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Dr. John MacDonald, 2012 Kershaw Award Winner, Discusses Mentorship, Collaboration, and Career

October 5, 2012 12:30 PM

John_MacDonaldThe Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) selected John MacDonald, M.A., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, as the winner of the 2012 David N. Kershaw Award. The Kershaw Award and Prize comes with an honorarium of $10,000 and recognizes individuals under the age of 40 who have made distinguished contributions to the field of public policy analysis and management.

Dr. MacDonald works on a wide variety of topics in criminology that include the study of interpersonal violence, race and ethnic disparities in criminal justice, and the effectiveness of social policy responses to crime. His important contributions to public policy analysis and management include numerous studies using rigorous, quasi-experimental and experimental designs showing the effects of social policies on crime, of institutional social justice reforms on crime, and more recently, the health effects of various policy interventions.

The Associate Professor and Chair of Criminology and Director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, Dr. MacDonald is also a Research Associate of the Populations Studies Center and member of the Academic Policy Committee of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. His research includes evaluations of crime prevention interventions and health impacts. He has served as a principal investigator and co-principal investigator on health, injury prevention, and crime research projects through funding provided by the American Statistical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. MacDonald was awarded the Young Experimental Scholar Award by the Academy of Experimental Criminology for significant contributions to experimental research. His recent publications appear in the American Journal of Epidemiology, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, ANNALS of the American of Academy of Political and Social Science, and the Economic Journal. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in criminology from the University of Maryland.

Dr. MacDonald is an enthusiastic supporter of APPAM and its mission. “I was drawn to APPAM because it represents the primary academic association focused on a variety pressing policy concerns through the application of rigorous empirical research,” he said. “APPAM has become my primary intellectual home.”

Throughout his career, Dr. MacDonald has benefited from several mentors in his field. “My primary mentor in graduate school was Professor Charles Wellford, past President of the American Society of Criminology and Chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Law and Justice,” he said. “His background included having served in the Office of the United States Attorney General where he directed the Federal Justice Research Program in the Carter and Reagan administrations. He always stressed the importance of rigorous empirical research, informed by theory, but with practical relevance.”

Over the last decade, Dr. MacDonald has worked with a number of prominent scholars he considers as professional mentors. “In recent years I’ve collaborated with Professor Phil Cook at Duke University,” he said. “He has continuously pushed for rigorous empirical research to answer important policy questions related to crime, public health, and education.

“My collaborations with individuals from a variety of disciplines has convinced me of the value to be gained by the diverse insights that a strong team brings to a research project,” said Dr. MacDonald. “I would urge graduate students or new people stepping into the policy research field to seek out collaborations with scholars from different disciplines, but with the common interest of applying rigorous scientific methods to address research that informs public policy.”

Dr. MacDonald considers the Kershaw Award a singular honor. “The past recipients of this award are among the most eminent public policy scholars, and have all applied rigorous research designs to examine some of the most pressing policy problems in society,” he said. “Being included with this distinguished group of scholars is a remarkable professional honor.”

The award won’t slow Dr. MacDonald down, however. “I plan to continue an active research agenda that furthers scientific inquiry on environmental influences of crime and public health,” he said when asked about his future plans. “I want to see the results of my work lead to substantive improvements in the methodological approaches for studying these issues, and the application of more sensible public policies and practices. I plan to build a research career that uses applied science to improved social practice.”

The David N. Kershaw Award and Prize is named in honor of the first president of Mathematica Policy Research, a policy research organization headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. Dr. Kershaw died of cancer in 1979 at the age of 37. The award is generally presented every other year at the APPAM Fall Research Conference. Dr. MacDonald will formally receive the award on Thursday, November 8 at the 2012 Fall Research Conference and will deliver a special lecture at that time.

Photo courtesy University of Pennsylvania


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