Don Waisanen, Ph.D.
Lecturer; Professor, Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs
Don Waisanen is a Professor in the Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, where he received the Presidential Awards for Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Scholarship. He teaches courses and workshops in public communication—including executive speech training, communication strategy, and seminars on storytelling, conflict and negotiation, and leadership and improvisation.
All of Waisanen’s research seeks to understand how communication works to promote or hinder the force of citizens’ voices. Since “every human advancement or reversal can be understood through communication” (Walter Annenberg), he has written over 45 scholarly publications on the subject, covering topics from strategies in public speaking to the ways that organizations and governments can better communicate with different stakeholders. He is the author of Improv for Democracy: How to Bridge Differences and Develop the Communication and Leadership Skills Our World Needs, and forthcoming books on the intersections of strategic communication and voter suppression, participatory budgeting, and nonprofit leadership.
Previously, Waisanen worked in broadcast journalism, as a speechwriter, and continues to develop and run communication campaigns for organizations across the private and public sectors. He is the founder of Communication Upward and an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University and New York University. For the last two decades, he's also been a comedy writer and improvisational comedian at theaters in Los Angeles and New York.
- Ph.D., University of Southern California
- B.A., Westmont College
- Improv for Democracy: How to Bridge Differences and Develop the Communication and Leadership Skills Our World Needs (State University of New York Press, 2020)
- Immigration and Strategic Public Health Communication: Lessons from the Transnational Seguro Popular Project (Routledge, 2019; with Robert C. Smith and Guillermo Yrizar Barbosa)
- Political Conversion: Personal Transformation as Strategic Public Communication (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018)
In the News
The Call for Improv for Democracy
In this excerpt from his new book, Don Waisanen explores the critical role improvisation could play in democracy's future.