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 . . .
Message from the Dean
Greetings from the Pardee RAND Graduate School!
As always, there is a great deal going on at PRGS ... this spring more than ever. As many are aware, we're celebrating our 40th anniversary this June and preparations for the anniversary events are already under way. Most exciting is that we have begun filming videos commemorating the 40th anniversary of PRGS, our students, and our alumni. The program's uniqueness in the policy world make this a wonderful way to capture what makes PRGS special. This marvelous project is funded by the PRGS alumni, in particular the 1973-76, 1980, 1982-88, 1992, and 2000 cohorts. Thank you!
In true L.A. style, the red-carpet premiere of our new videos (including one longer and several shorter videos) will be at the PRGS 40th anniversary this June. Our celebration will take place over three days, beginning with opening festivities for current faculty and students on June 10, followed by the full 40th celebration on June 11, and wrapping up with the recognition of 35 new PRGS Ph.D.'s at commencement on June 12. You'll find more on the festivities in this issue of Findings.
To wrap up, I'd like to announce four new members of the PRGS Board of Governors: Francisco Gil-Diaz, Carol Mangione, Preston McAfee, and Michael Lynton. We're very excited to have each member on the board. Francisco Gil-Diaz is chief executive officer of Telefónica Móviles México S.A. de C.V. Carol Mangione is professor of medicine and public health at UCLA, while also serving as adjunct staff at RAND. Preston McAfee is a vice president and research fellow at Yahoo! Research. Finally, Michael Lynton is chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a RAND trustee.
Each of our new members brings a wealth of experience and unique perspective that will be invaluable as we continue to build and evolve the Pardee RAND Graduate School as the preeminent policy Ph.D. program. Learn about our board members at www.prgs.edu.
We hope to see you here in June!
40th Anniversary Celebration and Commencement — It's Reunion Time!
June 10–12, 2010
PRGS's two-day anniversary and commencement event is just around the corner. Don't miss this exciting opportunity to see old friends; make new connections; and renew ties with alum, staff and faculty, past deans, board members, and special guests. Alumni festivities kick off on Friday, June 11, with two panel discussions (featuring distinguished participants including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and networking opportunities throughout the day, leading up to an engaging anniversary dinner. Friday's events are complimentary, invitation only, and open to each alum plus one guest. Then, on Saturday, join us for the commencement ceremony, followed by a celebratory luncheon.
Expect your invitation in the mail in the coming weeks. We hope to see you there! Please find the detailed schedule below.
Thursday, June 10
Friday, June 11
Saturday, June 12
PRGS recently played host to two receptions for our alumni and friends of PRGS. The first was held in Santa Monica and the second in Washington, D.C. These were the first of many such receptions to come!
Our January 21 event in Santa Monica was attended by Mary Ann Doyle, Rick Fallon, Yang Lu, Bryce Mason, Bob Nordyke, Lu Shi, Michael Siler, and Hui Wang. The reception, which brought together current students, faculty, and administration, was a nice kickoff to the 40th anniversary year. Special guest Charles Wolf, who served as founding dean from 1970 to 1997, also attended and many of the alumni reminisced with faculty, while students and administration became better acquainted with alumni. By the end of the evening, guests were even treated to a photo brought by Rick Fallon of his RGI (at the time) cohort, providing good discussion about the changes at PRGS and RAND over the years.
On February 4, Dean Susan Marquis and Maura Krah hosted a reception at the Washington Office. In attendance were Arindam Dutta, Dick Nelson, Chris Ordowich, Jack Clift, Conrad Schmidt, Lorne Teitelbaum, Tad Daley, John Haaga, Yuna Huh Wong, Seo Yeon Hong, Laurie Rohn, Shen Wu, and Monica Belmonte. The group was treated to a special presentation by Charles Ries, senior fellow at RAND, on "Iraq: Challenges in the Home Stretch of the National Election and Beyond." Current PRGS fellows based in the Washington Office were also in attendance.
These were the first of a number of alumni receptions PRGS intends to hold. We look forward seeing you all at our 40th Anniversary Celebration in June!
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.
Admissions Update from the Assistant Dean
There has been a lot of activity around admissions here at PRGS since I last wrote to you! Here are some basic stats on the admitted student population.
Their average GRE scores are 651 on the verbal portion and 764 on the quantitative portion. The average age is 28 with a range of ages 21–46. We had 8 candidates on the waiting list.
On April 10 and 11 we hosted the 2010 PRGS Preview Weekend for all admitted students. During the weekend presentations and events were hosted by current fellows, faculty, and alumni on a range of topics including first-year courses, student life, OJT, research in progress, and life after PRGS. Special thanks to Bryce Mason, Ze Cong, and Ted Harshberger—the alumni who joined us for brunch and conversation bright and early on Saturday morning! We are confident the weekend's presentations and activities served our program and the candidates very well.
