PRGS Alumni Newsletter, Findings

FALL 2009

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

In this issue . . .

Message from the Dean

Susan L. MarquisAs the new school year gets under way, all of us at PRGS anticipate great and exciting things for the fellows of PRGS. Coming on board at the beginning of 2009, I've been able to get to know most of our talented, exceptional graduate students, and I've greatly enjoyed interacting with our new 2009 cohort that arrived for orientation on September 14.

We have several priorities for the coming year, one of which is to continue to enhance the academic quality and breadth of our Ph.D. program. Already a unique program with a strong foundation, we have worked together to identify gaps in quality and content. For instance, students and alumni have expressed concerns that the relationship between their analytic work and the reality of policymaking could be strengthened. To that end, we are instituting a new course on the organizational culture of government institutions. In addition, we are establishing the PRGS Washington Experience, which will provide students with a new avenue for contextual learning in the Washington, D.C., policymaking and implementation environment. The Washington Experience program will place select students at the end of their second year in RAND's Washington Office for around six months, providing opportunities to interact with RAND's federal clients and related organizations and participate in professional development activities that we don't have in Santa Monica.

The second priority is to strengthen the ability of PRGS to support students in their research and policy interests regardless of changes in RAND's year-to-year project portfolio. We are doing this through even more emphasis on donation-funded dissertation research while also providing support to faculty members in key policy areas.

I would also like to highlight our effort to better prepare fellows for their post-PRGS experience by building a career services capability. We have brought Ira Krinsky onto the PRGS staff to support each PRGS student in shaping and pursuing their post-PRGS career goals. Ira has long been a leader at Korn-Ferry, a highly regarded executive search firm. Comprehensive career services support is a significant feature of all top policy schools and will help us in our goal to be the premier policy analysis Ph.D. program in the United States.

Most importantly for the Findings readership, PRGS is moving quickly to build a strong alumni community. You are the great untapped resource of PRGS. Our new Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Lida Jennings, and our outreach lead, Maura Krah, are working with me to strengthen our communications; to build an alumni network that will enable you to work with each other, and PRGS to work with you; and to engage you in the mentoring and career networking for our students that is critical to a successful graduate school experience.

I appreciate the warm welcome I've been given and look so forward to serving this remarkable pool of energetic, young talent. My door is always open, so do come to me with your ideas and your impressions of how to make the PRGS community continue to thrive.

Dean Susan L. Marquis

PRGS 40th Anniversary and 2010 Commencement

Mark your calendars! You may be surprised but, yes, it is coming. In 2010, PRGS will commemorate its 40th anniversary! We want each of you to be a part of this exciting event. The primary celebration will be on June 11, 2010, followed by commencement on June 12. In addition, PRGS, members of our Board of Governors, and alumni will host a variety of regional events (including speakers, dinners, and receptions) to mark the occasion.

The June celebration will begin on Friday afternoon (June 11) and extend into the early evening. We will have a series of policy panels with topics ranging from health care to national security, followed by a gala dinner for all. Commencement is the following morning and we are pleased to announce that Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has accepted our invitation to be our commencement speaker. This will be a terrific opportunity for all of our alumni to come together, renew old ties, and celebrate this extraordinary institution. We will send out additional information as we move into 2010 but, once again, mark your calendars and join us for a weekend of thoughtful discussion and celebration.

PRGS Welcomes New Assistant Dean

Lida JenningsPRGS is pleased to announce that Lida Jennings arrives on October 5 as the new Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs. Jennings joins us after serving as director of the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall MBA program. She is a graduate of Smith College, received her M.B.A. from the USC Marshall School of Business, and completed her Ed.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

As we learned during an interview process that included PRGS students, faculty, and staff, Jennings will bring to PRGS a wealth of experience in recruiting, admissions, student advising, and alumni relations gathered during her nine years at the USC Marshall School of Business. She developed and managed several major Marshall programs and initiatives, including The Botswana International Schools Projects, The Global Consulting Challenge, and the USC Marshall MBA Alumni Gala. In addition, Jennings offers a strategic perspective of educational institutions and experience with a range of academic administration best practices that will be essential to PRGS becoming the premier policy Ph.D. program in the nation.

PRGS selected Jennings largely because of her development of a strong alumni network at Marshall and her original ideas about working with PRGS alumni. You'll be hearing from her soon!

Entering Fellows

This fall, PRGS welcomed 22 new fellows. Orientation for the new fellows began on Monday, September 14, with preterm policy seminars beginning on Tuesday, September 15, and running through Wednesday, September 23.

This year marked a very competitive admissions cycle with 178 applications, up 20 percent over the previous year. Of the 22, six are international students—coming from Canada, China, South Korea, Nepal, Turkey, and (for the first time) Togo. The new cohort also enters with a diverse set of backgrounds, with more than 60 percent having advanced degrees and 56 percent coming with related policy work experience. Areas of policy interest among the new students cover a broad spectrum including defense, development, education, energy, labor and population, infrastructure, health, and security.

