Nearly 30 Years of Dynamic Inquiry: Rockefeller Center Direct Line - Spring 2013

This September marks a special anniversary for the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. Thirty years ago at its founding, Rodman Rockefeller '54, Nelson's son and a driving force behind the Center's creation, aspired for it to become "a true center of dynamic inquiry, controversy, and cross-fertilization." Speaking at the same ceremony, Dartmouth President David McLaughlin '54 described the challenge of the new Center to "Fill these physical spaces with intellectual excellence. Realize within these walls the excitement and stimulus of the life of Nelson Rockefeller."

Each director and staff of the Center in the intervening three decades have had the task of making these aspirations relevant for successive generations of students, faculty, and the wider Dartmouth community. We are quite proud of the way the Rockefeller Center has become a focal point for public policy research and discussion on campus.  In its report last spring, the Pedagogy, Teaching, and Mentoring working group of Dartmouth’s strategic planning process identified the Rockefeller Center as an example of a successful model of a multi-disciplinary center that facilitated faculty-faculty and faculty-student interaction across departments and schools outside the classroom.

The Center has hosted nationally televised primary debates in the last two Presidential election cycles and played a central role in launching the Leading Voices lecture series in the summer of 2011. Faculty members regularly convene together in our interdisciplinary workshops to discuss policy-relevant research. The Center plays an important role in supporting social science and public policy research with its targeted faculty grant program. In keeping with Dartmouth’s mission, our primary focus at the Rockefeller Center is on the experience of undergraduates with an eye toward engaging them in public policy and cultivating their potential for leadership. We have developed a unique model of educating students in and out of the classroom, on and off campus.

Looking back on the nearly 9 years that I have been the Center’s director, there have been two moments that stand out as critical to our educational model. The first was in the fall of 2006, when we welcomed the Class of 2010 with a new public policy minor, beginning with Public Policy 5 and the First-Year Fellows program and anchored by Public Policy 45 and the Policy Research Shop. This spring, we celebrate the milestone of the PRS completing its 100th policy brief for policy makers in New Hampshire and Vermont.  The second was in 2009, when we secured a transformational gift from Glenda and Fritz ’64 Corrigan to launch new courses focused on leadership and the Management and Leadership Development program, which is now the campus’s largest program to offer leadership education, training, and practice to undergraduates.

The Center today represents the culmination of decades of hard work and thoughtful development. We hope it is rising to the aspirations expressed so forcefully at its founding through the work of our faculty and the leadership challenges our students and graduates confront. I look forward to sharing our continued progress as the whole Dartmouth community welcomes a new president this summer and approaches its 250th anniversary in the years to come.

Andrew A. Samwick is the Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Sandra L. and Arthur L. Irving '72a, P'10 Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 2003 and 2004, he served as chief economist on the staff of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Since joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1994, his scholarly work has covered a range of topics, including pensions, saving, taxation, portfolio choice, and executive compensation. Professor Samwick has been published in American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Finance, Journal of Public Economics, and a number of specialized journals and conference volumes. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from Harvard College and received his Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He blogs about economics, politics, and current events.