Developments in Development: Meet Our Team
Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation
February 21, 2019
Pardee RAND has an exciting—and excited—new team in the Development Office: Sylvia Dsouza, Reuben Ayala, Breanne Williamson, and Cece Forrester. In anticipation of Pardee RAND’s 50th anniversary in 2020, the launch of a major fundraising campaign, and the official inauguration of the school’s redesigned curriculum, the team has been hard at work laying all the fundamental pieces in place.
Dsouza is the school’s Executive Director of Development, responsible for the overall fundraising plan, engagement strategy, and outreach. Ayala is working with major donors and prospects, Williamson is working on all aspects of alumni relations and engagement, and Forrester is the linchpin in keeping them organized and on schedule.
We caught up with the new team to learn more about them and what they're doing.
Let’s start with a real softball question. Why should potential donors support Pardee RAND?
Dsouza: If you want to be the answer to the world’s “wicked problems,” then you want to invest in the Pardee RAND Graduate School! In 2020, Pardee RAND will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Pardee RAND is among the top public policy Ph.D. programs in the country, with students coming from diverse backgrounds, with multiple advanced degrees, and a passion for impacting and changing the world through policy analysis. Pardee RAND has a robust student body, accomplished alumni, and experience developing cutting-edge policy tools that have far-reaching abilities.
Sylvia and Reuben, you’ve both joined Pardee RAND recently. Tell us a bit about your backgrounds, your current roles, and what attracted you to the school.
Dsouza: As Executive Director of Development for Pardee RAND, it is my job to lead the school into a successful campaign by building, supporting, and guiding my team while working directly with our top donors and prospects.
Public policy has always been a passion of mine, even before RAND. Having lived in four countries, two of which were developing countries, I have a deep understanding and respect for the democratic process or lack thereof. Becoming a U.S. citizen further solidified my sincere appreciation for public policy and the effect it has on the democratic process. I came here from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, both as a development officer and a graduate student pursuing a dual degree in public policy and public administration. I feel my experiences over the last 20 years have led me to Pardee RAND, where I know my skill set, talents, and passion will be an asset. It is a great honor and pleasure to generate philanthropic investments for one of the top public policy programs in the country.
Ayala: As a Director of Development, it’s my job to find and build relationships with those who would be interested in supporting Pardee RAND in a significant way. Like Sylvia, the machinery of public policy, of getting things done in our complex system, has always been of interest to me.
I started my career in the private sector, but I always felt something was missing—there was a disconnect between my work and the product. Being in development, first at UCLA and now at Pardee RAND, allows me to use my skills to build relationships for a place that is doing meaningful work. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of the RAND family and Pardee RAND’s success!
By contrast, Breanne, you have several years of experience in RAND Development, and Cece has also been at RAND for a while. What are you each doing now with Pardee RAND, and what excites you about your new positions?
Williamson: Before RAND, I worked in marketing, but four years ago, I made a career shift to follow my passion for working in the nonprofit sector, which led me to RAND. In the time I’ve worked here, I’ve worn many hats in the Office of Development but haven’t had the pleasure of working with the Pardee RAND Graduate School, until now. In my new position as the Annual Giving and Alumni Relations Manager, I work with both the Pardee RAND alumni and the RAND Alumni Association (RAA). I’ve worked closely with the RAA for almost two years, and my appreciation has grown exponentially for RAND and the graduate school as I’ve interacted with alumni.
In this new role, I am excited for the opportunity to collaborate with the graduate school, build relationships with the students as they’re immersed in their academic journey, be an onlooker and supporter as they become alumni and embark on their careers, and stay connected with the alumni as they tackle issues around the globe. I look forward to getting to know each of you personally and professionally. Please don’t be shy, send me an email (email@example.com).
Forrester: In my previous role at RAND, I had the privilege of working with a variety of researchers from different units, giving me an appreciation for our research and the commitment required to produce RAND-quality work. In this new role, supporting the Pardee RAND Development team, I look forward to integrating the knowledge I’ve gained to help our team elevate the school’s profile and cultivate relationships. It’s so exciting to work with the Development team, Dean Marquis, the faculty, and staff in this fast-paced environment focused on raising the school’s platform.
As you all know, the school’s redesign is in full swing. Do you have any redesign-specific efforts, and if so, what are they?
Dsouza: Pardee RAND is paving the way for what a 21st-century public policy education should look like. Dean Susan Marquis, the second-longest-serving dean of the school, along with her team of dedicated staff, faculty, and trusted advisors, have conceptualized a new model for public policy education and a new approach to the application and implementation of public policy. The goal of the Pardee RAND Graduate School is to prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and tools to tackle the most complex problems our world faces, whether they are in the public or private sectors.
Ayala: Exactly. When we talk about what sets Pardee RAND apart, and why our school and our efforts warrant support, the redesign fits into the conversation as a way of showing how in-tune we are to changes in the world around us, and how educational institutions like ours must adapt to ensure we live up to our mission. One clear example is our Tech and Narrative Lab, which shows how we can get a grasp on how technology is used, discover its implications on public policy, and communicate to nontechnical people.
Pardee RAND is also coming up on its 50th anniversary. What are some of the plans you’re working on that have you chomping at the bit to get started?
Dsouza: RAND and Pardee RAND will be entering into a major fundraising campaign later this year. We are currently in the silent phase of the campaign and gearing up for a public launch this fall. We are planning events that will showcase the school’s strengths and bring together the community that has stood behind the school for the past 50 years. For the 50th anniversary of our school, we will celebrate its past while preparing for its future. Our team will play a central role in how we communicate our mission, value, and purpose to a philanthropic audience. Our goal is to elevate the school’s profile to gain visibility and secure much-needed philanthropic support for Pardee RAND. Stay tuned!
Is there anything else we should know about the four of you?
Dsouza: We are committed, here to stay, and honored to be a part of this school’s history. Our Development team is very much a partner with the graduate school, an advocate for its mission, and we are dedicated to procuring the support the school needs to be a catalyst for effective and accessible policy solutions. We are proud of our work today and will be even prouder when we look back in five years and say, “Wow, we did that!”
Williamson: RAND has been in my life since I can remember. Both my parents worked here, met here, and married. My dad worked at RAND for 45 years, and my mom did two tours here, one of them at the graduate school. Growing up, I often visited the office, and I remember the staff fondly; many of my parents’ colleagues became our extended family. Just when you think the connection couldn’t get any deeper, my husband’s father also worked here!
I’ve seen first-hand the relationships that can be developed at RAND and look forward to working with the alumni to help build and maintain those relationships.
Forrester: I am more than thrilled to be part of this fantastic team! One thing you should know about us is that we each have very distinct personalities that we bring to the table, and this diversity creates a balanced dynamic that helps us work well together. Our commitment to raising Pardee RAND’s profile and cultivating relationships with donors who can support students in the program is the driving force to our coming together and striving to meet our goal.
Ayala: I echo everyone’s sentiments—we are a group that understands the potential of RAND and Pardee RAND and will do our best to articulate them to a wider audience. The opportunity to build a fundraising campaign from the ground up and be successful, as I know we will be, on behalf of such an amazing organization cannot be overstated. We are helping to support important work where it is needed more than ever. We are most certainly the right people at the right time and place!