Welcome to Findings, the online newsletter for PRGS/RGS/RGI alums. Findings is sent by email to all PRGS alumni. If you do not wish to be contacted, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this issue . . .
Introductory Thoughts—Jeffrey Wasserman, Assistant Dean
As some of you may recall from a recent announcement, a few weeks ago I was named Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs. I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be assuming that position. PRGS has for over two decades been near and dear to my heart. In addition to finishing the program myself in 1988, I have been working with PRGS fellows on a wide range of research projects since I slowly started migrating back to RAND in 1991—do any of us ever really leave? I also teach two courses: the first, Policy Analysis I: Perspectives on Policy Analysis, is a required course for all first-year fellows, and the second, Principles of Client-Oriented Policy Analysis, provides fellows with an opportunity to conduct policy analyses on behalf of local government agencies and community-based organizations.
As I transition into my new role, this fall is already shaping up to be an exciting time for PRGS. Once again, we have managed to recruit a terrific new cohort of fellows, who are ready and willing to tackle a range of existing and emerging policy challenges. We have also initiated the Washington Experience program, which involves sending a group of seasoned PRGS fellows to Washington, D.C. for five months to get a firsthand look at the policy process, connect with our D.C.-based researchers, and take Kathi Webb's (PRGS '92) new course on the federal budget process. Also this fall, PRGS faculty and staff have gone international, in that we are currently running a policy analysis training program—along with our RAND-Qatar Policy Institute colleagues—for staff from Qatar's Supreme Council for Family Affairs. We will share some highlights from this project in the winter 2011 issue of Findings. Finally, Stefanie Stern has come aboard from within RAND as Director of Admissions and Academic Services, overseeing this very important component of our program.
I am looking forward to connecting or reconnecting with each and every one of you in the months and years ahead at alumni events and other venues. In the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts whatsoever about our curriculum, faculty, or student achievements, I hope you will feel free to email me at Jeffrey@rand.org or call me at (310) 393-0411, ext. 6693.
Recap of Commencement and 40th Anniversary Celebration Events
The Pardee RAND Graduate School celebrated its 40th anniversary June 11 and 12, culminating with a commencement address by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We are very proud of the impact the Pardee RAND Graduate School has made over its 40-year history, and are excited about the work our newest graduates will begin as they embark on their careers," said Susan L. Marquis, Dean of the graduate school.
"When it comes to shaping public policy, and leading the changes that must be made, it's important to rely on evidence-based, objective research," Marquis said. "These new graduates have been trained to approach complex problems not just from an economist's or an engineer's point of view, but across multiple disciplines. Their dissertations have focused on real-world problems, from managing New Orleans' flood risk, to detecting terrorist weapon development, to evaluating the impact of school nutrition and physical fitness programs."
The celebration began on June 11 on RAND's headquarters campus in Santa Monica, with a private event for faculty, students, and alumni featuring two policy panel discussions. The first, "Be the Answer: A Case Study in Health Care Quality," was moderated by Jeffrey Wasserman (PRGS '88) and featured Elizabeth A. McGlynn (PRGS '88). They were joined by Pedro José Greer, Jr., a member of the school's Board of Governors and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, current fellow Sean O'Neill, and alumnus Neeraj Sood (PRGS '03) of the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC.
The second panel, "Be the Answer: The Role of Analysis in Policymaking," was moderated by Marquis and featured Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus of UCLA, RAND trustee Ann McLaughlin Korologos, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Mullen. The discussions were followed by a reception and celebratory dinner.
Mullen was the featured speaker June 12 at the PRGS commencement ceremony. A total of 33 doctoral degrees and 30 master's degrees were awarded during the ceremony, which was attended by more than 300 people.
The world's increasingly complex problems require bold leaders who can be objective and build relationships with others, Mullen said. "The education you have earned here has positioned you to lead the changes of the future," Mullen told the graduates. "And bold leadership is certainly in order. We need leaders with strength of character, broad perspective, and sharp insight. Simply put, we need you."