I will share more on our entering class of 24 students in our next issue!
Compare and Contrast: An Alumnus and Current Fellow Discuss PRGS
In preparation for our upcoming anniversary celebration, we conducted a special interview with a PRGS alumnus, Rick Fallon, PRGS cohort of 1975 and currently vice president and chief financial officer of the RAND Corporation, and Matt Hoover, PRGS cohort of 2009 and current first-year fellow. During the lively conversation we learned there are many similarities, and only a few differences, in their experiences at PRGS. Enjoy!
Rick: I was very interested in interdisciplinary programs. I had experience with applied math, engineering, and business, and I knew a lot about RAND from growing up in Southern California. It just fit naturally with my interests, and I had known I wanted a Ph.D. from a young age!
Matt: I loved accounting as a subject but did not want to be an accountant. And, like Rick, I wanted a Ph.D. but it wasn't going to be in accounting! PRGS offered me an opportunity to combine all my interests plus more; it was geared toward the way things operate and making adjustments to see a better world. It is definitely great to see the application of skills to the problems at hand.
Rick: So we were both interested in practical applications to things we were working on and studying before we knew it would be policy analysis. My options at Stanford felt too academic; I had an opportunity to work on some research that I wasn't particularly interested in and I was supposed to be deliriously happy about this! Or I could come to RGI - RAND Graduate Institute - as it was called then.
How has RAND changed?
Rick: The most obvious change is that we are a much more international organization, which is for the better. Consequently the makeup of RAND's staff is much more international. We still have the same underlying culture that astonished me in my 20s; we are dedicated to the highest quality, and for students we provide an unparalleled opportunity to work on important issues. One thing I like is no matter where you are in RAND you are going to learn; you are going to learn a lot about the top issues facing our country and the world.
How would you describe your first-year cohort?
Matt: Our cohort is very international; I love the mix and perspective, given my work is almost all internationally focused. The younger students seem able to work 20 hours straight on homework ... it's been a while since I did that so they keep me motivated! I feel like people have found their niche and know who to talk with when they need someone who thinks differently about a problem.
Rick: I was the youngest in my cohort of 10, by about 4 or 5 years. Some folks were very quantitative while others were not. I remember feeling very well prepared from a quantitative skills standpoint, which was a nice surprise. Once inside RGI I was awed at all that was going on around me, but I realized I knew very little about what was going on in the world before arriving at RAND. I knew a lot about techniques but very little about applying them. Every project was a revelation to me!
Matt: My comparative strength coming in was application of policy in the field, but the techniques I am learning ... I am blown away by some of this math! It's a great challenge, but luckily I can go to the people who have stronger quant skills and people can come to me about some of the policy discussions.
What was year one like for you?
Rick: On my first day they directed me to a big, old-fashioned desk in the corner of what seemed like a big, old building. I felt like the baby thrown in the deep end of the pool. I was being shopped around for various projects but I didn't care what the project was ... I just wanted to work on a project. I was on projects from the day I arrived until the day I left. And needless to say, in my four or five years as a student, I never sent or received a single email!
Matt: Part of the reason I came here was for the OJT. I knew I would never be satisfied if I wasn't able to stay involved in policy work and keep those skills strong.
Rick: My OJT was definitely less than 50% of my worry. My fear of getting through quals was big!
Matt: That hasn't changed!
Rick: The coursework was intense. I liked the system ... it was a very collegial environment; if I didn't understand something I could go to someone else, and they could come to me if they needed help. We didn't have that tangible feeling of weeding-out, but it was all very arduous.
Matt: I agree. If someone in a cohort doesn't make it, it's a loss for everyone.
Rick: I think I ate a lot of junk food from the RAND cafeteria (that would not be offered today), but I would run on the beach to work it off. I still do that today (the running on the beach part). I went to see the Dodgers play often, which I also still do, but the tickets then were only $1.50 for general admission.
Matt: I definitely eat a lot of junk food but $1.50 Dodgers tickets are hard to come by!
The dreaded Qualifying Exams
Rick: Quals were a mental and physical challenge. After two years of coursework we got about 1,000 pages of reading material on a single policy issue. Our issue was military manpower. RAND was at the forefront of economic research on military manpower and issues surrounding a military draft. We had to read four RAND reports and two outside books to get up to speed on the issues. Two days later we had four exams; three or four questions per perspective (economics, etc.) that were to be answered pertaining to this policy issue. We had four days to complete the exams. We received all four on Friday morning and they were due on Monday evening. We had to plan out our time and I didn't allocate my time very well! Stats was my thing, so I spent a day and half on that. Then I got into the microeconomics part. Then suddenly it was Sunday and I have had only two hours of sleep. And now I had to face the two topics that weren't my strength. I think it took me an hour or two to write a single paragraph. A week or two later we had a mandatory oral exam on another policy issue, which we learned about 15 minutes before we walked into the room! Mine happened to be energy independence. It was a role-play type of question ... they put me in a role and asked me what I would do in the situation.