For the first time, all entering fellows are receiving a scholarship in addition to their fellowship. These scholarships enable students to focus on the academic aspects of on-the-job training (OJT), to further develop the methodological skills and substantive policy knowledge that are essential elements of a PRGS education. PRGS is working to provide full scholarships for all first-year students and partial scholarships for all second years to ensure that each PRGS student can graduate with minimal debt and thus be able to pursue public service careers.

We congratulate the incoming class and encourage alumni to reach out to these new students as well as our current students.

Nono Ayivi-Guedehoussou Evan Bloom Susan Burkhauser John Caloyeras Megan Clifford Jeremy Didier
Evan Bloom Susan Burkhauser John Caloyeras Megan Clifford Jeremy Didier
Chaoling Feng Steven Fox Abigail Haddad Kimberly Hale Matthew Hoover Sung-Bou Kim
Chaoling Feng Steven Fox Abigail Haddad Kimberly Hale Matthew Hoover Sung-Bou Kim
John Langley Greg Midgette Mustafa Oguz Kevin O'Neill Ashley Pierson Yashodhara Rana
John Langley Greg Midgette Mustafa Oguz Kevin O'Neill Ashley Pierson Yashodhara Rana
Nicole Schmidt Amber Smith Sinduja Srinivasan Christina Steiner    
Nicole Schmidt Amber Smith Sinduja Srinivasan Christina Steiner    

Staying Connected: Alumni Visits

Come visit us! PRGS and our students love to have our alumni stop by to visit with current students, faculty, and staff. You'll be treated like a hero and our students greatly appreciate learning from your experience. If you have plans to be in the Los Angeles area and would be interested in visiting the school or giving a presentation on current research or policy topics, please contact Jennifer Prim. Recent visits include the following:

Charles Bennett '89 visited in March and met with current students Ying Liu, Yang Lu, and Sarah Gaillot to discuss health research and their career interests. Bennett also returned on June 18 to present "Health Policy in the Next Decade: A View from the Trenches."

Rehan Malik '07 also visited in March and presented "The Future of Alternative Energy: Emerging Trends, Technologies, and the Role of Public Policy." Students and faculty, including founding dean Charles Wolf, were in attendance.

Sam Loeb '05 stopped by in May. Loeb had lunch with the dean and then held drop-in hours in the student lounge, speaking to interested fellows about his professional experience and career planning advice. His visit concluded with a student happy hour in the PRGS courtyard.

Susan Marquis and Yilmaz ArgüdenYilmaz Argüden '85 was just at PRGS in September and met with Dean Susan Marquis, founding dean Charles Wolf, and a group of current students to discuss his current research and new book as well as students' related research interests. Argüden's book, Boardroom Secrets: Corporate Governance for Quality of Life, was recently published by Palgrave Macmillan and is available through Amazon and Borders, among other outlets.

Putting Learning into Practice: Working at the World Bank

From January to April 2009, Sara Hajiamiri, a current fourth-year fellow, worked as a short-term consultant at the World Bank in order to get firsthand experience of the Bank's culture and work environment. During her time at the Bank, Hajiamiri worked on a variety of projects with Mike Toman, an adjunct staff member at RAND who is now working as a lead economist on climate change in the World Bank's Development Research Group. At the Bank, she was able to apply knowledge and skills acquired through class and on-the-job training (OJT) at PRGS to develop a two-level principal-agent model that would serve as a basis for payment for environmental services focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in developing countries.

Sara HajiamiriDuring Hajiamiri's stint at the Bank, she also worked as a consultant for an internal project on including risk-based decisionmaking in climate change adaptation projects, performing a literature review of the feasibility and viability of geo-engineering techniques proposed to combat climate change, and working with the World Development Report 2009 team on including "green" mitigation and adaptation policies in stimulus packages in order to simultaneously fight climate change and the financial crisis. When asked about her preparation for working at the Bank, Hajiamiri explained that her "PRGS experience, both in the classroom and with OJT, prepared me well for the World Bank's work environment. The ability to work simultaneously on different topics, work independently and in groups, and apply quantitative as well as qualitative research tools are all skills we practice at PRGS on a day-to-day basis."

Fellows Volunteer at Local Leadership for Health Summit

On April 20 and 21, 2009, PRGS fellows assisted in the Leadership for Health Summit, the first summit of African First Ladies held in the United States. Organized by US Doctors for Africa and African Synergy and held at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, the Summit brought together more than a dozen African First Ladies and several representatives. The African First Ladies presented their philanthropic activities and heard from representatives of numerous organizations interested in engaging with the First Ladies in their efforts to address HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and girls' education. Organizations present at the Summit included ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Procter and Gamble, ONE, and the White Ribbon Alliance. Sarah Brown, wife of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and California First Lady Maria Shriver also participated in the event.

RAND cosponsored the event and engaged eight PRGS fellows in the Summit preparation and implementation. Brooke Stearns Lawson, Todi Mengistu, and Sarah Outcault prepared background information on the philanthropic undertakings of the African First Ladies and helped the various panel moderators. Jeff Tanner and Liz Brown also provided moderator support. In addition, Sarah Gaillot and Sarah Olmstead worked as "First Lady Handlers," attending to individual First Ladies, and Ben Mundell assisted the US Doctors for Africa management team throughout the conference.

