Pardee RAND Weaves Four Threads Through Program

ben boudreaux, benjamin boudreaux

Ben Boudreaux

molly selvin

Molly Selvin

malcolm williams

Malcolm Williams

September 7, 2021

One of the final elements of the school's redesign that Dean Susan L. Marquis put into place prior to her departure was the addition of four threads — ethics, communication, global perspectives, and social justice and racial equity — to further strengthen an already tight-knit program.

Associate Dean Rachel Swanger explained that, unlike the policy engagement streams, the four threads are woven not only through the entire academic program but also into the fabric of experiential learning, co-curricular activities, and student life.

“As we were planning and implementing the redesign, we realized there were certain skills and experiences that all of our students need in order to be effective policy analysts,” she said.

The redesign explicitly recognized the need for enhanced emphasis on ethics and communications and the need for a global perspective in an increasingly interconnected world. But school leaders and faculty soon recognized the need to include a focus on justice and equity as well.

Leading each thread are members of the faculty with significant experience.

Ben Boudreaux leads the ethics thread; Molly Selvin, communications; Krishna Kumar, global perspectives thread; and Malcolm Williams, social justice and racial equity (SJRE).

Boudreaux started teaching an elective ethics course in 2017 and worked with school leadership to use his experience to pilot the thread concept.

According to Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Angel O’Mahony, “The success and popularity of the ethics course prompted us to look at other themes and threads that could and should be incorporated into our program to complement our three policy engagement streams.”

“The success and popularity of the ethics course prompted us to look at other themes and threads that could and should be incorporated into our program.”

—Angel O’Mahony

Over time, as the thread developed, Boudreaux encouraged ethical discussions to be included in a range of academic and other student activities, such as an ethics hackathon.

“Ethical reflection is essential for understanding the assumptions and implications of public policy and for making a positive impact in a complex and evolving world,” he said.

O’Mahony added, “The idea for each thread is that there should be five to seven touchpoints on these themes throughout the student life cycle in the school.”

Ethics, she said, “now includes touchpoints for personal and academic reflection during Bootcamp, the required ethics course, policy design studios, speakers, and dissertations.”

Selvin, a historian and former journalist, said the communications thread is equally relevant.

“Students need to be able to articulate their work effectively through multiple forms of media to a variety of audiences,” she said. “Their ability to engage audiences also increases the potential for policy impact.”

Selvin and her committee identified several starting elements for the communications thread, including Todd Richmond’s Bootcamp session “Think Like a Filmmaker,” visual literacy and critique sessions in the policy design studios, externship reflections and Tech Stream portfolio requirements, and co-curricular opportunities like a Career Services-sponsored Toastmasters club.

Kumar, head of RAND International Research and the Pardee Initiative for Global Human Progress, was the obvious choice to lead the global perspectives thread.

“A multipolar perspective can help reveal pragmatic solutions on security and other policy issues, and a truly global point of view is needed to address globally entangled issues like climate change,” Kumar said. “Our hope is that this thread, regardless of their stream, helps prepare our students for global careers.”

He noted that the International Development Speaker Series is one of several existing touchpoints and added that in coming years he will be working with classroom professors to provide more international perspectives through readings and examples, and with the Community-Partnered Policy and Analysis stream to develop international externship and residency opportunities.

Williams serves as the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advisor as well as faculty lead for the SJRE thread.

“One thing that seemed to come up quite a bit in the planning discussions was the relationship between the thread and the DEI activities in the school,” Marquis said. “We realized that they cannot be separate and have to inform each other, since there is an ethos in this thread of practicing what is preached.”

“Our hope is that this thread will help students develop the tools necessary to be able to incorporate SJRE in their approach to public policy research and analysis and at the same time become more aware of their own biases and have the tools needed to mitigate these biases in their work,” Williams said.

“I’m so excited to see this final aspect of the redesigned Pardee RAND program come to fruition,” Marquis said.

—Monica Hertzman