Adrian Dahlin, CUSPAdrian Dahlin

USA, MS Class of 2017

“My passion for my hometown and its needs motivated me to study urban science.”

After working at a graduate school of ecological landscape design in Massachusetts and running for City Council in Holyoke, Massachusetts last year, Adrian debated pursuing either an MBA or MPP for his graduate studies. He chose CUSP as a way to receive an education that applied to both business and politics, while also gaining data analysis skills.

“I wanted to gain more technical skills, and I ultimately chose CUSP because it was more innovative and forward thinking than any of the other programs I was considering. CUSP seemed more challenging and mission-driven than business school and more data-driven than a policy degree.”

At CUSP, Adrian appreciates the hands-on help of the faculty and community of the students. “The biggest thing about CUSP that has stood out to me is how collaborative the cohort is. People get together every day here and work on homework together, which is encouraged by the professors. I feel like I can get the help I need in one area, and pay it forward in another area I’m doing well in. I really appreciate that.”

Following his degree, Adrian hopes to return to Massachusetts and apply his learnings as a consultant to small- and medium-sized cities.