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 email@example.com.
In this issue . . .
Message from the Dean
Welcome to the latest edition of Findings, the PRGS Alumni Association newsletter! As you can see from this issue, we have had a lot going on this spring. As you read on, you'll learn about the work PRGS students are doing in Afghanistan, this year's PRGS/UCLA/USC/Pepperdine Policy Symposium, and an update on the new students we'll be welcoming as the 2011 cohort, as well as updates on PRGS alumni Mark Albrecht, Diana Epstein, and Scott Pace.
I'd like to highlight several transitions within the PRGS community. First, we have recently welcomed Mike Andrulis to the PRGS staff as our development lead for alumni relations. Mike will be working with Stefanie Stern, our Director of Admissions and Academic Services, and Kristina Wallace, our assistant for all things PRGS, to further our outreach to, and support of, all PRGS alumni.
Our second transition is within the PRGS Board of Governors: our Chair Don Rice has stepped down from this position but will continue as a member of the Board. Don, a past president of RAND and former Secretary of the Air Force, has served as Chair of PRGS's Board for 12 years. Don's successor as Chair will be Dr. Jose Pedro "Joe" Greer, Jr. Joe is a current member of the PRGS Board of Governors and a member of the RAND Board of Trustees. Joe is a well-respected physician, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs for the Florida International University College of Medicine, and a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work establishing medical clinics for the homeless in Miami, Florida. We are proud to have both of these individuals as part of the PRGS Board of Governors and are delighted that Don Rice will continue his service on our Board.
Finally, many of you may have already heard that Jim Thomson will be stepping down in the fall after 22 years as president of the RAND Corporation. Jim has led RAND with great distinction and success, including through the challenges of guiding the organization through the transition to a post-Cold War world. His efforts to diversify RAND's research portfolio and build an international presence have been essential to RAND's continuing relevance in the world of policy analysis and development. Needless to say, we will miss Jim as well for his tremendous support of the Pardee RAND Graduate School and will have several opportunities to thank him for his support throughout the year.
We welcome your feedback and ideas on PRGS and on the Alumni Association. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and to be sure and stop by the school whenever you are in southern California. All of us at PRGS, staff and students, would welcome your visit.
PRGS Welcomes New Development Director
Please join us in welcoming Michael Andrulis to the PRGS team. Mike joined the Development Office of External Affairs this spring, as a Director of Planned Giving, for RAND and PRGS. He and Maura Krah, Director of Major Gifts for PRGS, are working to continue to build relationships with our alumni and advance PRGS's mission: to train first-class minds to tackle the world's critical policy challenges. Mike will be particularly focused on expanding the alumni networks for both PRGS and RAND.
Mike recently relocated to Los Angeles from Philadelphia, where he was the Director of Development for the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University. Prior to Drexel, Mike was a Director of Development at Rutgers University. Mike earned his BA in Economics with a minor in Mathematics from Rutgers University and his MBA from Saint Peter's College.
As we have noted in previous editions of Findings, PRGS staff and members of the Faculty Committee on Curriculum and Appointments (FCCA), are always looking for ways to improve our curriculum. This helps ensure that our students leave the program with the skills and knowledge they need to tackle tough policy problems and "Be the Answer."
Recently, we have made a number of changes to the curriculum that we believe will enhance the educational experience of our students. These changes include: restricting the courses that count towards meeting the analytic concentration requirement to only those courses that are very methodologically oriented; requiring students to take an additional policy course; making Decision Analysis a core requirement; and revamping the social and behavioral science coursework.
As always, we welcome your feedback on these changes, as well as other ideas that we should consider to keep the curriculum fresh and relevant.
PRGS Offers Policy Analysis Training Programs
As difficult as this may be for you to believe, not everyone with an interest in public policy analysis is willing and able to spend four or five years of their life at PRGS. Consequently, PRGS has developed and launched a series of short courses in policy analysis. Although the duration of these courses varies based on client needs, they all aim to acquaint participants with the basic policy analysis framework and some of the "tools of the trade."
We view these courses as a potent way to educate potential RAND clients about the benefits of policy analysis, enhance PRGS' reputation as the leading policy analysis school, and generate new sources of revenue to support our students and our programs. Last fall, we conducted a five-week training program for members of Qatar's Supreme Council on Family Affairs and a one-week program for the staff members of a number of African First Ladies. Many more programs are in the works, and we'll keep you posted regarding their progress in the coming months.
A New Look for PRGS
After some re-construction this winter, PRGS now has a renovated front lobby with a new sign proudly welcoming students, staff and visitors to the school.
Footnote from a Fellow
It was the beginning of my second year. Despite juggling a heavy course load, finding a dissertation topic, an increase in OJT workload, and repeated advice against working for free, I decided to pursue volunteering my time at the Venice Family Clinic (VFC), here in the Los Angeles area. I wasn't sure exactly what might happen; it just felt right, so I went for it.
