Dardia to Represent Alumni on Board of Governors

August 30, 2017

Michael Dardia (cohort '89) will join the Pardee RAND Board of Governors as the new alumni representative, beginning his term this November. Since March 2016 Dardia has been vice president of finance and assistant treasurer for the New York Public Library. He is responsible for the institution’s budget and financial planning and analysis.

Prior to his time at the Library, Dardia spent nearly three decades bringing financial acumen to mission-driven organizations, such as the Citizens Budget Commission, the nonprofit SPHERE Institute, and the Public Policy Institute of California. From 2004 to 2014, Dardia worked as a deputy director in the New York City Office of Management and Budget, overseeing both expense and capital budgets for the city’s housing and economic development agencies, as well as task forces responsible for macroeconomic and tax revenue forecasts covering the city’s $70 billion budget.

Before earning his Ph.D. from Pardee RAND, Dardia graduated from Stony Brook University with an M.S. in management and policy analysis. He is a member of the New York City Council Task Force on Economic Development Tax Expenditures, a senior fellow at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, and has guest lectured at both Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

He recently participated in a Q&A session with Pardee RAND's new development officer, Chandra Luczak.

How did your education at Pardee RAND help you in your career?

It helped me immensely. The intellectual rigor, time management, learning to work as part of a team. You’re always playing at the top of your game and everyone expects you to do that. We can talk about the analytic skills, but what makes RAND unique and special is learning to work in the internal labor market so you think of yourself the way you need to in the real world. Once you’re on a team, it teaches you how to be a valuable member of the team. I learned so much from people with backgrounds and areas of expertise different from my own.

What do you think is the most critical issue facing the world — and policymakers — today?

If I had to choose one, I’d say demographic issues and aging. Our healthcare systems aren’t set up to handle an aging population; social security and welfare programs are underfunded; labor markets aren’t set up well to use older workers effectively. With tough problems, often the large issues that aren’t going to blow up in your face are the ones that won’t be dealt with and will impact society the greatest. On one hand they’re easy to predict, but they also mean that no one is compelled to take short term pain. For example, in the mid-80s when people started focusing on shortfalls in social security, they extended the retirement age slowly so it wouldn’t affect anyone immediately. The government took a step early and it bought time. We all declared victory and stopped there.

Who is someone you admire for being the answer to a particular policy problem?

I really admire Paul Volcker, who coined my favorite phrase: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” When Volcker was at the Fed in the early 80s, he did the thing that wasn’t the most popular (in stamping out inflation). Here we are 35 years later, and we had an amazing run of low interest rates for the last 35 years. He did the right thing against intense acrimony.

What about Pardee RAND inspires you to give back (as a volunteer and/or philanthropically)?

I give back because of all the reasons I’ve noted about how special the place is. The grad students do important service in whatever part of the policy world they end up engaging in. There are so many different policy arenas that need the critical eye and engaged approach that Pardee RAND offers.

Who were your favorite professors at Pardee RAND and why?

A lot of the faculty were terrific. I particularly remember Dick Neu, who taught macroeconomics, ran projects, and worked on the national intel council; He was a really fun guy and he and his wife Ginny would host people for Thanksgiving dinners if anyone wasn’t headed home for the holiday. I went to one and he would pull together wonderful groups of people.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Pardee RAND?

I have so many fond memories!

I remember when the Academic Advisory board would meet there would be a dinner that included students. This was where I met Tom Schelling and people with Nobel prizes and who were very well known in their fields, and who would sit down with a bunch of grad students. They were genuinely interested in what we were up to. I’m just a kid from Queens and the first of my family to go to college, so to sit with people like that was a pretty special thing.

For my dissertation, which was a survey of defense subcontractor plants, I went to 40 plants in the LA area. It was a hands-on exercise with Kevin McCarthy - we were driving out to all these plants, getting tours and having hour-long interviews about maintenance and critical skills. That was interesting, and speaks to a RAND attribute, which is going out and learning a lot and then coming back to turn those lessons into real analysis.

How much time did you spend at the beach versus at RAND? What were your favorite beach activities?

You didn’t go to the beach as much as you think you should have (especially as a New Yorker). But among my fondest memories is playing beach volleyball on a Saturday with a bunch of fellow students, having lunch at the pier, and then returning to our cubicles in the old extension building refreshed from the volleyball and the good company. It was a Saturday ritual that meant a lot.