“This was the education I was looking for”

Event Celebrates the Transformative Power of Scholarship Support

Nancy Staudt, Khrystyna Holynska, Alejandra López, and Tim Wolf

Photos by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

February 28, 2023

At last week's dinner honoring the school’s supporters and scholars, Khrystyna Holynska (cohort '20) described learning about Pardee RAND as “love at first sight.” Receiving the Azrael Scholarship made her dreams possible, she told the 100 dinner attendees.

Pardee RAND honored its supporters and scholars alike at the event, which featured comments from Holynska, O’Brien IDEA scholar Alejandra López, and Board of Governors member Tim Wolf.

Dean Nancy Staudt introduced the speakers, noting, "Our students come to RAND from countries across the world and bring a diverse array of perspectives and experiences to our school. They inspire us every single day." She added, "Our two speakers showcase just why I am so enthusiastic about our work and our future!"

Holynska, recipient of the Jeremy R. Azrael Scholarship, shared how a mentor and former RANDite told her about Pardee RAND and about his mentor, Jeremy Azrael.

“Getting an Azrael scholarship meant a chance to continue my work on the region and contribute to achieving the dream that Dr. Azrael had.”

—Khrystyna Holynska

Looking at the school's website, she said, "was love at first sight. This was the education I was looking for—classes to improve my skills and an opportunity to work alongside world-class experts on real-life projects."

She said her mentor had regaled her with stories of RAND's Santa Monica office but also described "Dr. Azrael’s amazing personality, accomplishments and fascinating effectiveness as a teacher. I also learned about Dr. Azrael’s sincere belief that Soviet people, including Ukrainians, deserved much better and about his great passion for making the post-Soviet world a better place."

When she learned she had been accepted to Pardee RAND, she added, "I was certainly hoping to get some support, as otherwise, I would not be able to join the program. But getting an Azrael scholarship meant even more—a chance to continue my work on the region and contribute to achieving the dream that Dr. Azrael had."

Noting that the war in Ukraine has made the past year has been difficult, she added, "I am happy and honored that I spent it at Pardee RAND and RAND, getting a unique chance to add my voice, my take on the situation. Giving the people from the post-Soviet region a seat at the table where its future might be shaped was exactly what Dr. Azrael wanted. His scholarship, and the donors to his scholarship fund, from many of you in the room here today, made it possible for me."

Next, Alejandra Lopez (cohort '21), recipient of the Edward and Estela O’Brien Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Award, shared the importance to her of family, community, and dreams.

Lopez was already pursuing a Ph.D. in math when she applied to Pardee RAND, but she was "smitten with humanity’s ability to create tools out of incredibly complex ideas," she said, which is "what led me to the RAND Corporation and the Pardee RAND Graduate School. It was the only place I applied to. After all, if I didn’t get in, my back up plan was to complete the Ph.D. in math that I had started, not restart one.

She described herself as "a collection of all the people and communities that have affected me," including "Soledad O’Brien, who could not be here today but I would like to thank anyway."

“Financial support helps our students to achieve not only their personal goals but also our shared goal: to help communities everywhere.”

—Nancy Staudt

Noting that "the most objective thing we can do is acknowledge each other’s humanity," she added, "As an employee of the RAND Corporation and a student of the Pardee RAND Graduate School I now have the great privilege and power of being able to do exactly that for the communities that cared about me the most when a lot of other institutions did not so, once again, thank you all."

Following the students, Board member Tim Wolf, son of the school's founding dean Charles Wolf, highlighted why he has continued his family's support of Pardee RAND and RAND.

“To be able to help, to be able to fund a scholarship and not do so is worthy of regret,” he said, quoting Kurt Vonnegut: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been.’”

Wolf continued, “We need more scholars, more well-educated and thoughtful people. Funding Pardee RAND scholarships helps advance that objective, and gives us an opportunity to avoid regret.”

Staudt thanked Wolf and the other supporters in attendance, commenting, "Your financial support helps students to achieve not only their personal goals but also our shared goal: to help communities everywhere."

Selected Photos

Khrystyna Holynska

Alejandra López