Remarks by Dean Susan L. Marquis at the Charles Wolf Jr. Memorial
Ta da! Now was the time. The grand unveiling of the Pardee RAND motto, our new tag line: Be the Answer! What could be more inspirational? Our students and graduates should not only study significant policy issues but work to solve them. It was 2010, the 40th anniversary of the Pardee RAND Graduate School. I have to say that we were all a bit pleased with this simple, to the point, evocative phrase.
Within hours of the announcement, I found in my Inbox an email from Charles Wolf, cc’ing former RAND president Harry Rowen. “Susan," it began. “You’ve raised an interesting yet incomplete idea with the school’s new motto. Before one can Be the Answer, they must first ask the question. And they must decide which question is the right question to ask. Then, the student must do the research, look at the data, conduct the analysis, and develop options for potential solutions.” Soon, Harry Rowen responded that it was clearly also necessary to consider the tradeoffs between alternatives and then make the recommendations as to the best answer. “Yes, responded Charles after several exchanges and refinements. “Then ... then one could Be the Answer.” After several exchanges and multiple refinements of the concept and the framing of the new motto, I had to declare King’s X. I certainly appreciated the feedback. The arguments were thoughtful. But, I think Charles was a bit disappointed when I told him that he was, of course, exactly right, but I really couldn’t fit all of this on our letterhead or upcoming Commencement programs. We were sticking with Be the Answer.
I’ve always enjoyed this story. In part because it is so very “Charles,” meaning of course that it is so very “RAND.” Thoughtful consideration of the proposition. Evaluating it. Analyzing it. Refining it to be sure that we told the full story, in this case about the school and our students. And engaging with colleagues in the thinking and construct of the argument. Charles would not allow himself, his students, or the new dean to get away with sloppy thinking.
But this story is about more than Charles epitomizing RAND’s culture. Charles following up with further thoughts on the school’s tag line also tells us about the kind of colleague and friend he was to so many of us in this room. Not shying from asking the hard questions, willing to offer the critique, but with the intent of helping each of us to clarify our thinking and with an eye toward helping each of us to succeed.
What this story also illustrates is Charles’s continuing deep commitment to the Pardee RAND Graduate School and our students. Charles was, of course, the founding dean of the RAND Graduate Institute as it was known in 1970. In fact, Charles’ involvement goes back even further to the earliest discussions of what was truly a remarkable idea. It was the mid- and late-1960s. Civil rights. The Vietnam war. The nuclear threat. RAND was asking questions. What could, what should RAND do differently to address this time of tumult, change, and uncertainty?
At this point, Charles had been at RAND for more than a decade and was then, as he was up until his passing, a man turned to for his intellect and incisive thinking. Charles joined Alex George, Alton Frye, and Harry Rowen, in asking these questions. One of them was: What if the RAND Corporation established a graduate school? A graduate school that would play a critical role in expanding RAND’s systems analysis into the new field of policy analysis that covered the broad scope of public policy issues. A graduate school that could train a new type of thinker, bringing together exceptional analytic skills and tools with a deep understanding of the messy reality of the real world and real world problems. Within a year or two after Alton Frye first formally proposed the idea in 1966, Harry Rowen and RAND asked Charles to lead a team to do the research, lead the analysis, to answer the question.
“Policy Sciences and Policy Research." It’s a paper written by Charles in 1970 and in it he makes the argument for a new way of educating graduate students. Charles opens with recognition that for those training for careers in policy research, real-world experience was essential. After walking through traditional options for gaining such experience — short term internships or somewhat longer visits by doctoral students to research institutions — Charles proposes a new approach that is “substantially larger, more ambitious, and more innovative than the others…developing a full-scale graduate degree program in policy analysis within the research institution itself.” Such a program, Charles argued, moves graduate education from a program wired in series — studying first, obtaining an advanced degree, and then going out in the world to work on policy problems — to what he called “parallel-wiring.” This “alternative circuitry,” a wiring in parallel between formal learning and application, not only injects learning through action into the educational system but recognizes that real-world problems are “inevitably cross-disciplinary... in nature.” Students in this new policy analysis field would, therefore, be trained not in a single discipline but in the multiple disciplines the world demanded. Parallel wiring, Charles continued, also “possess[es] the powerful advantage of enhancing motivation to learn, and sharpening the perception of purpose and relevance in learning.” RAND, he declared, should be uniquely able to “combine the enhanced motivation without any loss of rigor, depth, or even breadth of curricular content.”
Harry Rowen and the RAND Board of Trustees decided in mid-1969 to pilot this new concept for graduate education, declaring it an “experiment” to be evaluated in the best RAND tradition (and also to get the okay from some of the more reluctant researchers and Trustees). RAND’s reasons for establishing this novel, even radical, parallel-wired graduate school began with a demonstrated national need for people trained in rigorous interdisciplinary research; continued with RAND’s unique capabilities for meeting this need; and predicted the benefits from having a select group of students working at our institution. (Additionally, Charles and his compatriots suspected that the external demand for these new graduates was growing even as the policy world was rapidly changing. As he said, “[T]he market for trained professionals coming out of the program should be strong: in federal, state and local government; in other policy research institutions; in universities and...in parts of the private sector that are increasingly concerned with public policy, as well as the public aspects of private corporate policy.”)
The boldness of this initiative, to not only build a whole new type of graduate program but to do so outside of a university in an independent research organization, is remarkable. Even Charles, never prone to overstatement, declared it a “major new venture.” As he noted, “It is also one of the rare instances in RAND’s history when — in accordance with the RAND acronym — we will be moving from “research” to “new development.”
As Charles told it, when it came time to select the new dean, he and his colleague Fred Iklé flipped a coin. The “winner” would lead the new school for the first few years and then the other would take over. When it was time for Fred to take his turn, Charles looked around and realized Fred was gone — appointed to become the director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973. And so, Charles agreed to stay on for a few more years: 24 more to be exact. Turning the reins over to Bob Klitgaard, in 1998, Charles’s commitment to the school only strengthened; he continued to touch the lives and nurture the minds of the school’s students. Through his last year with us, Charles taught (Governance from Three Perspectives), advised, and served on dissertation committees, most recently Olena Bogdan and Eric Warner. Even with his passing, Charles’s vigorous intellect and original ideas continue to reach students through his many articles and books. This very quarter, students in the course I teach will read his book Markets or Governments: Choosing between Imperfect Alternatives.
Although Charles would always deflect, pointing out that there were many others responsible for establishing the school in those early years, the truth is that Charles was not just the founding dean. He joined Harry Rowen and others at RAND to imagine an audacious future of a graduate school like no other to meet not only RAND’s needs but society’s. Charles then achieved that future, building and establishing the first, the largest, and the best public policy Ph.D. program in the country. Because of his vision and leadership, our students continue to learn the ideas, master the tools, learn through action, and ask the hard questions — all that is required for them to... Be the Answer.