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Decker's Conference Address Inspires a New Policy Student

December 11, 2013 10:05 AM

Fall_Conference_(148)By Becky Kelleman, Rutgers University

After a warm introduction, Paul Decker, CEO of Mathematica Policy Research and President of APPAM, took the stage. Thoughtful and deliberate, Decker somehow managed to combine all the words that I have ever wanted to say to explain the importance of social policy to friends and family. I had to resist my urge to race up to him following the presentation and beg for a copy of the speech.  However, I am getting ahead of myself; let me “start from the start,” as one of my friends likes to say.

Being a first year Masters of Public Policy student from Rutgers University, I arrived at this year’s Fall Research Conference tired, overworked, overwhelmed, and yet somehow excited. I had been debating for weeks whether or not I would go, with deadlines and projects and papers and projects—did I mention deadlines? Yes, APPAM appeared to be a welcome break that I could not afford to take. After some convincing, and seeing how the conference would be taking place on the other side of the United States in 2014, I decided I needed to be there. I took the train to D.C., planning to read school assignments; I found myself on the APPAM app on my cell phone. If you have not seen it, you need to, it is amazing and I owe its creators a BIG thank you for assisting me to navigate through three hotels and dozens of panels, symposiums, and the like.

By the time Friday morning rolled around, seemingly minutes later, I found myself at the Marriot, phone in hand, application running, swerving through masses of people who were united for a similar purpose, to get to my first panel discussion (which I thoroughly enjoyed). By 4:45 pm., three panels, one symposium, and a light lunch later, I was exhausted. I really wanted to see the President’s Address, so I drank another cup of coffee and fixed myself front and center in the West End Ballroom. It was the second-best decision I made all week, following the decision to come to the conference.

The address was inspiring! My classmates and I found ourselves laughing—a lot more than we had expected—and taking notes. I decided about halfway through Decker’s address that this is the perfect speech for orientation of new policy students that our dean should make. I would encourage any faculty who need a little pep talk to watch the video clips! Decker reminded the audience that effective public management practice is policy analysis and evaluations. The translation of data research should turn into some sort of practical application.

 My favorite takeaways were the charges Decker gave the audience. He reminded us of our commitment to evidence and our credibility relies on our ability to remain outside the political game.  He told us to connect the dots, a game I remember playing when I was in kindergarten. Most importantly, he urged us to EMBRACE BIG DATA!

 

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