Commencement Comments by RAND President and CEO Michael Rich
Photo: Diane Baldwin
To our graduating fellows; their families; PRGS faculty; the Board of Governors; RAND staff; RAND alumni; all of you who support the Pardee RAND Graduate School; and other distinguished guests, I join the Dean in offering you a warm welcome to RAND’s headquarters campus.
The Pardee RAND Graduate School stands alone in the world of higher education. More than four decades ago, RAND joined a group of seven prominent research universities to offer a graduate education in public policy. While the others concentrated on two-year master’s programs, RAND was the only one to specialize in offering a doctor of philosophy degree, emphasizing rigorous training, original research, and practical experience. The Pardee RAND Graduate School is still unique: the only public-policy doctoral program housed within a global policy-research organization.
PRGS is one of RAND’s most distinctive and valuable assets. One reason is that the special relationship between the School and RAND produces a terrific synergy. Students arrive here at our campus with exceptional credentials and drive. The entering class each fall represents an important fraction of the new analytical talent joining RAND each year. The PRGS students—more than 100 at any one time—infuse our community with new ideas and they bring a rich diversity of experience to our research teams. At RAND, they gain access to the world’s foremost collection of policy experts, from every discipline and many professional specialties. Together they work to help decisionmakers and citizens around the globe take on the most challenging policy problems of the day. By working on RAND projects, PRGS students develop a sophisticated understanding of the role of policy analysis in the context of real policy problems, real policymaking institutions, and real policymakers—an understanding that is unmatched among their counterparts at other graduate institutions.
My own history with PRGS has allowed me to get to know many, many students over the years and to become involved in their work. I’ve taught courses, advised students, and chaired dissertation and qualifying exam committees. For a decade I chaired the admissions committee. Year and year I was reminded that I would have had no chance for admission had I been an applicant. I loved chairing the PRGS admissions committee; it was like an annual humility booster shot.
My experience convinced me that PRGS—its student body, faculty, alumni, and supporters—is central to RAND’s future. PRGS has the potential to transform not just the science and art of policy analysis, but by serving as an engine of innovation for the world’s most prominent policy-research institution, PRGS can help transform the practice of policy analysis. The Dean and I have plans for PRGS and RAND to do exactly that, so stay tuned.
But, today, our focus is on this impressive graduating class. So, graduates: Congratulations! You have worked hard here at PRGS. You arrived with a passion for problem-solving and have now acquired a powerful set of analytical tools. I am confident that each of you will go on to important and influential careers. But as you graduate today from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, I ask of you two things:
First, never forget that you will soon be an alum of two great institutions – PRGS and RAND. In addition to gaining automatic membership in two alumni associations, with all that that portends, you will have the privilege and responsibility of being an ambassador. Carry with you in your career, in the analyses you undertake and commission, in the policy changes you lead, a firm and unwavering commitment to quality and to objectivity in all that do. These two core values have served RAND and PRGS well, they will serve you well, and through your commitment to them, you will serve society well.
Second, remember that the work you will be engaged in, the work of public policy and policy analysis, is not really about the tools and techniques—the modeling, regression analyses, case studies, the surveys, and all the rest. It’s not even about the products—the memos, articles, books, reports, and presentations. The work you have dedicated yourself to is ultimately about making a real difference in people’s lives: Helping individuals, societies, and the world become healthier, safer, more secure, more prosperous.
On behalf of all of us in attendance today, I thank you for your contributions to RAND and to PRGS. I salute your achievements, and l look forward to applauding the contributions you will make to society in the years ahead.