RAND President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Thomson praised the graduates for choosing to dedicate themselves to understanding the complexities of the world's challenges. "They have become the leaders who help shape solutions that acknowledge the multifaceted problems and messy realities of our times, yet also acknowledge our aspirations for a better, smarter and more humane world: a world where decisions are made not for political expedience or partisan gain, but based on facts and analysis and best practices," Thomson said. "A world where decisionmaking is as rational, informed, and realistic as humans can be, and yet guided by a vision of what could be."
Marquis said the graduates were not content to simply study the world's pressing problems, but to be the answer to those problems. "The leadership and service you are called to will not be easy," Marquis said. "The brute reality, as written by Graham Allison, is that politics and government are inherently controversial. Public service is not simply a noble calling. It is a combat sport. Your service will require integrity, persistence, understanding, courage, and vision."
Honorary degrees were awarded to Mullen, Carnesale, and Korologos. The 2010 Ph.D. graduates are: Alisher Akhmedjonov, Ricardo Basurto, Margaret Blume-Kohout, Ze Cong, Lindsay Daugherty, Michael Egner, Diana Epstein, Meenakshi Fernandes, Jordan Fischbach, Stephen Gayton, Jeremy Ghez, Myong-Hyun Go, Eric Gons, James Griffin, Qian Gu, Sara Hajiamiri, David Howell, Thomas Lang, Xiaoyan Li, Ying Liu, Yang Lu, Qiufei Ma, Patricia Jane McClure Burstain, Silvia Montoya, Jeffrey Peterson, Bogdan Savych, David Trinkle, Anna-Marie Vilamovska, Lynne Wainfan, Jennifer Wong, Nailing Xia, Yuhui Zheng and Xiaohui Zhuo.
Recruitment for Fall 2011
We are pleased to welcome Stefanie Stern as our new Director for Admissions and Academic Services. Stefanie comes to PRGS from the behavioral sciences group within RAND and will be taking the lead with recruitment and the application/admissions processes.
This year, we are attempting to reach out to prospective students in places where we haven't traditionally had a strong presence. Highlights from our travel schedules include:
The application deadline for fall 2011 is December 16, 2010. More information can be found at http://www.prgs.edu/Application.html.
As alumni, you are one of our most valuable resources in getting the word out about PRGS. Please continue to encourage promising individuals to learn more about our program at http://www.prgs.edu/.
2010 Cohort Update
This year's entering cohort of 21 students is one of our best and brightest. They are experienced both professionally and academically, diverse in their backgrounds, intelligent beyond their years, and passionate about policy. With a combined total of 17 master's degrees and years of experience across 20 different organizations and academic institutions, we are proud to welcome them to our community. Despite their varied backgrounds, they all view PRGS as the best launching pad—in terms of disciplines, projects, and methodologies—for future success as world-changers.
Click on a name to read that person's bio.
You, as part of our alumni community, are a valuable source of information regarding PRGS. If you know exceptional individuals like the members of our 2010 cohort, we hope you will encourage them to learn more about our unique program. We welcome your referrals and recommendations at email@example.com. Information about the application process and the upcoming information sessions in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Santa Monica can be found at http://www.prgs.edu/admissions. Thank you for your support!
Interviews with 2010 Students
PRGS Year 1: Let the Journey Begin
I had the pleasure recently to sit down with five members of the 2010 cohort. On the eve of their first official day at PRGS, they spent an hour of their time talking through their worries, their thoughts on the upcoming and subsequent years, and what the future holds for each of them.
Joining the conversation were David An, a native Angelino recently returned from Boston, where he plied his multi-disciplinary background in consulting; Jay Klenk, who came to PRGS from the U.S. Air Force Academy after spending time on an ecclesiastical mission in Romania; Shmuel Abramzon, who worked as an economist in a variety of positions within the Israeli government; Steve Isley, an aerospace engineer by training who tested the U.S. speed skating suits for the 2010 Olympics while managing a wind tunnel laboratory in Seattle; and Pey-Yan Liou, who was a high school history teacher in Taipei, Taiwan, before moving to Minneapolis to earn a Ph.D. in educational psychology last spring.
Listening to these five extraordinary students introduce themselves, I could immediately see why PRGS admitted them: being smart multi-disciplinarians with a motivation to act out the change they would like to see in the world, they fit naturally into the PRGS family. However, to start, I was curious what they were worried about as they began their time at PRGS.