This opportunity to volunteer at VFC stemmed from a PRGS "Making it Happen" policy seminar with invited guest speaker Elizabeth Forer, Chief Executive Officer of VFC. Liz spoke compellingly about the ways in which VFC provides health care and a medical home for people who desperately need medical care but can't afford it. She stressed VFC's mission to provide quality care with integrity and respect, even though they are under-staffed and under-funded. The clinic was doing such good work- I wondered why more people weren't jumping in to help (I later learned that most of us at RAND are over-committed and it takes a lot of dedication to find time for the projects of our passions). I felt the desire to step in because I was at the intersection of where my skills and passion to help the underserved met a real need.
In my work with VFC since October 2008, I've developed a research plan to estimate the cost to VFC of providing medical service to each patient, information VFC can use for their financial planning and for quantifying philanthropic donations in terms of the volume of medical services these gifts represent. It was great – I was my own PI! I was able to benefit from the time and mentorship of other RAND researchers regarding methods and best practices; this was a nice change from approaching researchers hoping to obtain OJT. For this VFC project, I also honed my primary data collection skills, tried new methods (turns out econometric models don't work for everything!), and how to balance relevance and rigor when you're strapped for resources.
This project won't be a part of my dissertation, but I know I'm making an impact and learning a lot. And for that it's been worth the late nights and ranks as one of my most rewarding projects to date at PRGS.
PRGS Students Contribute to Efforts in Afghanistan
More great examples of PRGS students helping to tackle real policy problems: two current students, Ahmad Idrees Rahmani and Matt Hoover, have contributed their skills to efforts in Afghanistan. Below are some highlights of the work they have been doing.
Ahmad Idrees Rahmani, a third year student and native of Afghanistan, has been fulfilling his OJT requirement by traveling approximately twice yearly to his homeland, as an integral part of RAND projects for the Department of Defense. General Petraeus, along with his staff has benefited greatly from Idrees's expertise in the region, especially in the areas of Afghan political, economic, and social issues. Some of the RAND projects that are funded right now have been research ideas that Idrees has personally produced or contributed to the team working in Afghanistan. One of RAND's interesting ongoing projects is a study of the Pashtun economy and the economic incentives that contribute to the Taliban insurgency. The project was approved by General Petraeus himself and has garnered the support of many Afghan and international experts.
In Idrees's view, the current analytical support that RAND is providing to the NATO command is so crucial that it will certainly have critical consequences for the overall development of counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. For example, without solid understanding of how economic incentives provide employment opportunities to different segments of the Afghan society, the NATO forces can mistakenly provide resources to people who—either intentionally or unintentionally—pass some of those resources to the insurgents themselves.
Meanwhile, Matt Hoover, a second year student, spent the winter in Afghanistan for a three-month assignment on another RAND project. Utilizing his background in international development, Matt focused on rural development projects and local-level governance in the south of Afghanistan. As part of the RAND project team, he helped think through program design and evaluation for future agricultural programs. His work also included liaising with USAID officers to discuss community-based dispute resolution mechanisms that would be both politically and socially respected within southern Afghanistan. Overall, he supported an ongoing effort to connect the government of Afghanistan to citizens at the village level. Of his work with RAND in the region, Matt says, "PRGS did a good job of preparing me to work in a multi-faceted environment. I felt well-prepared to think through the social, political, and economic issues a particular decision might impact."
PRGS Hosts 5th Annual Student-Led Policy Symposium
This past April, PRGS partnered with UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine University to hold the fifth annual student-led Los Angeles Policy Symposium at RAND's Santa Monica headquarters. This year's Symposium focused on issues related to the environment, U.S. foreign policy, and education. Students from all four participating institutions presented their own research at the day-long event, including PRGS student Evan Bloom, who discussed his work on the Evaluation of Water Management Strategies in the Central Valley Under Deep Uncertainty.
Other highlights of the Symposium included a breakout panel on Energy and Natural Resource Challenges in Los Angeles, which provided historical, political, scientific and economic perspectives on a wide range of environmental issues at the local, state and national level. Another panel— U.S. Foreign Policy & the Middle East— discussed the various implications for U.S. policy of the recent regime changes and widespread protests in the region, and the likely impact of these developments on U.S. efforts to broker peace between Israel and Palestine.
Keynote speaker Bonnie Reiss, Regent of the University of California and former California Secretary of Education, rounded out the day, focusing on the state of education in California and the national importance of California's education system. An education panel discussion, featuring PRGS Professor Francisco (Paco) Martorell and moderated by Pepperdine Professor Michael Shires (PRGS '90 Cohort), followed the keynote address and further developed its main themes.
The event was organized by a volunteer committee of students from across the four institutions including PRGS students Jack Clift, Adam Gailey and Ashley Pierson and received generous financial support from the PRGS Coordinating Committee (CoCom) and RAND's Office of External Affairs. Overall, this was the best-attended Symposium to date, and panelists and participants enjoyed the event immensely.
"It is a tremendous amount of work to make this kind of event real," said PRGS Dean Susan L. Marquis "but all of the feedback I've heard is that the event was a success."
