USC announces $59 million Institute for Public Policy and Government Service

Dana Goldman, dean of the Price School of Public Policy, will step down July 1 to become the director of the institute.

The institute will be USC’s first major research and education institution housed in its Capital Campus in Washington, D.C., which opened last April, and will also have offices at University Park Campus.
(Alan Karchmer)

USC is establishing the Leonard D. Schaeffer Institute for Public Policy and Government Service with a $59 million gift from Leonard and Pamela Schaeffer, President Carol Folt announced Thursday morning. 

The institute, scheduled to open at USC’s Capital Campus in Washington D.C. on July 1, will serve as a research center aimed at informing private companies and public policy decisions, according to a press release.

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The Price School of Public Policy and Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will contribute to the institute, which will consolidate two existing programs: the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics — a research center for health public policy — and the Schaeffer Fellows in Government Service. The latter places undergraduate students across five universities, including USC, in summer government internships. The $59 million will also fund a permanent endowment for the fellowship.

“A very big high point of the D.C. building will be bringing people together to work on evidence-based policy decision making and taking students to give them a chance to have first hand experience in the capital on leadership, on working about pressing issues and becoming involved citizens of a true democracy,” Folt said in a joint interview Thursday with Annenberg Media and the Daily Trojan.

The institute will be USC’s first major research and education institution housed at its Capital Campus, which opened last April, and will also have offices at University Park Campus. Folt said she doesn’t think of the D.C. extension as a “separate campus,” rather, she sees it as a “bridge across the nation.”

“[If] you tried to wait until you knew everything, we’d still be sitting here on our hands,” Folt said. “We have so many students that care about democracy; we’re going to build it while we’re flying.” 

Dana Goldman — a distinguished professor of public policy, pharmacy and economics — will step down as dean of Price on July 1 to become the director of the Schaeffer Institute. USC has not yet announced an interim dean. Erica Lovano McCann, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, will serve as executive director of the revamped fellowship program.

The Schaeffer Institute, in Goldman’s eyes, will be the place where students go to learn the “nuts and bolts” of public policy. While he anticipates the institute to be focused on health policy initially, he hopes it will grow to other policy areas like the environment, sustainability and national security. 

“[The institute] provides a platform for USC to engage in all those issues in a very non-partisan way,” Goldman said. “We are delighted that we are respected on both sides of the aisle and we want to continue that.” 

On top of making sound policy in a variety of fields, Goldman said the institute will grow in policy communication. 

“If we’re going to talk to policy makers, how do we translate what’s in our academic papers and make that digestible and usable when you go to places like Capitol Hill?” Goldman said. “We are really interested in how we have civil discourse around people who may fundamentally disagree, for example, on the role of government, but how can we get to solutions?”

Leonard Schaeffer is a USC trustee and the founding chairman and CEO of Wellpoint, a health insurance company. He also serves as chair of the Schaeffer Center’s Board of Advisors and a member of the Price Board of Councilors. He received an honorary doctorate from USC in 2015 and the inaugural Sol Price Award in 2012. 

The Schaeffers established the Center for Health Policy and Economics in 2009 with a $1.2 million gift and endowed it with another $25 million gift in 2012. The Schaeffers also donated $4 million in 2016 to establish the Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. 

Goldman said he considers Leonard Schaeffer to be a mentor, a collaborator and a friend. He said Schaeffer moved from Washington D.C. to California several decades ago because he considered the state to be the “engine of innovation.” 

“USC was very entrepreneurial in promoting [public policy], and so he naturally gravitated to USC,” Goldman said. “He’s only gotten closer with the appointment of Carol Folt, who’s worked hard to create a collaborative environment with him. But it’s really about California being an engine of policy [and] innovation, and USC being a place that could ferment that.”

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