June 28, 2012
Today's public policymakers have a unique opportunity to shape the future, but only if they focus on putting ideas into action and "get stuff done," Robert B. Zoellick, the 11th president of the World Bank Group, said Saturday.
Zoellick was the featured speaker at the Pardee RAND Graduate School commencement at the RAND Corporation campus in Santa Monica. A total of 32 doctoral degrees in public policy analysis and 42 master's degrees were awarded during the ceremony, which was attended by more than 300 people.
Zoellick said the school had given the graduates "world-class training" but "what is really exciting about making public policy isn't evaluating and analyzing and predicting. It's getting stuff done."
He sketched a picture of a dramatically changing world. Developing countries that were just colonies decades ago are now the engine driving the global economy. Policymakers need to engage the private sector to assist in shaping international policy and helping to solve the world's most-pressing problems.
He offered five lessons for the graduates to keep in mind as they start their careers: know the history of a problem; consider a problem from multiple dimensions; don't just analyze a problem — solve it; don't forget the "public" in public policy; and be sure to build in feedback loops because plans inevitably change.
"I have always considered public service to be the highest calling," Zoellick said.
"Many public officials seem content to hold posts, be part of the flow of events, analyze and comment, attend the meetings," Zoellick said. "Be a doer. Keep your eye on achieving results. On accomplishing things. This is what's exciting about your future careers. You can make a difference."
Michael Rich, president and CEO of RAND, reminded the graduates that "the work you have dedicated yourself to is ultimately about making a real difference in people's lives: helping individuals, societies, and the world become healthier, safer, more secure, more prosperous."
Susan L. Marquis, dean of the graduate school, told the graduates that the questions they ask in their professional lives should come from their concerns and what they see and hear as citizens, and not be "defined by the agenda of peer-reviewed journals." She urged them not to give in to the "marginalism and self-reproduction often encouraged by academia, the government, or the research organizations you might join."
Honorary degrees were presented to Zoellick, James Thomson, former president and CEO of RAND, and Francis Fukuyama, RAND trustee and a senior fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.
Fukuyama discussed the difference between crafting public policy and actually putting it into action, and Thomson said the graduates should take the time to ask themselves, "How could I be wrong?" but to have confidence in their work, and have the courage to tell the truth even when others don't want to hear it.
Elizabeth Denison Brown, who gave the student address, said she and her fellow graduates would be challenged by time pressures, client pressures and those who will try to distort the facts to fit other agendas. She called on her fellow graduates to use the discernment they cultivated at PRGS to continue to stand up for the truth.
The school also presented its first PRGS Alumni Leadership Award, created to recognize past graduates who exemplify passion, discipline, leadership and public service. The first recipient of the award is Mark J. Albrecht, chairman of the board of U.S. Space LLC, a provider of dedicated space solutions to serve the nation's interests. He has been a leading figure in the U.S. space program for more than 20 years, with service in both the public and private sectors.
The Ph.D. recipients are: Richard Mendel Bowman; Elizabeth Denison Brown, Myles Timothy Collins; Claudia Diaz Fuentes; Brandon Dues; Diana Dunham-Scott; Thomas Edison; Emre Erkut; John Felipe Fei; Adam Hardwick Gailey; Sarah J. Gaillot; Kenneth Paul Grosselin III; Jianhui Hu; Alexis Khanh Huynh; Florencia Jauregiuberry; Eric Jesse; Ryan Keefe; Aaron Lee Martin; Carl Friedrich Matthies; Benjamin Mundell; Sean Michael O'Neill; Jordan Phillip Ostwald; Sarah Marjorie Outcault; K. Kartika Palar; Ki-Tae Park; Chung Pham; David Schulker; Yuyan Shi, Brooke Stearns Lawson; Farrukh Suvankulov; Jeffery Clark Tanner; Zhen Wang; Brian A. Weatherford.
With about 100 students, the Pardee RAND Graduate School is the nation's largest public policy Ph.D. program. Its 197 faculty members are drawn from the more than 1,000 researchers at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
Founded in 1970 as one of eight original graduate programs in public policy created to train future leaders in the public and private sectors in policy analysis, the school is the only program specializing in the doctorate degree and the only one based at a public policy research organization.
For more information about the Pardee RAND Graduate School, visit www.prgs.edu.