The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Program

Public Program: “The Hungry Ghost: A Biopsychosocial Perspective on Addiction”

Addiction is epidemic in our society and, as such, has become a common word that many people are familiar with, perhaps even painfully so. When one hears this word, thoughts of alcohol and drug addiction almost exclusively come to mind. However, addiction can manifest in many other forms as well, each of which is perceived and received differently by society. Indeed, some forms of addiction have become nonchalantly embedded into our daily vocabularies, as in the case of shopping or Internet addictions. In other words, addiction is a spectrum, running the gambit from textbook heroin addiction to workaholism, and it is vital to recognize this diversity.

Talking Policy with Columnist Megan McArdle

Megan McArdle is a Washington-based writer focused on the interrelationship of business, economics, and public policy. Her work has appeared in outlets including but not limited to The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Newsweek, Time, and Businessweek. Her book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, analyzes how failing well may turn out to be a key to success.

McArdle received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. When she graduated from business school in 2001, she had no intention of becoming a journalist. In fact, she had another job lined up in 2001, which ultimately did not work out and led her to an administrative position at the World Trade Center site.

Public Program: "Is America Great Again Yet?"

Is America great again yet? We are approaching the conclusion of Trump’s first 100 days—the conspicuous yardstick for which pundits, the media, and politicians alike measure the direction and achievements of an administration. It has been an eventful 2017. Have Trump’s actions been congruent with his campaign promises? Are his accomplishments thus far befitting of his campaign philosophy? Are his supporters content? What do these days forecast for the rest of his term?

Public Program: “Dreamland: America's Opiate Epidemic”

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. The death rates have increased in 30 states and the drug overdose death rate has significantly increased from 12.3 per 100,000 population in 2010 to 16.3 in 2015. In 2015, there were 52,404 lethal drug overdoses and 33,091 (63.1%) of those deaths were due to opioids. Opioid addiction is truly driving the drug epidemic in the United States; 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdoes. (Source:

Opioid addiction has a detrimentally widespread reach, negatively affecting the health, social, and economic welfare of society. But how did our nation come to this point? What caused this epidemic?

Keeping Faith with the Constitution

Pamela S. Karlan is the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School. Her primary scholarly interests involve constitutional litigation, particularly with respect to voting rights and antidiscrimination law. She has published dozens of scholarly articles. She is also the co-author of three leading casebooks and a monograph on constitutional interpretation: Keeping Faith with the Constitution.

Public Program: Jon Kohl '92 “The Future Has Other Plans”

More and more often, we are hearing about the impacts that our modern lifestyle has on our world and the natural resources contained therein. Particularly, parks and heritage areas worldwide are in the midst of a crisis, and little attention is currently devoted to their preservation. While it is true that preservation planning is often underfunded, it seems that there is also a fundamental issue in the assumptions used to create resource management plans in these crucial spaces.

Public Program: “Crime and the Constitution: Arrest, Trial, Incarceration”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the United States had a total correctional population of 6,741,400 people at the end of 2015. Delving deeper into the prison system’s high numbers, we see a disparity in the inmates’ predominant socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. In questioning the social problems such as crime, poverty, prejudice and political corruption, we must also look at the legal system that perpetuates these ideas and systematic issues. The historical and contemporary patterns of inequality are directly influenced by the Constitution and the court. This event will focus on the constitutionality of arrests, trials, and incarceration following crime.

Student Dinner Discussion with Harry Enten '11

There were 180+ attendees at the “Aftermath: What the 2016 Election Taught Us About Polls, Predictions and American Politics” event with Harry Enten ’11 on Feb 3, with a majority of students in the audience.

Interesting aspects of the lecture included Enten’s assessment of how little the greater majority of the polled public understands about polling and statistical data analysis. The background information of the data covers confidence intervals and also concerns itself with the weighting of groups in a data sample to be representative of a population. Without knowledge of this, we really do not have a firm grasp on what the numbers mean. Enten did a great job contextualizing the decisions FiveThirtyEight made and how it presented its data to the public. Highlights of the event also included the degree to which he dispelled some commonly held notions about the inaccuracy of polls and polling this past cycle. Some audience members asked about specific signs prior to the election; in turn, Enten discussed political trends and variability in political figures.

Public Program: “Rights and Rites: The Supreme Court, Voting, and Marriage Equality”

As the highest court in our nation with the power of judicial review, the Supreme Court has always been pivotal in formulating both our nation’s identity and trajectory. Over the last several years, however, the Supreme Court has become an especially hot topic as it has made sweeping and highly publicized landmark decisions that have reverberated throughout the country and that promise to continue reverberating for many years to come. Yet the Supreme Court’s record has been curiously mixed between progressive and conservative outcomes, legalizing gay marriage for the LGBTQIA+ community in 2015 yet striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act for the African-American community just two years earlier. To some, this is seen as moments of social progress on the Supreme Court being punctured by retreats toward conservatism.

Public Program: “Aftermath: Polls, Predictions, and American Politics”

The results of the latest presidential election cycle shocked many, and some would argue that the nation is still processing the results even now, after the inauguration. For months, countless polls were predicting a Clinton victory. Not only that, many claimed that a Trump presidency was not only unlikely, but unfeasible statistically. Clearly, these claims were incorrect, and the American public must come to terms with the supposed failure of our pollsters.

FiveThirtyEight is considered by many to be a forerunner in the field of political predictions. While they too believed that Secretary Clinton would beat President Trump in the election, FiveThirtyEight’s models showed a significantly higher chance of a Trump victory than did other pollsters.


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences