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

Letter From Andrew Samwick

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     I came to Dartmouth 25 years ago because it aspires to be the best of both worlds: a major research university that pushes the frontiers of knowledge and a small liberal arts college that focuses on the education of undergraduates. I am honored and grateful to have had the opportunity over the last 15 years to serve as director of the Rockefeller Center and, along with a talented and dedicated team of faculty and staff, make the Center an integral part of Dartmouth’s aspiration. In 2012, when the College’s Strategic Planning Working Group on Pedagogy, Teaching, and Mentorship recommended creating “multidisciplinary centers to facilitate faculty-faculty and faculty-student interaction across departments and schools outside of the classroom,” it singled out the Rockefeller Center as “an example of a successful model that should be replicated for other disciplines.”
      I joined the Rockefeller Center after spending a year as the chief economist on the staff of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).  The most interesting realization that I made during my year at CEA was that the lack of subject knowledge is seldom the constraint in effecting better public policy. The binding constraint is that too few policymakers have the ability to translate knowledge into socially beneficial outcomes. That translation requires leadership—the ability to mobilize a group and its resources to achieve a common goal despite a variety of potentially competing interests. Upon my return to Hanover, I sought ways to elevate the knowledge translation inherent in leadership to the same status as the knowledge production and knowledge dissemination that comprise the core activities of scholarship and teaching at Dartmouth.
      While I value, and the Center delivers on, all elements in its mission statement, the Center’s programmatic growth over the last 15 years has focused on encouraging experiential learning in the policy realm and developing undergraduates’ potential for leadership. The Center aims to educate, train, and inspire the next generation of public policy leaders. We now do that through a suite of programs that engage students in and out of the classroom, on and off campus, for all four years that they are with us in Hanover. In recent graduating classes, over 25 percent of the students have participated in at least one term-long program at the Center during their time at Dartmouth. Many of Dartmouth’s most successful students, including several Rhodes and Truman Scholars, have testified that their experiences at the Rockefeller Center have been instrumental to their success.
     As I step down from my position as director after 15 years, I am grateful to many people who have helped make the Rockefeller Center such a vibrant home for public policy and leadership on campus. I have benefited from the guidance and counsel of the Center’s alumni Board of Visitors. I am particularly grateful to Ron Schram ’64, Curt Welling ’71 Tu’77, and Tim Harrison ’78 who have served as chair of that Board, as well as to Fritz Corrigan ’64, who brought a passion for and investment in leadership development to the Center. There have been many dedicated faculty, staff, and students who have worked at the Center in support of its programs, and none are more instrumental in the Center’s past and future successes than Sadhana Hall and Ron Shaiko. And lastly, I would like to acknowledge that none of these successes would be possible outside the larger academic context established by Dartmouth leadership, who value the strategic opportunities provided by an interdisciplinary center like the Rockefeller Center that has the freedom to innovate and work hard in pursuit of our shared mission.

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