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Don Waisanen, Ph.D.

Lecturer, Strategic Communication; 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


  • Puligadda, S. & Waisanen, D. J. (2023). Innovation Soup: A Recipe for Organizational Success. New York, NY: Business Expert Press. 
  • Waisanen, D. J., Jarvis, S., & Gordon, N. (2023). States of Confusion: How New Voter ID Laws Fail Democracy and What to Do About It. New York, NY: New York University Press. 
  • Waisanen, D. J. (2021). Leadership Standpoints: A Practical Framework for the Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press (Elements in Public and Nonprofit Administration series). 
  • Waisanen, D. J. (2021). Improv for Democracy: How to Bridge Differences and Develop the Communication and Leadership Skills Our World Needs. Albany, NY: State University of New York press (New Political Science series). 
  • Williams, D. & Waisanen, D. J. (2020). Real Money, Real Power? The Challenges Citizens Face with Participatory Budgeting. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Smith, R. C., Waisanen, D. J., & Barbosa, G. Y. (2019). Immigration and Strategic Public Health Communication: Lessons from the Transnational Seguro Popular Healthcare Project. New York, NY: Routledge.  
  • Waisanen, D. J. (2018). Political Conversion: Personal Transformation as Strategic Public Communication. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield (Lexington Studies in Political Communication series).