Class of '90 Alum J. Phillip Thompson Receives President's Distinguished Alum Metal

Class of ’90 Alum J. Phillip Thompson Receives President’s Distinguished Alum Metal

James Phillip Thompson (Ph.D. ’90, Political Science) is a leading urban planner and political scientist whose career exemplifies a commitment to academic research, community development, coalition building, and government service. Currently deputy mayor for strategic planning initiatives for New York City and associate professor of political science and urban planning at MIT, Thompson has been acknowledged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as “one of the foremost experts on how to better serve and lift up low-income neighborhoods.”
Appointed deputy mayor in February 2018, Thompson is responsible for New York City’s signature Pre-K for All program, consumer affairs, and worker protection expanding the city’s investment in minority and women-owned businesses, and encouraging greater voter participation. He is currently on community service leave from MIT, where, along with his teaching and research, he leads MIT’s Housing, Community, and Economic Development Group.
Thompson’s academic interests and his community and government service have informed each other throughout his career, starting with a position in the Manhattan borough president’s office while he pursued his master’s in urban planning at Hunter College. After receiving his doctorate in political science at The Graduate Center, he served under Mayor David Dinkins as the mayor’s housing coordinator and as deputy general manager for the operations and development for the New York City Housing Authority.
Thompson has said that “experts are the people who work and live in the community,” and he has brought that focus on local participation and coalition building to many sectors of his work and research. He has advised trade unions in their efforts to work with immigrant and community groups. His work as a consultant on health care as part of New York State’s Vital Brooklyn plan, a $1.4 billion initiative to revitalize central Brooklyn, had its roots in Thompson’s connections to the local community and his research and thorough data analysis.
His expertise in urban policy, race, health, and the environment is sought well beyond New York City. He has advised the government of Colombia and its local stakeholders on sustainable environmental and community-development programs; the government of Haiti on post-earthquake housing planning and design; and on post-disaster training with the city of New Orleans.
He is the author of Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities and the Call for a Deep Democracy.
Thompson has a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University. He has taught at Barnard College and Columbia University.
Read more about the Fifty-Fifth Annual Commencement Exercises here.