79 JFK AND BEYOND
Update on the Dean’s Committees on the Future of the Kennedy School
Last August Dean David Ellwood described the need to carefully review many of the school’s programs and organizational structures to better meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world. Toward that end, the dean created four committees to look carefully at the school’s research and teaching programs, its academic organization, and its financial state of affairs. A summary of their preliminary findings follows.
The charge of the Academic Organization Committee is a daunting one: to examine how the school’s academic organization could be refined to increase our capacity to teach and do important research on public problems. The committee is looking at ways to organize how the faculty and research are structured, examine our hiring and promotion system, and explore how the current faculty workload system works.
Academic dean and committee co-chair Stephen Walt presented an initial set of findings to a recent meeting of the faculty and key administrators, emphasizing that the Kennedy School isn’t the same institution it was 25 years ago.
“This place has changed a lot during its history,” he told the audience. For starters, the number of faculty has exploded, from 20 in 1977 to 140 today, affecting their sense of community and the ability to mentor junior faculty. The larger number also makes the “cluster” system, created almost 10 years ago as a way to organize faculty, ineffective. As a result, he said, curriculum planning and the integration of teaching and research agendas have been difficult to carry out. The committee was also concerned that having all faculty report to one person, the academic dean, was no longer manageable.
Before taking questions, Walt outlined the committee’s proposed changes, which included replacing the cluster system with new “divisions” that would assign faculty members and research centers by specialty. Although the committee had worked hard to come up with this new way of organizing academics, Walt stressed that many questions still needed to
be answered, such as how faculty would be assigned to divisions and whether divisions would be virtual or spatial, with faculty physically grouped together.
While many members were fully supportive, some expressed concerns about the changes, ranging from how divisions heads would work with research center directors and whether the old system really needed to be overhauled, rather than just tinkered with.
Committee members include co-chairs Frederick Schauer and Stephen Walt and members Arthur Applbaum, Iris Bohnet, Dow Davis, Jose Gómez-Ibáñez MPP 1972, PhD 1975, David Lazer, Nolan Miller, Thomas Patterson, Roger Porter, and Robert Stavins.
The Teaching Programs Committee’s task, explained committee director Suzanne Cooper, was to review the school’s current teaching programs and to explore whether these programs were effectively preparing students for their careers. To find out, the committee surveyed approximately 12,000 alumni about issues pertaining to their Kennedy School experience and its relationship to their careers. Thus far 4,700 alumni have replied.
Focusing on the MPP, MPP/UP, MPA/ID, MPA2, and the MC/MPA programs, Cooper reported several key findings.The survey showed that the vast majority of alumni across degree programs are working in public or nonprofit work immediately after graduation (more so than at later points in their careers). The reason for this, explained Cooper, may be the increased gap in wages between the private and public sectors as individuals move up in their careers. Cooper also noted, however, that even as alumni entered the private sector, the survey indicated that there was lots of public service activity. The survey also showed that participation in public or nonprofit work among alumni was comparable across degree programs, suggesting that an imbalance does not exist in how the programs are preparing students.
Cooper also compared the alumni’s assessment of the skills they learned at the Kennedy School to those skills they reported to use “most extensively” in their careers. Alumni ranked “systematic thinking about problems” as the top skill they learned and also listed it among the skills they used “most extensively” in their careers. Alumni also reported, however, that while they use oral communication extensively in their careers, it was not among the top skills taught at the Kennedy School. For the committee’s full report, go to http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/outdisc/teaching.nsf/workspace?ReadForm.
Based on the data gathered from the survey, the committee will present recommendations in April. In addition to Cooper, the committee includes co-chairs David Gergen IOP 1984, Alex Keyssar, and Robert Lawrence, and members Chris Avery, Derek Bok, Carol Chetkovich, Jack Donahue MPP 1982, PhD 1988, Archon Fung, Merilee Grindle, Christine Letts, Joe McCarthy, Bonnie Newman, John Noble, Tony Saich, Richard Zeckhauser, and Pete Zimmerman MPP 1977.