Professor Gery Ryan addressing a group of First Ladies
Professor Gery Ryan addressing a group of First Ladies

Students Present Research During PRGS-Sponsored Happy Hours

On February 26, PRGS held its inaugural Happy Hour Poster Session in Santa Monica. The event fostered intellectual dialogue among PRGS fellows, PRGS faculty, and RAND Labor and Population (L&P) staff. Dean Susan Marquis called the session "a terrific and most interesting event. I appreciate those who took the initiative to plan it and fellows for presenting. I look forward to attending the next poster session and will encourage RAND researchers, as well as fellows, to attend."

The event featured three L&P-themed poster presentations. Liz Brown, a fourth-year fellow, presented her work on "State Policy Effects on Low-Income Entrepreneurship in India," which is part of her dissertation and was supported by PRGS faculty members Joanne Yoong, Krishna Kumar, and Neeraj Sood. Sarah Gaillot, also a fourth-year fellow, presented "An Outcome Evaluation of the Spirituality for Kids Program," research performed with PRGS faculty member Nicole Maestas. Xiaoyan (Shawn) Li, a fifth-year fellow, presented one of his dissertation papers, "Does the Rise in Full Retirement Age Encourage Disabilities Benefits Applications? Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," which he coauthored with Maestas, his committee chair.

A second Happy Hour Poster Session on May 28 showcased the work of PRGS students in fields related to civil justice. Fourth-year fellow Chris McLaren noted, "It was great to bring together researchers from across PRGS and the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) to comment on our work in a social, informal environment. These kinds of events really facilitate the collaboration between PRGS fellows, faculty, and RAND researchers. I look forward to the next one."

The event featured four ICJ-themed poster presentations. Ying Liu, a fifth-year fellow, presented her work with Steven Garber, "The Impact of Pharmaceutical Product Liability Verdicts on the Value of Firms." Eileen Hlavka, a second-year fellow, presented her work with Sid Dalal, "Who Sees the Green? A Semi-Automated Analysis of Newspaper Articles Reveals Regional Differences in Renewable Energy's Perceived Economic Potential." McLaren presented his work with Seth Seabury titled "Do Employer-Based Return-to-Work Programs Reduce the Duration of Work Injury Absences?" Second-year fellow Adam Gailey, also working with Seabury, presented "Estimation of the Auto-Correlation of Employment Discrimination Claims."

Sean O'Neill presenting current research at a poster session
Sean O'Neill presenting current research at a poster session

International Development Speaker Series Hosts Prominent Researchers

In January 2008, PRGS fellows Liz Brown, Todi Mengistu, Brooke Stearns Lawson, and Jeff Tanner launched the International Development Speaker Series (IDSS) with the goal of developing a stronger community among RAND researchers interested in international development–related topics. IDSS events are therefore designed to foster collaboration and exchange of ideas inside the RAND community and also expose the RAND community to the newest ideas from the external development community. In order to accomplish these goals, the monthly seminar series alternates between external speakers and internal panel discussions encouraging RAND-wide discussion and knowledge sharing.

IDSS has successfully brought together researchers throughout RAND, many of whom had not collaborated prior to this series. Internal panel discussions have been organized both by region and by topic. Past panels have included discussions on RAND's work in Mexico and HIV/AIDS in the developing world, and the most recent panel discussed several projects RAND has undertaken with the World Bank in health, security, and education—and the prospects for developing more work with the World Bank in the future.

To add fresh intellectual fodder to the discussions, several speakers have been invited to RAND to present their research:

  • Pascaline Dupas, an associate economist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), presented her pioneering work using a randomization strategy to study saving behavior among the rural poor in Kenya.

  • James Fearon, a professor from Stanford University, presented his research using a randomized control trial with game-playing of community-driven reconstruction in Liberia.

  • Francis Fukuyama—a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a RAND trustee who also serves on the PRGS Board of Governors—discussed the origins, current status, and challenges of the governance agenda in international development.

  • Robert Jensen, visiting economist at Brown University and now associate professor at UCLA, presented evidence on the existence of Giffen goods in China and their implications for food relief programs.

  • Edward Miguel of the University of California, Berkeley, estimated the impact of a large antipoverty program in Uruguay, PANES, on political support for the government that implemented it.

The series' events are structured to be informal and to promote exchange of ideas through intellectual dialogue. Events have averaged 30 attendees: roughly two-thirds researchers and one-third PRGS fellows.

Initial funding was provided by the Rosenfeld Asian Development Program, the RAND Pardee Center, the PRGS Student Coordinating Committee (COCOM), the PRGS OJT Brokerage, and International Programs.

The organizing fellows have big plans for FY2010 with funding generously provided by RAND Education, RAND Health, RAND Labor and Population, and (tentatively) International Programs.

Keep your eyes peeled for our announcements posted on the RAND and PRGS calendars. If you have suggestions for external speakers or internal panel topics, or if you would like more information about the series, please contact Liz Brown at If you are in the Los Angeles area, we invite you to attend IDSS events that may be of interest to you.

Recent News

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Alumni Updates

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We need your help in locating our "lost" alumni. Do you have up-to-date contact information for any of the following?

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