The PRGS Experience
Curriculum Plus Vitae
PRGS is unique in American higher education. It was founded in 1970 as one of the original eight graduate programs in public policy. PRGS was the only program specializing in the Ph.D. It is also the only one based at a think tank--the RAND Corporation, which invented many of the analytical tools of public policy analysis.
PRGS doctoral students--we call them fellows, since everyone has a fellowship based on the research they do here--take advanced courses in such fields as economics, statistics, political science and the social sciences. They also work part-time as members of RAND's interdisciplinary research teams, which is how they earn their fellowships.
This combination of advanced course work and on-the-job training is unique. It's curriculum plus vitae. Fellows obtain the best research training in our classrooms, and they get to apply it to real problems with RAND mentors and real clients.
Who Joins the PRGS?
Who are these fellows? You can read about them elsewhere on this website. (See the People of PRGS.) Each year, about 25 new fellows enroll in PRGS. They come from around the world and from the most diverse of educational backgrounds.
Their academic credentials are very strong, but the Admissions Committee doesn't just go by the numbers. The Committee looks for creativity, the ability to think about new issues in new ways. PRGS seeks students with a combination of passion and discipline--the passion to change the world for the better, and the discipline to carry forth the new research that will be needed to do so.
PRGS graduates can be found in academia, government, business, and non-profit organizations. Many of them have careers that combine or transcend those traditional paths. For example, Kenneth Thorpe ('85) is a professor and chair of health policy and management at Emory University, after serving as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services in Washington.
Yilmaz Arguden ('85) is one of Turkey's leading business figures, and the founder of one of his nation’s leading research institutions. He has also served as his country's Vice Chairman of Privatization and as Chief Economic Adviser for the Prime Minister, and he has been a senior officer of the World Bank.
Philip Romero ('88) worked as a corporate strategist for United Technologies Corp., before serving on the staff of the governor of California. Now he is the Dean of the University of Oregon Business School. "That should tell you right there about the versatility of this degree," Romero observes.
Elizabeth McGlynn ('88) began her career in the Department of Health and Human Services but switched to policy research after completing her PhD. She is currently Associate Director of RAND Health and Director of the Center for Research on Quality of Care. Beth was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM), a rare honor for a non-MD. The IOM honors extraordinary professional achievement in the health sciences and serves as a national resource for independent analysis and recommendations on issues related to medicine, biomedical sciences, and health.
Scott Pace ('89) is a Deputy Administrator of NASA, and heads up the agency’s Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation. This office independently assesses NASA’s program performance, and make recommendations for future activities.
Anne Johansen ('90) is Senior Health Policy Specialist with the World Bank currently working in Palestine.
Jack Riley ('93) joined the US Department of Justice after completing his PhD, rising to become Director of the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program. In 1999, he returned to RAND as a Senior Policy Analyst, directing research in terrorism risk management, public safety and justice.
Allison Jacknowitz ('04) is an Assistant Professor in American
University’s School of Public Affiars, where her research focuses
on She conducts research on issues related to poverty, income and food
assistance programs, health outcomes, the elderly, children, and
"A Fascinating Place"
The versatility starts early. Fellows are encouraged to think beyond the usual stovepipes of disciplines and policy fields. "RAND is a fascinating place," says PRGS alumna Ann Stone ('01). "There's research going on in virtually every area and there's a very open culture, with a lot of seminars on work in progress and everyone is invited to participate. It's easy to be connected to various departments here. It's just a very stimulating environment."
The RAND Corporation is America's largest think tank, more than four times bigger than the second place Brookings Institution. Famous for its work on international security, RAND also has large programs in education, science and technology, civil justice, health, labor and population, drug policy, enterprise analysis, child policy, homeland security, environment and energy, criminal justice, and more. (See the RAND home page.) For their on-the-job training, PRGS fellows choose among over 500 projects that are underway at any one time at RAND.
Across American higher education, there is increasing dissatisfaction with doctoral education. A recent review of U.S. doctoral programs was blunt: "Ph.D. students are being trained to do the wrong things in the wrong ways...They are not encouraged to think across disciplinary boundaries." A result: doctoral students spend lengthy periods writing dissertations that are often arcane and irrelevant.
PRGS is different. Our dissertations take on some of the world's toughest problems, with the rigor, interdisciplinary approach, and flair that are hallmarks of RAND.
Many of the topics cross the usual boundaries of disciplines and of public, private, non-profit (see recent dissertation topics). PRGS dissertations develop new ways of thinking about hard issues. Some tackle emerging issues, before they have become hot topics of debate. All PRGS dissertations take advantage of a unique environment--a graduate school embedded in an independent think tank.