Budget and Performance Measurement
The Budget and Performance Measurement Committee was asked to come up with a plan that would allow the school to align its strategic and financial goals. Working with an outside firm, the Boston Consulting Group, their first task was, as Dean David Ellwood put it, “to understand the hydraulics of the place.”
Ellwood emphasized that when it came to the school’s finances, there weren’t any magic bullets. “We didn’t find some gaping hole that, if we just plugged it, we’d be flush with resources. The reality is the school’s financial situation is stable but it requires real vigilance.”
He also stressed that the economic model created by the committee was not meant to be the basis for decision making alone, nor was it meant to say anything about the worth of any program or product analyzed. It was meant to get the finances under control.
At a recent meeting of the faculty and key administrators, the Boston Consulting Group’s Dave Matheson presented a series of slides highlighting what they had discovered about the school’s structure and how that breaks down fiscally.
“The school is under pretty significant financial pressure,” he said. “You’ve had revenue declines which you had to make up for with fairly aggressive cost-saving measures and by increasing class size and tuition, but how far you can fix it that way is debatable.”
The areas discussed included the school’s overall financial picture, costs per student by degree program, executive education revenue and declining enrollment, fundraising, the cost of research, and the cost of research centers.
“A main objective for us with this assignment was transparency. It wasn’t about making recommendations, but to help the school get an understanding of how it works,” Matheson said. “For its size — a $100 million operation — it’s an incredibly complex institution.”
Committee members include co-chairs Mary Jo Bane and Linda Bilmes and members Robert Behn, Rosemarie Day MPP 1992, Stephen Goldsmith, William Hogan, Elizabeth Keating, Herman Dutch Leonard, Erzo Luttmer, Malcolm Sparrow, Stewart Uretsky, John White, Alan Trager MPA 1972, and Carolyn Wood.
The Research Committee focused its report on three main areas: how much research is conducted at the Kennedy School and by whom, how it is supported, and the role research centers play in supporting faculty research. This undertaking, explained committee co-chair William Clark, who presented the findings, produced “reams of complicated data that we as faculty have never looked at before.”
Among the committee’s key findings was that Kennedy School faculty produce an impressive body of work each year: Between 2001 and 2003, faculty produced an average of 487 publications per year (publications include a range of items, from books to journal articles to op-eds). The committee also found that the school’s tenured faculty produced a disproportionate amount of the research, both in traditional forms such as books and journal articles as well as op-eds.
In the area of support, the committee found that 10 faculty members are responsible for almost 60 percent of the funding and 20 faculty raise three-quarters of the school’s research funding. The committee also reported, based on preliminary data analysis, that the school’s annual sponsored research expenditures in recent years have increased at a rate greater than that of other major research universities (as measured by an annual national survey of social science research expenditures).
In other committee discussion, Clark noted a feeling among junior faculty that the Kennedy School may send a “mixed message” about what it values as research. Dean David Ellwood said the report highlights the need “to identify what we are trying to do as a school and to create as much transparency as possible for junior faculty” in terms of the school’s research expectations.
Overall, Ellwood said he came away “quite reassured” by the committee’s findings that the school’s biggest “foot print” in terms of output is from “those faculty who’ve been at the school a long time.”
In addition to Clark, the committee includes co-chairs Dani Rodrik and Julie Wilson and members Matthew Alper, George Borjas, Pepper Culpepper, Arnold Howitt, Brian Jacob, Sheila Jasanoff, Steven Kelman, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, Todd Pittinsky, Monica Toft, and Andres Velasco. The committee also received invaluable support from staff members Ipek Aktas, Charlene Arzigian, Alpa Khatri, David Lynch, Robert Mitchell, Alison Poppe, Stewart Uretsky, and Carolyn Wood.