Jay and David started by mentioning some of the first-year coursework that awaited, specifically microeconomics and the mathematics underpinning the core courses. As David said, "Picking up math after some time is like learning a second or third language—one needs to be immersed to become fluent." This quickly turned the conversation to the decision to come to PRGS and the sacrifices it entails, like leaving a comfortable and stable job to take a risk on something new. Shmuel stated, "I want to stay involved [in previous work] and be able to go back to make the right type of difference, but it is unknown." Many of the respondents come to PRGS with families and know that balancing a professional and personal life is difficult, but wondered what it would be like in this new environment.
Then there were the universal concerns like OJT (on-the-job training) and building relationships with others at PRGS. As Steve said, "The bios of all the continuing fellows were quite impressive... and intimidating," to which I reminded him that I thought the same thing about the fellows who began before I arrived and those applying next year will think the same about them! The mental shift between a regular university and a unique institution like PRGS was also on fellows' minds. The need to network and seek out project work were sources of both trepidation and inquiry. As Pey-Yan said, "Professional networking was less important in a university setting than it seems to be here, and I wonder what it'll be like; will it become more natural over time?"
However, worries weren't the only thing on their minds as they entered PRGS. Being one day away from starting classes, they clearly were thinking about the opportunities that lay ahead of them this first year. As Jay put it, he was looking forward to having skills that will help him in his interests, such as better understanding how and why people act the way they do. Steve was already contemplating the dissertation... what topics might be interesting, how the year will shape his interests, and what OJT might add to his thinking. Thankfully, though, many were still blissfully unaware of qualifying exams a mere nine months away!
As these new fellows are starting their time at PRGS, I also asked them what they thought the future may hold. Most were honest that at this point, it was difficult to know what the future would hold, but that the journey itself should be fruitful. Through courses, OJT, and interaction with others at RAND, all were excited by the various possibilities. David mentioned that the recently-completed policy seminars—a first introduction to policy research at RAND—were fascinating and made him more interested in getting involved in policy research. Jay was already wondering, with all the talent of those in his cohort, what they would all be doing in ten years. In fact, a reunion may be in order! Shmuel closed with this thought: "I hope PRGS instills in me the intangibles to know how to make the right decisions and change for a better future."
Sitting with this subset of the first-year cohort helped me understand again what makes PRGS so unique. It matriculates high-achieving students, trains them well, and graduates well-rounded professionals ready to make an impact on the world. David, Jay, Pey-Yan, Shmuel, and Steve bring a diverse and talented set of skills to PRGS; it will be a pleasure to watch them further develop those skills during this first, and subsequent years, at PRGS.
Footnote from a Fellow
Quals and OWLS, Oh My!
Quals. To my non-grad school friends this sounds like an innocuous word. One of my friends even referred to Quals as OWLS (a la Harry Potter), which left me wondering if there might be a magic wand that will ensure passing scores. Throughout the first year, Quals was a word that left me with a slight feeling of nausea. I didn't want to hear, think, or discuss the evil word. When they were no longer avoidable, my study group approached Quals like we were training for a marathon—schedules were drawn up and strictly implemented—study group, practice questions, study group, practice questions, sleep, repeat. As anyone training for a marathon can attest, we of course had our slip-ups—evenings lost to 30 Rock re-runs and injurious freak-out sessions in which we considered leaving PRGS for our peaceful careers running an inn or a bakery.
As I drove to RAND on the first exam day, one of my all-time favorite songs was on the radio. Being slightly superstitious, I was sure this was a good sign—an omen from the universe that I would indeed pass the exams. Walking through the first floor PRGS wing that morning, I calmly chatted with other fellows while internally repeating to myself, "I will not panic. I will not panic." And I didn't panic until that night when I woke up in a cold sweat, completely sure I had incorrectly answered every economics question; I mean really, competitive equilibrium and uncertainty in one question surely was just a cruel joke, right?
