Yuh-Line Niou knows a secret about government: It enables every citizen to make a difference.
“There are those who paint a picture of government as inaccessible and distant,” says Ms. Niou. “But the big secret is that there is no secret. As President Obama said, if we don’t like how our government is working, then pick up a clipboard, get signatures, campaign, and run.”
Niou took that advice to heart and in 2016 was elected assemblymember of New York’s 65th District, becoming the first Asian American to represent lower Manhattan.
Niou’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was only six months old; for the most part, the family called the West Coast home. Her realization at a young age that she wanted to learn about government and find out how she could make a difference eventually led her to Baruch on a National Urban Fellowship.
As part of the program, Niou earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs while working for the Environmental Protection Agency. Juggling both coursework and professional responsibilities proved to be a daunting but worthwhile experience, she says. Niou has high praise for the Marxe faculty, especially Dr. Sanders Korenman, an economist: “He made me a much better policy writer, and now, as I write legislation, I think back on his classes.”
After graduation Niou served as chief of staff for fellow Baruch alumnus Assemblyman Ronald Kim (MPA ’06) before deciding to run for a state assembly seat herself. She looks forward to tackling the big issues facing her district, including housing affordability, storm resiliency, senior services, and education. “Big fights,” she calls them, “but big fights obviously worth fighting for.”
Niou is especially grateful for the enduring relationships she formed with her Baruch classmates. “During my campaign, my class came out to help me door knock, dial, and fundraise. You can’t quantify that kind of support, love, and friendship,” she says.
— Gregory M. Leporati