Professor Profile: Geri Wildenberg

April 15, 2013
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A graduate of the CUNY John Jay MPA Program at West Point herself, Professor Geri Wildenberg brings a wealth of experience and practical knowledge to her classes. With an undergraduate degree in engineering, a Masters in public administration and a Doctorate in organization and management, Professor Wildenberg has spent most of her professional career in the public sector. “Although I still consider myself an engineer, I have spent most of my professional career as a supervisor, manager, and leader in Army public works organizations”, she says. “While engineering is ‘all about numbers’, public service is ‘all about people’.  Much of my professional development focused on strengthening those very important people skills.”

Like many of the CUNY John Jay MPA Program at West Point professors and students who work for government, Professor Wildenberg stresses the importance of truly understanding what it means to work in the public sector. “You probably should do a little ‘soul-searching’ before choosing a public service career,” Professor Wildenberg says. “No matter whether you work at the federal level or for the state, the county, or a municipality, you have to remember that you are a public servant.  The politicians set the agenda.  Public administrators execute it.  If you’re looking to change the world, go into politics.  But if you are committed to making the world a better place by ensuring laws are administered fairly and faithfully, then public service is for you.” She also emphasizes customer service skills, stating, “No matter what you do in the public sector, customer service skills are most important.  If you plan to be a supervisor or manager, being able to motivate employees to deliver exceptional customer service is just as important.”

As a Federal employee, Professor Wildenberg has had many exciting experiences. She was in Europe when the Berlin Wall fell, and she also helped deploy the 3rd Armor Division to fight in Desert Storm. In addition, she has worked closely with American and foreign politicians and diplomats, and Army Generals on reshaping the American presence overseas. “No matter which Agency you work for (e.g., Department of Defense, the FBI, the IRS, etc.) you will find a meaningful mission and the chance to contribute to something great.  Although things have changed significantly since I joined federal service in 1980, I believe it is still exciting to play an active role in the governing of our nation,” she says.

Professor Wildenberg has found her time at West Point to be the most exciting part of working for government. As the future leaders of America, Professor Wildenberg is proud to have interacted with the USMA Cadets and have an impact on their development. Working at West Point led Professor Wildenberg to enroll in the CUNY John Jay MPA Program at West Point due to its convenience and reasonable cost. She appreciates the diversity of the student body, saying “My educational experience was enriched tremendously by getting to know them and learning from their experiences.  Many of my classmates were Army officers, many others were state and local police.  Others worked for Not-For-Profits such as United Way, other federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration, and even the United Nations.”

As a professor, she has taught Introduction to Public Administration, Organizational Theory, Program Development and Evaluation, Outsourcing, Management Systems, and Organizational Assessment. Professor Wildenberg appreciates the small size of the program, because it allows her to get to know each student on a more personal level, and provide each student with individual attention. Her future plans are to continue to combine her public sector experience with her love for teaching: she hopes to “continue to mentor, grow, and inspire the next generation of public service professionals by teaching at the graduate level at faith-based colleges and universities.”