I continued to torture myself with thoughts of failing over the next week. Drinks with friends after we finished all the exams were comical, as we tried to convince each other that we hadn't failed. Still, the marathon was complete but I wondered if I had passed the finish line or not. Mother knows best, though; when I told her I wasn't sure I had passed, she simply responded, "Of course you did." Of course we did—first years are now second years and while to us this is a huge relief, I'm sure the administration and upper-years are thinking, "If you only knew what comes next!"
Random Summer Photo
Having survived first-year classes and qualifying exams, these three PRGS fellows cleared their heads with a climbing trip to eastern California. Telescope Peak (11,049' above sea level) overlooks Badwater Basin in Death Valley, the lowest point in North America (11,331' below). Their attempt the next day on Mt. Whitney was foiled by altitude illness, but they plan to return next summer.
Career Services Update
Success Coach Holds Seminar for PRGS Students
On June 17, 2010, the Career Services Advisory Committee (CSAC) sponsored a seminar with success coach Meryl Schwartz, M.A., M.Ed., designed to help PRGS students develop tools to jump-start progress in their academic endeavors. In the half-day workshop, students learned how to turn long-term objectives (i.e., graduation) into a list of specific, actionable, time-bound tasks to ensure steady progress. Schwartz shared tips for addressing issues that often stifle advancement among Ph.D. students, such as time management, prioritization, and procrastination. Students left the workshop with a clearer sense of how to manage their time, energy, and focus. Also, students were paired together as accountability partners to check in daily and keep each other on track with their goals.
For the month following the workshop, while students met with their accountability partners daily, Schwartz provided email support and one-on-one coaching sessions to attendees. The follow-up session on July 21 highlighted the challenges and successes students encountered while implementing the tools they acquired in June; feedback from students was very positive. Many reported significant productivity improvements and large benefits from working with accountability partners. In fact, an interest in future workshops was expressed to CSAC, which is currently looking into options for additional workshops to build more career skills for PRGS and beyond.
CSAC and "Working with the Federal Government"
To kick off the new academic year, the CSAC held a panel discussion on "Working with the Federal Government" at RAND on September 10. Working with the PRGS Office of Career Services, the student-led CSAC featured a distinguished and experienced group of panelists with extensive backgrounds in the federal government: PRGS Dean and Distinguished Chair of Policy Analysis Susan L. Marquis, RAND Associate Policy Analyst Heather Peterson, PRGS alumnus Gordon Bitko ('06), and PRGS fellow Brooke Stearns Lawson.
Panelists' experience in the federal government included working with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the FBI, and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Fellows received tips on the role and importance of networking, especially with PRGS alumni; learned how the Presidential Management Fellows program can lead to further government service; and heard personal stories from panelists regarding how their experience in the government helped them develop professionally and moved their careers forward in new, and often unexpected, directions. For example, Bitko related how his analytic unit is providing timely and cutting-edge research to assist FBI operations and Stearns Lawson is currently involved in a number of USAID operations across Africa, in what she calls a "dream job."
But, as usual, perhaps the most eye-opening aspect for fellows was hearing how the PRGS Ph.D. can be applied and appreciated in a variety of career settings—in this case by working with the federal government—shedding just a bit of light on the many unique and interesting ways PRGS alumni are using their degrees to make a difference on important policy issues.
International Development Speaker Series 2010 Wrap-up
Sindjua Srinivasan, second-year fellow
The International Development Speaker Series (IDSS), founded in 2008 by PRGS fellows, aims to engage the RAND community in an intellectual dialogue regarding RAND's expanding role in international development research. IDSS provides a forum for visiting policymakers, scholars, and development practitioners to stimulate research ideas and dialogue, and facilitate cross-unit collaboration on international development-related topics.
In March 2010, IDSS launched what we hope will become an annual flagship "Leaders in Development" event. Esther Duflo, development economist at MIT and last year's recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, was the inaugural speaker. The series will continue in March 2011 with Joseph Nye, author of Power and Interdependence, whose groundbreaking work in international relations has shaped policy for decades.
Also in 2010, IDSS welcomed Franck Wiebe, Chief Economist at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), who discussed aid effectiveness and the MCC; Paul Glewwe of the University of Minnesota, who presented his work on the impact of a Brazilian conditional cash transfer program on school enrollment; and Craig McIntosh of the University of California, San Diego, who presented innovative work on fair trade coffee markets.
