Inaugural Brunch Honors Donors and Scholars

Gursel Aliyev, Sara Turner, and David Barclay (Download full-size image)

Photos by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

May 20, 2019

To bring together current scholarship and dissertation award recipients, philanthropic supporters, and prospects, Pardee RAND held an inaugural brunch in May. Additionally, students had the opportunity to meet and personally thank the generous benefactors who have contributed to their scholarship and dissertation support.

The 66 participants included members of the Pardee RAND Board of Governors, advisory board members, donors, alumni, students, and staff. In addition to presentations by Vice President of Development Brandon Baker, RAND president and CEO Michael Rich, and Pardee RAND dean Susan Marquis, the attendees heard from Board of Governors member David Barclay about why he supports scholarships.

Barclay told of traveling to Uzbekistan nearly a dozen years ago with Don Conlan, then a Pardee RAND Board member, and meeting student Farrukh Suvankulov (cohort '05).

"It was really an amazing connection, meeting this bright, energetic young man, straddling two almost completely separate worlds," he said. "Meeting his family, you could see what a huge leap it was for him. I got excited thinking about the opportunities Pardee RAND was creating, for him to have an impact on public policy, on civil society. The scholarship he received made this possible. Without it, an education outside Uzbekistan, or the former Soviet Union, was not on the table."

Barclay added that he realized how important scholarships are, not only for foreign students, but for anyone who undertakes a doctoral program.

"I've talked to a lot of students, and I've been struck by the range of opportunities available to them before they come to Pardee RAND," he said. "Our scholarships make a big difference. The financial burden of going back to school is large, the financial burden of forgoing career opportunities, the flexibility to make a choice that may not be the most lucrative career path. All of these are helped — not solved but helped — by the scholarship support that we provide."

He added, "Thinking about it broadly, our scholarships help us attract talented people to the field of public policy. I think that's a worthy goal in and of itself. More narrowly, they help us attract the best and the brightest to Pardee RAND.

"Pardee RAND is at the vanguard of public policy education. Attracting the most promising students helps us maintain that vibrancy," he said.

Students Gursel Aliyev (cohort '13) and Sara Turner ('15) also each spoke for a few minutes, to share how their scholarship and dissertation support helped them decide to come to Pardee RAND and how it helped them through the program.

Aliyev, who came from Azerbaijan, received an Azrael Scholarship as well as a Resnick Scholarship. He told the audience, "This was the only program to which I applied. When I got the acceptance letter, I was overjoyed, but at the same time I was terrified."

He told of the challenges of moving "half-way around the world" to Santa Monica, and the support he received from fellow students but also from Pardee RAND's donors.

"I'm married, and we have two kids, and both [my wife and I] were professionals and loved what we did," he said of his challenging decision. Coming to Pardee RAND, he said, meant his wife couldn't work, because of her visa status. "Without the scholarships that I had in the first two years, I don't think we would have survived."

Turner was also mid-career when she decided to come to Pardee RAND, and although she didn't have as far to travel — she had previously been working at the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver — the journey was worrisome for a different reason.

"Dissertation funding support has been crucial to me, to enable me to do things I otherwise wouldn't have been able to do," she said.

In her research area, she said, "Client funding can wax and wane — it tends to be cyclical — and I didn't have a good sense of whether there would be funding for me to do work when I got to RAND, or how long I would have to wait for projects that were up my alley."

She added, "One of the things that tipped the scales for me [in choosing Pardee RAND] was that I knew there was a dedicated funding line for students interested in sustainability."

A two-time recipient of a John M. Cazier Dissertation Award, Turner said she appreciates that she has an "independent source of support that gives me a steady ability to work with researchers I'm interested in on a dissertation topic I'm really passionate about."

"There are a lot of students like me, who work in areas that are cross-disciplinary, or where funding streams are really variable, or where competition for existing funding is really high. We find ways to make it work, and I feel incredibly lucky that I'm here."