Academics and Degree Program
Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation
Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation
The Pardee RAND Graduate School aspires to be the world's leading Ph.D. program in policy analysis. Our goals are:
The curriculum serves these goals, with a particular vision. Pardee RAND should be a place where some of the world's most able graduate students come to work on some of the world's hardest problems, with the rigor, interdisciplinarity, and flair that characterize RAND. And so the Pardee RAND curriculum tries to provide the best analytical tools from many disciplines, practice in applying them to real problems, and a creative, sometimes experimental approach that encourages new ways of thinking and doing.
Great courses are only part of a Pardee RAND education. Pardee RAND students also carry out policy research part-time with RAND mentors, in what we call "on-the-job training" or OJT. Working in interdisciplinary teams with clients in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, students develop skills and sophistication that couldn't be conveyed in a classroom. The late Carl Builder likened Pardee RAND to a great arts academy. He pointed out that students leave the School with a remarkable portfolio of accomplishments, which range from proposals to briefings, from technical reports to policy memoranda, from teaching notes to reports on field work, and of course the Ph.D. dissertation. In creating this portfolio, courses and OJT combine in what we think is a unique experience in higher education.
Our Ph.D. is in policy analysis, which is a multidisciplinary, applied field that tries to use research to unlock difficult policy problems. The field is changing right now, and Pardee RAND is at the forefront of that change. It's changing from the former idea of developing a master plan for government agencies into a new idea that is much more fluid. Four features of the environment are in flux.
This changing environment means that the old paradigms of policy analysis are incomplete. We need to rethink policy research for a time of new clients and partners, new technologies, cultural diversity, and new uncertainties.
The core courses can be viewed as an essential backdrop for all the above. They convey essential research methods and perspectives. They teach how to assess and improve systems rather than symptoms. They instill intuitions and techniques about many kinds of benefits and costs, and how information and incentives interact in theory and practice. The empirical analysis sequence is all about assessing causation, especially in situations where experimentation is impossible.
Every year the faculty and others at RAND suggest topics coming down the road where we don't know what to do or perhaps even how to think about the issues. Then they devise Pardee RAND workshops on these topics. In these workshops, the faculty and students move from "here's the big issue" to "here are examples of doable research that would shed light on the issue." In the last three years Pardee RAND has offered ten such courses on topics such as the looming crisis in transportation infrastructure; business and the environment; new directions in arts policy; communities and violence; weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists; business and welfare reform; and what military health can learn from the civilian sector health system.
There's one final feature of the Pardee RAND curriculum, and of RAND itself, that is even harder to put into words. We seek an educational experience that is at once rigorous and adventurous.
Most research at RAND involves rigorous quantitative analysis, but qualitative research skills are also used. After all, this is the place that helped develop game theory, dynamic programming, simulations, linear programming, many tools of data analysis, and large-scale social experiments. We love mathematical tools, but we especially love studying their applications and misapplications — how they can lead to insights and foster creativity or, when misused, can result in highly numerate garbage.
Along with the rigor, RAND's tradition is to go beyond the ordinary, to be intellectually adventurous. Is the question currently being asked the right one? How is the problem we are considering an instance of a broader or deeper theme? What are the parallels, the texts, the metaphors, the models that may be shared across issues or that may, by our thinking them through, spur us and our clients and partners to greater creativity?
RAND work varies so widely that there is no one paradigm. But the combination of rigor and adventure leads to some classic characteristics:
The courses have been developed by a faculty noteworthy for both research excellence and dedication to teaching. Pardee RAND professors are full-time researchers. They teach not because some contract tells them they must, but because they love to.
At Pardee RAND we have identified five key educational objectives of our program:
A hallmark of Pardee RAND is curricular innovation. Some new courses are driven by emerging issues. Other new courses are motivated by a desire to capture and extend recent methodological advances. See a list of our courses and a more general description of our degree requirements.
Throughout the courses new and old, you'll find a blend of real problems and advanced methods. The educational philosophy is captured in a quote from Thomas C. Schelling, who offered the 2001 August kick-off course. "In my own thinking they have never been separate," he once wrote. "Motivation for the purer theory came almost exclusively from preoccupation with (and fascination with) 'applied' problems; and the clarification of theoretical ideas was absolutely dependent on an identification of live examples."
The Pardee RAND academic year comprises three 10-week quarters of class instruction (fall, winter, and spring), each followed by a week of final examinations. The School typically observes a four-week winter recess, a one-week spring recess, and Thanksgiving and Memorial Day holidays.