What were the hot policy issues of the day?
Rick: Definitely energy independence, modeling of energy alternatives for the United States, economic issues. And operational readiness—meaning, "Did we need a new bomber?"
Matt: I would say terrorism, depth of data produced—what do we do with it, robust decision making, population growth and systemic challenges.
Rick: We have many more international clients now than we did then. We had very few back then.
Matt: Military manpower is still a big issue, still cutting-edge work. Personally, I like the move towards international work—there are so many unique environments.
What led you to your first post-PRGS job?
Rick: My dissertation was in the final stage. Since RGI didn't have a campus recruiting network, I got my job through introductions due to RAND connections. I left RGI and went to work for Coopers & Lybrand in D.C. I was in the economic studies group of the management consulting division and felt very confident in my ability to lead and contribute to projects when I got there. I worked on a lot of exciting projects; it was a very exciting time in my life. We did a lot of international work; big development projects and State Department projects. The biggest things I learned at RAND were how to conduct projects and communicate projects results. When I left at age 26 I was very confident and able to do what I wanted to do—get more project experience.
Rick to Matt: As a first-year student my biggest fear was how am I going to get a dissertation out of this place? It's a huge process: Finding the project, getting a committee, getting it signed off on, and getting it written. How do students get through the program now?
Matt: Because we have to go out and search for our OJT, we are used to approaching researchers and asking them for help and opportunities. In some ways I think it can seem like an extension of what we are doing to find OJT.
Rick: There were no scholarships when I was at RGI. It was a simpler model—I owed tuition, and I got paid for my project work. Consequently, it was difficult for those people who were not able to match a project at RAND with a dissertation. They had a tough time. Now we have fellowships and awards, which is very good. Nobody knew exactly what they wanted in a dissertation topic before coming here. It's interesting that what attracted both of us is the same—the opportunity to work on so many things and have a chance to apply what you learned.
Matt: Absolutely. It's a unique and incredible opportunity.
Current Fellows Richard Bowman and Claudia Diaz Marry in El Salvador
Richard Bowman and Claudia Diaz recited their vows at a ceremony on February 28, 2010, officiated by Richard's father, Adriel, at the Alicante resort in El Salvador in front of over 120 friends and family.
Over 30 friends and family including three PRGS colleagues from the 2006 cohort (Jack Clift, Alexis Huynh, and Jamie Gayton) traveled from the United States to attend the ceremony in Claudia's home country. Jamie and Alexis offered toasts to the couple at the reception.
The couple, who started PRGS together in the 2006 cohort, worked for months to coordinate this international wedding. The wedding consisted of a short outdoor traditional ceremony set in front of beautiful gardens at a resort located in the mountains of Ciudad de Ataco, near Concepcion, El Salvador. Richard's father officiated and Claudia's sister, Eva, translated the wedding nuptials. Richard's brother Kenneth served as the best man and Claudia's niece Gabriella served as the maid of honor. The ceremony included an El Salvadoran marriage tradition of joining the couple together with the use of a double-looped rope to signify their new permanent link to each other.
In addition to a beautiful wedding ceremony, the couple also provided guests a first-class cultural experience in El Salvador. The weekend included coordinated tours of El Salvadoran cities, beaches, small towns, cultural sites, restaurants, and of course, El Salvadoran nightlife.
The PRGS family wishes Richard and Claudia a wonderful life together.
International Development Speaker Series: Dr. Esther Duflo
On March 5, 2010, organizers of the International Development Speaker Series (IDSS) welcomed Dr. Esther Duflo, a founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, for two events and a series of meetings with PRGS fellows and RAND researchers. As one of the world's preeminent development economists and recent recipient of the John Bates Clark medal, Duflo, through J-PAL, has pioneered the use of randomized control trials in microeconomics research to understand the impacts of competing interventions to improve the welfare of the poor.
Now in its third year, IDSS is a student-conceived, student-run initiative which brings international development experts to RAND to present research and discuss opportunities for collaboration. At the March IDSS event, Professor Duflo presented recent empirical findings that giving Kenyan farmers small incentives to purchase fertilizer when they have the cash on hand dramatically increases take-up of fertilizer use and subsequently increases farm yields.
