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Exemplar Award Winner Isabel
Sawhill (l) and APPAM President
Angela Evans (r)

Event Recap: APPAM Annual Membership Meeting and Exemplar Speaker Isabel Sawhill

November 9, 2014 01:00 PM

By Kharaam Sharifpour, University of Southern California

APPAM’s Annual Membership Meeting and Award Lunch was opened by President Angela Evans, who first gave thanks to the APPAM staff and volunteers for their tireless efforts behind such great Association events like the annual conference. She then reported from the Policy Council on the activities of the Association and the current financial condition of the organization, which can be found in APPAM’s first Annual Report. The pleasant news of the organization’s surplus was due to admirable sponsors’ support of the Fall Research Conference. Evans also acknowledged the recent efforts of the Nominating Committee, the report of which was then given by Paul Decker, President and CEO of Mathmatica Policy Research and APPAM’s Immediate Past President.

Decker recognized Sandra Archibald, Dean of the University of Washington Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs and former APPAM President, for her contributions as the co-chair of the Nomination Committee. The committee unanimously nominated Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, as the next President-Elect; his selection was then affirmed by the members. Haskin's term will begin in January 2015.

Evans returned to the stage and recognized Jane Waldfogel, APPAM’s current President-Elect, and the way the Program Committee handled the enormous tasks of organizing this year’s Fall Research Conference. She also expressed how the number of 2014 submissions was the second-largest ever. Evans then acknowledged the chairs and discussants of all the conference sessions, as well as the Program Committee for their great cooperation.

Isabel Sawhill, Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project at the Brookings Institution, was introduced as the recipient of 2014 APPAM Exemplar Award and invited to speak. Sawhill began by mentioning how good it is to see the younger APPAM members and noted that the Association continues to flourish and grow each year. Sawhill congratulated Ron Haskins for his election and recognized him to be the voice of reason and truth-telling in Washington, DC, which few people have the courage to be. She then emphasized the importance of translating research into action and that “research should be policy-driven.” In her lecture, From Research to Action: How to Affect the Policy Debate, Sawhill offered six lessons she has learned through years of sustained commitment.

The first lesson is simply trying to “ask important questions and dare to think broadly and boldly.” Research and practice should not be constrained since if real improvements are required, better and broader thinking is needed. 

Secondly, she advised the audience to do their homework; meaning “if you have a new idea even if you are not sure about it, try to study new ways.” The best example of this approach was Sawhill’s own Improving Children’s Life Chances: Estimates from the Social Genome Model that asked where in a child’s life a good time to intervene is and what can be done for social mobility in the United States.

Sawhill’s third lesson was to “read newspapers, even if one is busy working.” Reading newspapers helps people be as self-sufficient as possible and to stay abreast of the policy debates taking place in the public and media spheres.

For her fourth lesson, she tasked researchers to “not stay long in the ivory tower,” meaning that talking to people in your field and practice opens new doors to better ideas. It is important to listen to people’s ideas, a good example of which is when she listened to radio shows for her new book, Generation Unbound.

The fact that data and analysis matter was her fifth lesson. She believes that “although new data speaks softly at first, the rigorous analysis of this data will stand long and strong in the future.”

Sawhill’s last lesson was to “not hide your learning and to share and take all what you can learn from all mediums.”

Sawhill then answered some questions posed by the audience, asking about her experience and her success. The Exemplar Awardee explained how she learned about getting her research into action by being at the right place at the right time, and also by having been supported by mentors and being persistent in her career. “My advice is: don’t retreat!” She explained that there are going to be people who will criticize your work, but do not let them undermine your attempt in the process. Addressing the scholars in the audience, she recommended they volunteer to be on the committees and panels, as this makes you known among peers.

The last portion of the meeting formally presented several awards.

Best Ph.D. Dissertation Award: Anjali Adukia, University of Chicago

Vernon Memorial Prize: Tal Gross, Columbia University; Jeanne Lafortune, Instituto de Economía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; and Corinne Low, Columbia University

ICPA/JCPA Award for Research in Comparative Policy Analysis: Sanya Carley, Jennifer Brass, Elizabeth Baldwin, and Lauren M. MacLean, Indiana University

Steven D. Gold Award: Ronald C. Fisher, Michigan State University.


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