The 2011 fiscal year calendar is already off to a strong start. IDSS hosted an internal RAND panel to discuss foundation funding for development projects. Moderated by Nick Burger and including Barry Balmat, Homero Martinez, Greg Treverton, and Glenn Wagner, the panel discussed strategies to increase RAND's profile with foundations funding international development work. In October 2010, IDSS is looking forward to hosting Abhijit Banerjee, a prominent development economist at MIT and one of the directors of The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. Other speakers slated for the fall include Aprajit Mahajan from Stanford University.
RAND/PRGS African First Ladies Fellowship
The Pardee RAND Graduate School has created an African First Ladies Fellowship program and will work together with Women's Campaign International to strengthen the capacity of Africa's first ladies and their offices to address health and social problems across Africa.
The RAND African First Ladies Fellowship aims to help first ladies and their staffs develop skills for managing an effective first lady's office and learn practical policy-analysis techniques. Over a two-year period, first ladies and fellows will develop and implement a plan to address one of their nation's top challenges, such as maternal and child health, women's issues, or education.
A week-long fellowship program was held September 27 to October 1 at RAND's Washington office, and included chiefs of staff and other advisors to first ladies from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zambia. Faculty from the Pardee RAND Graduate School were responsible for much of the instruction and follow-on mentoring.
Participants in the week-long RAND fellowship were awarded a certificate of completion from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. RAND hopes to offer follow-up courses in Africa, and engage subject matter experts from local institutions, ministries, and civil society institutions.
Gery Ryan, a member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School faculty and RAND senior social scientist, and Cora Neumann, RAND senior project associate, are leading the RAND African First Ladies Fellowship. More information is available on the PRGS website at http://www.prgs.edu/events/2010/09/27/.
Our alumni community continues to make an impact upon the policy world. Here are a few recent accomplishments:
Newly Published by PRGS Alumni
New book from Arthur Brooks (PRGS '98):
New book from Tad Daley (PRGS '95):
Angela Hawken Conducts Landmark Opinion Survey Revealing Public Dissatisfaction in Syria
Angela Hawken (PRGS '05), associate professor of economics and policy analysis at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, recently concluded the historic "Syria 2010 Public Opinion Survey," commissioned by the Democracy Council, which details the results from a survey of 1,046 Syrians taken over a three-week period.
"This survey is the first scientific polling of Syrian attitudes," says James Prince, president of the Democracy Council.
PRGS LinkedIn Group
We have an active group for all PRGS community members on LinkedIn. If you have not already joined, you can find us at www.linkedin.com by searching for "Pardee RAND Graduate School" in the groups directory.
We are initiating a weekly Career Bulletin to provide information on opportunities for employment for upcoming PRGS graduates. We realize that some of you may also be considering a change in careers. We also realize that the majority of you are not interested in receiving such messages and we would like to respect that. If you wish to be included on this list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may join or leave at any time by notifying us at this address.
We appreciate that our alumni community is such a valuable source of information on available opportunities for our upcoming graduates. If you have a posting to pass along, please send it to this same address—email@example.com—so we may distribute it to those "on the job market."
If you have an alumni update you'd like to share, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Bowman, Student Achievement, School Structure, and the Effects of Small Learning Community Implementation in Los Angeles: A Network Approach
Toby Edison, Estimation of the Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research Program Treatment Effect
Sarah Gaillot, Disparities in Trauma and Mental Health Service Use
Florencia Jaureguiberry, An Analysis of Strategic Price Setting in Retail Gasoline Markets
Benjamin Mundell, Retention of Military Physicians: The Differential Effects of Practice Opportunities Across the Three Services
Ki-Tae Park, Analyzing North Korea's Decision-Making Process on its Nuclear Weapons Programs with the Rational Choice and Cognitive Choice Models
David Schulker, Three Essays on Obstacles to Improving Demographic Representation in the Armed Forces
Farrukh Suvankulov, Job Search on the Internet, E-Recruitment, and Labor Market Outcomes
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