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VOL. 22, NO. 21APRIL 18, 1997

Prof. Nelson to Direct New Public Policy Consortium

By Suzanne Trimel

Richard Nelson.
The study of public policy has been a traditional area of interest among Columbia's most influential scholars--flourishing within many graduate and professional schools and departments. But until this year, there has been no University-wide structure to unite faculty and students interested in this area.

  The creation of the Public Policy Consortium by the Provost's Office is an effort to bridge this gap by bringing together Columbia faculty and graduate students who are studying public policy problems, and other scholars who wish to do so. Richard Nelson, the George Blumenthal Professor of International and Public Affairs, has been appointed the first director of the Consortium.

  Spearheaded by Provost Jonathan R. Cole and Vice Provost Michael Crow, the Consortium will coordinate courses, develop new ones and initiate activities related to research in this area.

  A central feature of the Consortium is the creation of a Public Policy Fellows program for doctoral candidates. The fellowships will provide one year of pre-dissertation study to enhance students' overall competency in public policy research beyond the more narrow areas of interest they pursue in individual departments or schools. Ten fellows will be accepted next year. They will receive a $10,000 grant to support their work.

  In addition, a Public Policy Seminar will be developed specifically for fellows as well as a public policy dissertation workshop.

  Presently, faculty from the Schools of Social Work, Public Health, Nursing, Architecture and Planning, Business, Law, International and Public Affairs, and Teachers' College and from the departments of economics, political science, sociology and psychology are participating in the Consortium.

  As it becomes more established, the Consortium hopes to draw researchers from the natural sciences and engineering.

  Nelson noted that the Consortium will not function as a separate school or department at Columbia, with its own faculty and curriculum.

  "Rather it is a University-wide institution that brings together faculty and doctoral-level students from many places on campus. At the same time, the Consortium is dedicated to helping the students and faculty involved with the Consortium to acquire the understandings and skills relevant to policy analysis that call for study beyond their specialized training."

  "Columbia has the most extraordinary set of individuals devoted to public policy studies," said Cole, "but they are found throughout the campus and not together under any one roof. Through the Consortium, we hope to develop a closer network of collaboration among this dynamic collective of individual public policy scholars."

  "Public policy problems pose perhaps the greatest and most relevant challenge to the social sciences," said Crow.

  "Policy analysis has been a major stimulus for fundamental advances in social science understanding. We want that stimulus to be an important part of the teaching and research in the social sciences at Columbia."

  Nelson, whose own research has impact across the disciplines of economics, sociology, political science, business and law, said the Consortium's aim is to provide "a loose structure within which the diverse Columbia community interested in public policy issues can work together on matters of common interest, without being forced into a common mold."

  One essential area will be the publication of a handbook for students listing courses on public policy issues throughout the University.

  The handbook will serve as a kind of roadmap to public policy studies at Columbia and also may identify areas where courses are lacking and should be developed, said Nelson.