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On the Job: Dave Seliger

Mar 15, 2021   |   by Theresa D'Orsi   |   Dartmouth Engineer

DAVE SELIGER '12 | Service Design Coordinator

Since his ride-alongs with the Hanover police for his honors thesis, Seliger has searched for ways to improve complex municipal systems. "Thayer students should know their skills and mindset will serve them if they're willing to take on our cities' biggest challenges," he says. He has since tackled issues ranging from workforce development to affordable housing.

What was the focus of your thesis?

I intended to create a tool to help keep police officers safe. However, I realized the real issue was that they were miserable in their jobs. I started reading any book I could find on systems engineering and organizational psychology.

What was your first job in NYC?

When Hurricane Sandy hit two months after I started, I got to deploy the city's massive stockpiles of food, water, and medicine to the 7,500 New Yorkers who sought shelter from the storm. My engineer's mindset was my biggest asset in managing the flow of supplies. When every system fails, we know how to create a plan for putting the pieces back together.

How does that approach help local government?

The classic way to look at public services is individually: a job training program or free health clinic. But the engineer's perspective is to look at the entire system. If a food assistance program isn't working, does the family have everything else they need? What if they don't have a safe place to sleep or were unable to come get the food voucher because they don't have a MetroCard? Government systems are not really all that different from circuits or micro-hydropower systems. They need to be designed so they can be used by real people.

"Local government needs engineers now more than ever."

Dave Seliger '12

What is your current role?

I'm the senior advisor for service design and delivery for the rental assistance team at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). We help approximately 40,000 low-income households pay their rent. Right now I'm figuring out how to get our tenants free or low-cost internet access so that they can submit forms online!

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