In addition to the IDSS event, Duflo spoke that evening at a RAND Distinguished Speaker Series event attended by nearly 200 guests. Duflo argued that the broad development question "Does aid work?" is unanswerable and uninteresting. Far better, she posits, to ask what types of interventions can best solve specific problems such as low take-up of immunizations, high malaria infections, and low school enrollment in developing countries. By testing various interventions through randomized control trials she finds that these problems can efficiently be solved by providing small incentives like a kilo of lentils at the time of immunization, providing free mosquito-repelling bednets, and giving school-age children deworming medication twice yearly.
Between the two speaking engagements, Duflo held a question-and-answer series with PRGS fellows to discuss career paths, empirical strategies, and challenges in development economics. During her stay, Professor Duflo also met with half a dozen RAND researchers and discussed RAND's burgeoning efforts in international development research.
The IDSS team consisted of PRGS fellows Liz Brown who organized the events, Jeff Tanner who hosted, and Todi Mengistu who provided support.
Footnote from a Fellow
"Un Cou Plein de Cheveux"
Hallo! I call myself Guillermo la Barbe. I am the beard of second-year PRGS fellow Andy Hackbarth!
I must first apologize. English is not my native tongue. In truth, I find it quite inexpressive. But, as I often say: c'est la fin des haricots ... faire un bœuf! (There is no effective translation for this in your language.)
Andy is on Spring Break right now and very busy. (Doing OJT.) He has asked me to fulfill an obligation: to report on the experience of a second-year fellow. Unfortunately, I am not interested in Andy's experiences. You see, my own are much more interesting.
I will proceed.
The life of the beard of a second-year PRGS fellow is wonderful! My hairs grow long, and with vigor. La liberte! Though I often perceive some disapproval about my length from Andy's superiors (who are legion), there have been no direct requests made in this regard. I suspect that this reluctance stems from a widespread belief amongst Andy's work colleagues that he might actually be the Unabomber. (Mon Dieu, now there was a beard!)
While Andy typically mouth-breathes insensibly through his classes, I have been attentive, and I have learned many things in the program so far. Sometimes the lessons cover a particular policy area; other times they focus on useful research techniques. These are all fascinating topics! However, in all cases I perceive the critical lesson: economists have never been wrong.
(This was also the principal finding from the first year.)
The Santa Monica climate agrees with me very much. Recently, my environs have been uniformly comfortable, cool and dry. To be precise: Andy has not exercised in nearly eight months.
However, as a constant companion, Andy has become quite tiresome of late. He endlessly complains (to a dwindling number of human acquaintances) about his dissertation. "What should my topic be?" "I have so many different interests!" "I have no time to even think about my dissertation!" Ridiculous. No time? Why, just this past weekend Andy spent six hours watching MTV's The Jersey Shore in its entirety. (For the third time.)
And now I must take my leave. I am, etc.,
Dissertations not linked below will be available soon at www.rand.org/pubs/rgs_dissertations/.
Alisher Akhmedjonov, Education, Training, Innovation—Evidence from Transition Economies
Jordan Fischbach, Managing New Orleans Flood Risk in an Uncertain Future Using Non-Structural Risk Mitigation
Myong-Hyun Go, Structures and Dynamics of Social Networks: Selection, Influence and Self Organizations
Sara Hajiamiri, Three Essays in Transportation Energy and Environmental Policy
Silvia Montoya, Exploring Family, Neighborhood and School Factors in Racial Achievement Gap
Anna-Marie Vilamovska, Improving the Quality and Cost of Healthcare Delivery: The Potential of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology
Lynne Wainfan, Multi-perspective Strategic Decision Making: Principles, Methods, and Tools
Former CSIS chief Hadi Soesastro, PRGS '78
We say farewell to a Pardee RAND Graduate School alum, Hadi Soesastro. Hadi, one of Indonesia's foremost economists and former executive director of the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), passed away on Tuesday morning, May 4, 2010. He died at the Pondok Indah hospital in South Jakarta at age 65. He is survived by his wife, Janti Solihin, and two sons, Agus (25) and Albert (20).
Hadi received his Ph.D. in 1978. Charles Wolf, Distinguished Chair in International Economics at RAND and dean during Hadi's enrollment, remarked, "Hadi Soesastro was exemplary as a student, distinguished as a scholar and innovator at Indonesia's CSIS, and warm and gracious as a human being and friend." Charles continued, "His passing brings deep sadness to those who had the good fortune to know him, and profound loss to the institutions and issues to which he devoted his life."
Hadi, or Minky as he was affectionately called by friends, was known for his active participation in the creation of regional architectures to establish free trade communities in Asia and the Pacific since the 1980s. His writings regularly appeared in The Jakarta Post. Hadi was a member of the National Economic Council, an adviser to former president Abdurrahman Wahid, from December 1999 to September 2000. Furthermore, Hadi was also a member of the international advisory boards of various international institutions, including The Asia Society, New York.
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