Now these leaders are retiring from the scene, making room for new talent. “The baby boomers took up a lot of space,” says Stephanie Pollack, who teaches public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University. “They stayed in public life and owned it for years.” With the channels clearing, Pollack sees a hunger in her students to make a difference in the city many have adopted as home. “They want to influence the future, not just be passive consumers of the city,” she says.

At Northeastern, graduate students worked with Boston officials to develop the technology that allows food stamp recipients to buy produce at farmer’s markets with their electronic benefit cards. Another group worked with the city of Quincy to re-imagine the Quincy Center MBTA station. “These students are great, and truly engaged,” said Christopher Bosso, the Northeastern professor who oversaw many of these projects. “The next mayor needs to maintain these connections and expand on them.”