Meet the new big man on campus.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino officially introduced himself to dozens of Boston University professors and students who gathered at the east campus dining hall Wednesday morning to hear him talk about his new role: co-director of the Institute on Cities, a center meant to come up with solutions for urban problems.
“Cities are the cool new thing,” Menino said as students in Ugg boots and sweatshirts whipped out smart phones to film him. “I’m cool now.”
Menino turned down an offer to work at Harvard University to take the job at BU, where his salary is expected to be comparable to what full professors earn: $157,000.
The concept behind the institute is to convene mayors and municipal managers from around the world to share ideas on tackling urban issues such as city finances, the environment, and public health.
“I can’t think of anybody better suited to lead an initiative like this than Mayor Menino,” said BU President Robert A. Brown, who sat next to Menino during the press conference.
Menino will work with Graham Wilson, chairman of BU’s political science department, and has no plans to teach any courses.
But he promised students he would have “an open door policy” for anyone who wanted to meet with him. Menino said he might even consider having office hours.
Sophomore Tara Hennigar was heading to the dining hall for breakfast when she caught sight of Menino. After his announcement, she strode up to him and shook his hand.
“If I knew when I went to get my omelette that I was going to meet the mayor, I would have dressed better,” she said, staring down at her modest Target fleece and black leggings.
Hennigar said she planned to take Menino up on his promise of an open door policy.
“My accounting professor told us to get a mentor,” she said. “Maybe I found him.”
Professor Bruce Berman, who brought students from his “Introduction to American Management” class to hear the announcement, said he expects to see the mayor on campus often, the same way residents of the city saw him at block parties and ribbon cuttings.
“I’m not sure we’ll see him at the cafeteria or at every Terriers game,” Berman said. “But I know he wouldn’t have taken this [job] if he wasn’t interested in spending some time here.”