PRGS Alumni Assist with Admissions
A PRGS first! In order to improve the quality of our admissions process, this year we reached out to a targeted number of our alumni to interview candidates during our admissions season. In early January, applicants were given the opportunity to talk with an alum to hear about his or her experiences at PRGS and to get a better understanding of on-the-job training (OJT), coursework, dissertation topics, the culture of RAND, and to help shed light on "this work-study program at PRGS." Alumni met with applicants either in person (for example, at their workplace or for coffee) or by phone, giving candidates the opportunity to ask questions about the program. In addition to giving alumni the chance to provide valuable insight to interviewees, each alum also shared important feedback on applicants with the admissions committee. Through this process, PRGS was able to get a more nuanced sense of each candidate's suitability for the program through these personal interviews.
We are happy to report that 25 students have accepted our offers of admission for fall 2011. This is our second largest-ever entering class at PRGS, and the first year where we have not had to utilize our waiting list to round out the class. The incoming cohort includes 12 international students, eight women, and three U.S. Air Force Academy graduates. The average age of the class is 29, slightly higher than in recent years (28) and 80% have post-graduate degrees. The full list of incoming students will be provided in the fall issue of Findings.
Special thanks to PRGS alumni Ricardo Basúrto ('03 Cohort), Meg Blume-Kohout ('04 Cohort), Richard Bowman ('06 Cohort), Myles Collins ('05 Cohort), Diana Epstein ('05 Cohort), Meena Fernandes ('05 Cohort), Sarah Gaillot ('05 Cohort), David Groves ('01 Cohort), Steve Kiser ('01 Cohort), Maren Leed ('95 Cohort), Sam Loeb ('00 Cohort), Bryce Mason ('01 Cohort), Brian Maue ('03 Cohort), and Samantha Ravich ('92 Cohort), for their support of PRGS in conducting these informational interviews.
We would love your help during the next admissions cycle! No matter where you are in the world, if you would like to make a difference in the quality of our future students (and alumni!), we can use your help! Your involvement would be focused during January 2012 and consist of talking with a small handful of applicants and providing feedback.
Another way in which you can make a difference in shaping the quality of our students is by steering promising applicants our way and referring them to our website at www.prgs.edu/admissions. As alumni, you are our best "ambassadors" to PRGS. As you work in academia, corporations, government, and non-profits, you see first-hand coworkers, friends, and acquaintances that are creative in their thinking, passionate in their work, and disciplined to handle the rigor of the PRGS Ph.D. program. We welcome your referrals to recruit the very best students that will help solve the world's toughest problems.
We are already gearing up to accept pre-applications for the 2012 cohort; if you are interested in helping to recruit the very best students to PRGS and/or can help interview prospective students, please send an email to Stefanie Stern, Director of Admissions and Academic Services at email@example.com or call (310) 393-0411, ext. 8224.
Upcoming Alumni Events – Santa Monica, June 14, 2011
Catching up with PRGS Alumni
Congratulations to alum Mark Albrecht ('73 Cohort), on the recent publication of his book, Falling Back to Earth: A First Hand Account of the Great Space Race and the End of the Cold War.
"Told from the perspective of the White House and from industry—both in America and Russia—in the immediate post-Cold War environment, it's the story of the rise and fall of two space industries after rival governments failed to segue to a new reality and rationale once the animating force for their existence was eliminated."
Albrecht has been the principal adviser on space to President George H.W. Bush as executive secretary of the National Space Council. He has been a senior aerospace executive as President of Lockheed Martin's International Launch Services company. He is also the recipient of the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Civil Service Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Space Society Space Pioneer Award.
PRGS alum Diana Epstein ('05 Cohort) has recently taken a new position as Senior Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress in DC. CAP is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action. In this role, Diana is responsible for conducting research and policy analysis in K-12 education, focused on fiscal equity issues. Schools are often funded in regressive ways such that students who need the most help end up getting the fewest resources, and Diana and her colleagues at CAP are working on policies that would help fix that problem so that all children have the opportunity to get a great education. Diana was previously a senior analyst at Abt Associates.
PRGS alum Scott Pace ('85 Cohort) was recently interviewed for the April issue of Aerospace America. In it, Pace provides commentary on the future of space policy in the United States.
Download PDF from aerospaceamerica.org
Pace is the Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs and recently visited PRGS to speak with students about his career path since completing the program.
If you have a story to tell about a new project or role you've taken on, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to highlight your work!
Continuing Excellence at PRGS: Your Gift Makes a Difference
Your support before the end of our fiscal year on September 25 will make a tremendous difference in furthering our mission and expanding or creating opportunities for excellence for both students and faculty. Just some of the areas where your gift will have a direct impact are:
Please help to continue and expand the standard of excellence that is upheld by the Pardee RAND Graduate School. To make your tax-deductible gift now, please click here. For more information on supporting PRGS, please contact Mike Andrulis at email@example.com or (310) 393-0411, ext. 6075.
Looking for the next step in your career? Sign up for our weekly Career Bulletin, featuring job opportunities for recent graduates as well as those further along in their careers. You can subscribe or unsubscribe anytime by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, if you have an opportunity you'd like to pass along, please send it to us at the address above. Our best postings come from our alumni community!
Networking via LinkedIn
Stay connected via LinkedIn! PRGS has an active professional networking site for students and alumni.
The following student received his Ph.D. during Winter 2011: